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It’s that time of the year again, when a number of us will be separated from our family (for better or for worse), owing to the dates (Dec 27 to Dec 30) of the Eastern Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association. Here is a poll to see whether you think the dates of the Eastern APA should be changed. Do feel free to explain your rationale.

Should the dates of the Eastern APA be changed?

  • Yes (92%)
  • No (8%)

Total Votes: 400

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  1. 1. Posted by Alan Ryan | December 14, 2010 4:10 am

    There are minor problems – those of us whose Fall Semester comes back to life immediately after January 1st might have difficulties with a date in the first week of January; but on the face of it, the present date is exceedingly inconvenient.

  2. 2. Posted by Berit Brogaard | December 14, 2010 6:13 pm

    The first week of January is impossible for most people. We have new classes to prepare for, etc. Why not move it to the fall semester?

  3. 3. Posted by Andrew Brook | December 14, 2010 7:04 pm

    I am no longer a member of the APA primarily because of the impossible dates of the Eastern Division meeting. I am not prepared to sacrifice time with my family between Christmas and New Years. It is almost the only time of year when we are all in one place.


  4. 4. Posted by Ronnie Hawkins | December 14, 2010 11:41 pm

    The other two divisions have meetings in the spring. Might the Eastern division have a meeting in the fall, maybe when the fall colors start to arrive but before the winter weather and travel crushes begin?

  5. 5. Posted by Sandrine Berges | December 15, 2010 7:23 am

    These dates are of course worse for people who have children, and, almost certainly discourage women who have children even more than men. I am not a member of the APA as it suggests to me that the cost of being a member would be to sacrifice my children’s Christmas celebrations.

  6. 6. Posted by Shannon Dea | December 15, 2010 6:03 pm

    The scheduling of the Eastern is a hold-over from a time when most philosophers were men and could easily leave their wives and kids for a few days over the holidays. For many women, it is more difficult to get away from home during the holidays than at other times, owing to increased domestic responsibilities. (Of course, these responsibilities should in principle be shared, but in practice women — even women philosophers — tend to bear more of the domestic burden than men do.) The present dates of the Eastern risk excluding women from full participation, and in particular from participation as job candidates or hiring committee members. If we are serious about making Philosophy inclusive of women, women need to have no impediment to full participation in the Eastern!

  7. 7. Posted by Carla Fehr | December 15, 2010 6:14 pm

    The current meeting date is not friendly to many people, especially women and an increasing number of men, who have family commitments. I do not attend because of the date.

  8. 8. Posted by Landon W Schurtz | December 15, 2010 9:07 pm

    As a grad student who will be on the market soon, I’m more concerned by the location than the date. I urge the APA Eastern committee to consider locating the conference somewhere other than the most expensive city in the United States. It’s a tremendous burden on grad students seeking to go on the market, a tax on those newly entering the profession for the privilege of being allowed to compete for jobs. At a conservative estimate, a trip the Eastern APA for interviews would cost me better than a month’s salary, and graduate assistants at my institution are relatively well paid. If the APA had some sort of system by which no professor could receive tenure, for instance, unless he or she completed a trip that cost, say, $3500, there would be howls for blood, not to mention pitchforks and torches. Please, please, please – anyone who has any contact with those capable of making a decision on this matter, I urge you strongly to reconsider the location of the Eastern APA!

  9. 9. Posted by Samantha Brennan | December 16, 2010 4:50 pm

    I’ve been meaning to write about this for years. I’m not a huge fan of meeting that week but I’m not sure I see the problem either. When I first heard the complaints I didn’t quite get them. And then I realized this had to do with my class background. In the world I come from most everyone works the week after Christmas. Christmas is a 2 day holiday at best. (I’m Canadian and both Christmas and Boxing Day are statutory holidays.) Nurses work the week after Christmas. Bus drivers work the week after Christmas. So too does anyone in retail. This isn’t to say that just because some people have it badly, we should too. Rather, it’s the entitled tone of our complaints that I don’t quite get. I once complained on the school yard to some other parents about having to fly to New York to attend the APA the week after Christmas and it soon became clear that three days in a nice hotel in NYC was better than the work week everyone else was facing.

    I’m sure some of you will think I’m a bad parent and that maybe I don’t care enough about ‘family time’ when I say this, but when my children were young and I took the week before Christmas off by the time the 27th came around and the loud toys had taken their toll I was often ready for a few days with other adults, listening to philosophy talks! At that stage our usual plan was that I took the week before Christmas off and my partner took the week after. These days they are older and sometimes travel with me. The story of the hotel fire in Washington and the view of hundreds of philosophers in the PJs lives on in my house!

    I’m also worried, as a Canadian, that some of the alternate dates that are suggested conflict with our school year. The first week of January won’t work. For us, that’s the start of the school term.

    So I don’t have strong views here. I’d say I’m mildly in favour, worried about the alternatives, and offended by whining! (And don’t get me started on framing this as a women’s issue. If it’s an issue for families, then it’s an issue about which both men and women ought to be concerned.)

  10. 10. Posted by Rebecca Kukla | December 16, 2010 5:27 pm

    I enthusiastically and gratefully second what Samantha Brennan said. I am soooooo sick of academics acting like it is outrageous that they should have ANY work to do between mid-December and early January. It’s not like the meeting is ON an actual holiday. Where in the world do we get off?? And I am equally sick of the idea that this is a ‘women’s issue’, as though we women can’t bear to be parted from our children for a few days after a week or more at home with them.

    I also agree with the graduate student who said that location is more of an issue than date. I have no idea why we have to be freezing cold and broke every year.

  11. 11. Posted by Julie Anna Allen | December 16, 2010 5:34 pm

    The Eastern Division dates should be changed. The current dates entail far more reasons not to participate than reasons to participate.

    The current dates are:

    1) disadvantageous to Women
    2) disadvantageous to parents
    3) disadvantageous to Canadians
    4) disadvantageous to Course Instructors, dealing with between term pressures of grading Fall work and preparing for January
    5) disadvantageous to researchers & scholars (a non diverse audience in attendance at papers, symposiums, colloquiums etc)
    6) disadvantageous to those with limited financial means. Travel and accommodations are more expensive, and often mixed in with other travel obligations at this time of year.
    7) disadvantageous to Job Seekers. Eastern A.P.A. interviews, put a complete damper on the entire Holiday season, and the addition stress of the Holiday season, puts some candidates at a disadvantage.

    Hence, the current dates are basically a huge problem for anyone who is striving to sustain his or her sanity.

    A few years ago, I washed my hands of the entire Eastern A.P.A. experience in favor of sanity and happiness. In Mill’s terms, having tried both, the holiday season & Eastern A.P.A. for several years & the holiday season & NOT-Eastern A.P.A. for several years, I judge the latter to be the higher pleasure and more conducive to general happiness.

    I favor the Fall suggestion and would very much like to return to participating, but will never do so, as long as it continues on its current schedule.

  12. 12. Posted by Kathryn Norlock | December 16, 2010 8:36 pm

    The suggestion that objections to the timing of an expensive and travel-intensive conference amount to objections to doing ANY work at all is a false dilemma, and needlessly uncharitable.

    The further objection that if it is not an issue for some women because they reject one possible basis, then it is not an objection for most women on any basis, is just baffling.

    Last, so many of us do not have the option to accept jobs near to the families with which we celebrate this major holiday. Instead, academic jobs in philosophy are generally wherever we are lucky enough to get them. Therefore, many of us are already traveling on these days, not to the APA, but to the families we left behind to pursue this unusual career. It is obtusely acontextual to ignore the realities of the extent to which a conference not only conflicts with the travel many of us are already doing, but rather compounds its difficulty.

    My class background is not one with an expectation of wealth in the absence of work either. Quite the contrary. But being accustommed to hard work does not require flying into a blizzard the day after a major holiday. Since a minority of institutions find the week after the traditional meeting even more “impossible” a location change alone would only do so much good, and the abolition of the link between the Eastern meeting and the job market should be pursued instead.

  13. 13. Posted by Kathryn Norlock | December 16, 2010 8:38 pm

    My apologies, my last post should end with “as well,” not “instead.”

  14. 14. Posted by Samantha Brennan | December 17, 2010 9:35 pm

    I agree with the concerns about cost and location. I’d much prefer to be somewhere cheap and warm. Could we add both Florida and Toronto, Ontario to the list of places the Eastern Division meeting is held? (I asked once and was told that Canadian winter made Toronto an unsuitable location. I wrote back with info comparing Toronto and Boston winters but didn’t receive a reply.)

    Kate: I hadn’t thought about the plight of people in smaller departments. In our large department, there are always enough people who are willing to go (I’m included in the list of the willing) and those who hate the idea just stay clear of admin tasks (such as Placement Officer) for which it would be required.

    I also think there may be good arguments about forgoing the long list interview stage though I worry that would lead to more conservative hiring decisions and a focus on safe choices.

  15. 15. Posted by Kathryn Norlock | December 19, 2010 4:07 pm

    Yes, yes, Samantha, cheap and warm! After Katrina, a few professional organizations made a point of meeting in New Orleans, which makes me green with envy. (As you know, mathematicians are meeting there this year. Smart cats.)

    How to improve hiring practices while avoiding things like safe choices, that’s a tough concern which takes some chewing. There’s a way in which I think we philosophers stick with the interview-at-APA thing as a safe choice of its own, motivated by reluctance to change or confusion as to good alternatives (as these take energy and time). I go because I take part in one of the APA committees, which I value as a form of professional service, and indeed really feel I ought to do! So separating hiring from the APA wouldn’t do away with all obligations, I admit. But changes in dates and locations are both called for as well.

  16. 16. Posted by Sally Haslanger | December 20, 2010 6:35 pm

    When I was on the Executive Cte of the Eastern APA, I tried hard to get the dates changed. Those who resisted expressed some concern about having meetings during term time, though this was unconvincing to me given that both the Pacific and Central are held during term, as are most other professional meetings. The main concern seemed to be cost. The big city northern east coast hotels are keen to host a conference at a cheap rate during the Dec 27-30 time period because there are no other conferences at this time and many people are staying with family and not in a fancy hotel. Hotels in warm climates during this time of year are very expensive. Cost was cast as an important factor for job seekers, not taking into account, however, that the air fares during this time are extremely high.

    My sense is that if we want this to change we really need to address the financial issues. Any time from the weekend before Thanksgiving to New Year’s is going to be expensive for travel and lodging. Before that really disrupts the job market schedule (this is not to say that shouldn’t be changed, but fewer changes at once might be easier to accomplish). The 2 weeks after New Year’s is hard for many people who are just starting up a new term (I can see the problem of missing the first class, but can’t really sympathize with those who just want the time to prep – prep time can be adjusted earlier). Moreover, other large professional organizations (the MLA for example) have moved to early January, so it seems other groups can manage it. The third or fourth week of January might avoid the other problems and could give search committees time to read dossiers in early January and job candidates some breathing room over the holidays.

    But unless we can find hotels that will host the conference for the price that we get now, or a willingness on the part of participants to pay a LOT more for registration fees, I doubt anything will change.

  17. 17. Posted by Jenn Neilson | December 23, 2010 3:37 pm

    One thing that has not been emphasized enough in the previous comments is the overwhelming cost to graduate students who are on the market of attending the conference. Airfare is always more expensive over the holidays, so changing the dates of the Eastern APA would help to solve this problem.

    In addition, the conference hotel is not cheap. Perhaps one option would be to have a slightly lower student rate for the hotel, and a slightly higher faculty rate (since faculty outnumber students at the APA, this would make a small difference to faculty, and a big difference to students).

    This year, many departments are conducting their first round interviews over Skype (video conferencing). This saves the departments the cost of sending representatives to the Eastern APA, and enables those faculty members to spend the holidays with their families. If all departments moved to using video conferencing for first round interviews, this would at least remove the financial burden on students imposed by the current interview situation.

  18. 18. Posted by Scott Forschler | December 28, 2010 6:13 pm

    My radical idea: hold it during the summer. Abandon the idea that APA has to be a job fair; I’ve never been to an APA meeting with more than 5 schools accepting on-site interviews anyway. Interviews can be held by conference call or skype. We live in the 21st century people, let’s start acting like it. A summer meeting would be more fun, increase the likelihood that attendees would come for longer periods, put greater focus on the sessions, and allow people to put major presentations on their CV before they start a new round of job applications in the fall.

  19. 19. Posted by Richard Westerman | December 28, 2010 6:40 pm

    I agree strongly with those whose main reason for suggesting a move is on grounds of cost, for the sake of those on the job market. The holiday period is an incredibly expensive time to travel; in the current terrible job market, it makes little sense to risk a wasted trip by buying tickets in advance, but then you have have to pay inflated last-minute prices if you do get an interview. The cities themselves are generally very expensive, and if conference-rate rooms run out (as happened last year), graduate students may be left trying to find a room close enough to the main hotel at the very last minute. Either move the APA – both its time and location – or completely break the link between the APA and the interview circus, and encourage everyone to conduct first-round interviews by Skype.

  20. 20. Posted by David Sobel | December 28, 2010 9:54 pm

    My understanding is that previous polls found that most people wanted the dates of the Eastern changed because they had other dates that they preferred to the current dates. However, previous polling also found that there was no single date that a majority prefered to the current dates. Thus I think the best poll question would double check to see if there is now some specific alternative to the current situation that a majority prefer. Also, of course, arguments could be offered that we should not just let majority rule here.

  21. 21. Posted by Sheri Ross | January 8, 2011 8:10 pm

    Some of the concerns about the APA, namely the expense of travel, are likely year-round concerns as air-travel itself is expensive pretty much any time of the year. I agree that the cost of travel is outrageous for graduate students and those on the adjunct track. However, there are departments who do not partake in the APA meeting when we hire. We simply have first round phone interview (in the future these will be Skype,) then take the money that we would have spent going to the meeting to bring extra candidates to campus (we frequently have four candidates for on campus interviews). I mention this because far from being more conservative, I think, it has the opposite effect. We have interviewed 40 philosophers on the phone for one position, then brought the top four to campus. So it is possible and beneficial for departments to forgo the Eastern APA when hiring. I would like to see this become the norm.

    I personally avoid the Eastern APA because the job-seeking aspect of the conference poisons the atmosphere, and, as Kate has said above, this is one of the few times of the year that my extended families can get together.

    I like the idea of changing the date to some time in the summer, because I think it would make it a better conference (much like the Central and Pacific ones.) The focus would be on philosophy and less on the job market. The summer would make travel more feasible as it is easier to make even long-distance car trips in the summer than in the icy winter conditions.

    One main reason against the summer is that most departments would not be able to interview at the APA, but since I think that should be changed, I don’t view it as a problem. Moreover, I’m unlikely to attend the Eastern meetings unless the job-market centric element of the meeting is changed.

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