Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dr. Amelia on Travel Finances And Conference Fun!

My field has their big conference in the summer. We're not in a glamorous, spendy area, so to keep costs down, it tends to be in low-season places (think Miami, El Paso in August, etc), but it still ends up being frakking expensive.

To wit: To go and stand by a poster of my work this year, I will be spending $600 on airfare (it's never cheap to fly in and out of Oilmont), more than $1000 on hotel, $250-ish on registration, etc. It's kind of insane, really.

I live in a department where we have some travel $, but I honestly don't know how grad students and adjunct do it. Yet, I see them there, hopefully shuffling through the job interview section in hope, I guess, of landing a gig in a place with travel money.

When I get there, it is nightmarish, literally. Like my recurring nightmare is actually being stuck on the lower conference level of a Marriott somewhere, with a paper to give in the Versailles room in 4 minutes and no idea of how to get there. I ride escalators. I poke my head into rooms, where tiny spectacled heads swivel judgmentally in my direction until I back out again. There is identical hallway after identical hallway. I can't run - I'm a professional you see. So I do the "not really running power waddle" of late ladies in uncomfortable shoes. I see my watch arrive at the appointed time for my session and I wake up, heart pounding.


  1. I dread being scheduled on the last day of the conference. Not only does nobody show up, but I'm jealous of them. They are either traveling back home to their families or they are sightseeing and enjoying themselves. They also don't have to listen to me, which is a bonus.

    My only solace is that by eating frugally, I can pocket the per diem money. It's a tax-free conference pay bonus.

  2. Why is there always a Versailles room? Maybe everybody wants to hold their wedding reception/bat mitzvah/anniversary part at Versailles?

    On the other hand, I find the rooms named for local attractions useful, if a bit discouraging. At least they help me remember what town I'm in (and what I'm missing -- or maybe shouldn't be missing; there's a lot to be said for escaping from the hotel, if it can be managed).

    Also, this reminds me that I recently received a plea from what I consider my main professional association (a sub-disciplinary one) for contributions to the grad student travel fund, which apparently is at an all-time low. I will do what I can to help, since I'm lucky enough to get some travel money (well, I did last year, and hope I will next), and to be paid well enough to have some discretionary funds -- but when the full-time contingents are helping to subsidize the grad students and adjuncts, you know you've got a problem.

    1. I was at a conference years ago where one of the meals was scheduled in the Donner Room. Seriously?

    2. I remember one where you had to upload your presentation to the server (Die IT, Die!) in Room 101

  3. Worst conference experience wasn't mine, but my husband's. Back in the '80s, when he was a grad student planning on an academic career, he was asked to give a paper at a major national conference. He had to fly from rural NY to Atlanta (very expensive, as no large airports within easy reach). When he got to Hartsfield, the power was out, so he had to hoof it from a far terminal wearing heavy clothes and parka appropriate for upstate NY in winter, lugging his suit bag and conference material. His conference paper was presented opposite a keynote from Coretta Scott King, so he was flattered that anyone showed up; his committee chair went to the CSK presentation. On the way home, he was rerouted to another airport because of a blizzard, then had to take the bus 200 miles through that blizzard, only to arrive home to find that his funding had been cut. Good times!

    The place where I barely have adjunct work doesn't even give lip service to getting adjuncts to go to conferences -- I think they're afraid someone will ask for money (there isn't any).

  4. Nearly 20 years ago, I presented a paper at what my Ph. D. supervisor called a "dorky" conference.

    It was on the last day, and since it was in another city and, since I was teaching full-time back then, I flew in. As it turned out, I needn't have shown up at all.

    The session I was presenting my paper in was poorly organized. Nobody was in charge, so I got roped into doing the job. There were, as I remember, 3 papers and only a handful of people bothered showed up to listen.

    With each successive presentation, the numbers diminished. Since I was the last one, there was hardly anybody in attendance. I sort of felt like James Spader's character in the movie "Stargate" where everyone walked out right after he was finished presenting his theory about the Egyptian pyramids.

    The wind-up luncheon was equally dismal. The meal itself wasn't bad, but the conference organizers had hired some hack poet to "entertain" us while we were eating, making the experience rather irritating. Fortunately, that didn't last long and I was quickly on my way to the airport in a cab.

  5. Another well-observed CM recurring nightmare. "Late ladies in uncomfortable shoes."

    As a grad and new adjunct, I used to save my pennies to get to such conferences, thinking I was making valuable contacts and seeing and being seen. The Versailles Room had gravitas; I strove to look and act "professional" as I sat and took notes. I'd like to go back and hug that young woman and point out that no one is looking at her and that all the potential contacts in the Versailles Room are flipping through the program in search of that night's open-bar receptions.