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Possible New Dates For the Eastern APA

I recently conducted a poll here [1] regarding whether the dates of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association should be changed. The poll is by no means scientific, but it is interesting to learn that at the time I closed the poll at 400 votes, 368 out of 400 people, i.e., over 90%, feel that the dates should be changed. (Note to the individual who tried to skew the poll results after 400 votes: I have your IP address).

Further polls will be useful. But assuming that what this poll has revealed, i.e., a significant majority want the dates of the Eastern APA changed, has some validity, the next question is to when it should be changed. One possibility might be the following. Until recently, the Modern Language Association also held its conventions at the same time we currently do. But recently, they have changed it to early January. Here are the dates and locations of their next three conventions.

6-9 January, 2011 Los Angeles
5-8 January, 2012 Seattle
3-6 Januray, 2013 Boston

Additional details of the MLA conventions can be found here [2]. Interestingly, they have chosen to hold some of them on the west coast. I’m not sure if this would be feasible or desirable for us, given that we have the other two Division meetings. In any case, I wonder if the MLA’s new dates could serve as a starting point for the conversation about to when the Eastern APA dates should be changed.

From speaking with a number of people at the Eastern APA in Boston, I have learned that one possible problem with holding meetings in early January is that some schools that are on the Quarter System might be inconvenienced by it. I assume that the MLA would have had to address this issue as well, but it’d be very interesting to get the inputs of individuals at those schools.

It’d also be very interesting to hear your thoughts about other potential dates, and their pros and cons.

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#1 Comment By Matt Lister On January 6, 2011 @ 5:14 am

For what it’s worth (maybe not much- people’s opinions may have changed and the people themselves are different to some degree) the APA itself has held surveys of its members on this question at least a couple of times. When presented not with the abstract question of whether the date should change, but rather with actual dates, no other date beat out the current one.

#2 Comment By Samantha Brennan On January 7, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

I love the idea of meeting in early January somewhere warm. It’s much preferable to my current life which is teaching somewhere cold! Our winter term starts the first Monday in January, this year January 3rd. I fear early January dates wouldn’t work as much as I like the idea. And since the west coast isn’t really do-able for the APA, this wouldn’t help at all with the winter weather problem. I do like the idea of Florida though…

#3 Comment By Richard Hutcheson On January 7, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

Stick to December 27, I’m too old to change!

#4 Comment By Georgia Warnke On January 7, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

First Thurs. – Sunday after New Year’s Day – following the AHA and MLA. and rotate dates of Eastern, Central and Pacific APA’s so the Eastern is not always in the winter.

#5 Comment By Donald Bruckner On January 8, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

My spouse is a member of the MLA and is currently in LA. (I believe this is the first year for the MLA in January.) Although her institution is on the semester system, their classes started on Jan. 5. So it’s not just schools on the quarter system that would be affected. I don’t know whether the MLA took this issue into account.

Another consideration relevant to changing the APA meeting to early January is that it would only partially solve the weather/travel issue. Even if held in FL or CA, individuals coming from the blizzard zone would still have travel issues if a storm hit. Indeed, given the ripple effect on airlines when one part of the country is hit, many more than just blizzard zone dwellers would be affected.

So the change to January would solve some of the family/break conflict issues with the December meeting, but introduce the teaching conflict issue, and would only partially solve the weather/travel issue. It may, nevertheless, be worth trying, but it would probably be wise for the APA to consult with the MLA on the overall costs and benefits the MLA membership has experienced.

#6 Comment By Dan Hicks On January 8, 2011 @ 10:55 pm

I assume the campaign to change the date of the Eastern APA is driven largely, if not entirely, by the role the Eastern plays in the job market cycle. If this role were replaced — as some have suggested — with Skype, people might feel that there’s no real need to change the Eastern.

#7 Comment By Diane Bowser On January 11, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

How about the 3rd week of January after the MLA? Schools that start early will avoid the possibility of missing the first week.

It is time that Skype and other VOiP replace the need to physically travel to the APA and all of the related expenses. For those without confirmed interviews or papers to present and departments to pay for travel, the cost is prohibitively expensive, especially for those going on the job market working as adjuncts.

#8 Comment By Shannon Dea On January 11, 2011 @ 11:27 pm

I second Georgia’s proposal above.

#9 Comment By Daniel Murphy On January 19, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

In connection with the poll, Scott Forschler had posted that he would like the idea of holding the Eastern APA during the summer. I second that idea. I would suggest mid to late May.

If the conference is really about interviews/job fair, then Skype and even old-fashioned telephone interviews can basically take care of the first round of interviews that normally takes place at the Eastern APA. And of course, these interviews could still go on during December and January, if that’s what the hiring cycle still will demand, but these will now really be able to take place a lot more at the convenience of the hiring school and the applicant – and of course, much cheaper! When times are tight, the need to do things more cheaply is obvious. When times are not tight, the need to do things more cheaply is…still pretty obvious.

If the conference is also about meeting colleagues, giving and hearing papers, etc. – great. But there is no rule or best practice that says this is best done right after Christmas and right before the new year, of course.

Plus, as many others have said, you have a relative high season for traveling (additional crowds and potential costs due to that), added family concerns and holiday pressures, plus preparing for spring semester courses. Lots of us want to prepare well for spring courses and work on research during thr winter break. It is hard enough to do that and also give time to family and deal with holiday concerns – why add the days at Eastern APA meeting on top of that? – more of a time squeeze.

And as well, the presence of winter trimesters and/or intersessions is increasing at colleges and universites all over the country, year after year, and will continue to do so. It’s quite easy to imagine a time in the future in which the current dates of the eastern APA will conflict with the teaching schedules of a lot more attendees than they do now.

So, when to reschedule? I’ll assume that any time during the traditional fall and spring semesters would be a problem, due to traditional teaching schedules and the fact that fall and spring breaks are of course not uniform. That leaves the summer. Ok, then. Some time in mid to late May, right after the traditional spring semester ends, and before high season travel costs start up. Better weather also. No major holidays. You could spend your few days at the APA, and with the whole summer still ahead, you would not feel the same kind of time squeeze that you feel during the winter break.

#10 Comment By Gilbert Harman On January 26, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

Given the data about the “interview illusion,” explaining why people think interviews and flyouts are useful, despite the fact that they degrade the quality of the decision process, shouldn’t intelligent departments stop using interviews and fly-outs? (Refs: Ross and Nisbett, The Person and the Situation; Bishop and Trout, Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment.)

#11 Comment By Steve Daniel On February 13, 2011 @ 3:47 am

It’s time to disconnect the meeting from job interviews. I vote for the first or second weekend of November. Yes, we would miss classes, but Easter and Spring Break have the same effect. And keep the summer free so that we can do our research.

#12 Comment By L. A. Paul On February 16, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

I agree with Gil. (Thanks for the references!) I also think that the eastern APA could be moved to late fall, as Brit suggested in another post. For departments that insist on doing interviews, this would actually make sense, since the hiring process wouldn’t conflict so badly with graduate admission and job offers could be made before any impending budget cuts in January.