Friday, November 12, 2010

Conference Hotel

I'm at a conference. The hotel has this huge bed in a huge room, and I can't help thinking, I've lived in apartments that weren't much bigger than that bed.

I tend to be a fairly still sleeper, and I tend to pull my arms in fairly tight rather than splaying out, and I like to be within reach of my glasses on the bedside table. So, when I get up, I've disturbed about one quarter of the bed, and the rest looks like no one's been there.

I've figured out why administrators hate paying for academics to go to conferences (because there are also administrative types at this conference hotel doing their own thing). First, administrative type conferences are totally unlike scholarly ones. Administrators sit around and listen to "experts" tell them what to do and what's hot and not in their job field. In contrast, scholarly conferences tend to be where we talk about our work with other scholars. We don't sit around and just take notes and listen. But administrators seem to think we do.

Second, most administrative conferences seem to be mostly just BS excuses to hang out in the bar drinking. Scholarly conferences often also involve bars and drinking (or other things, if you live in a Lodge novel), but we're actually doing stuff that matters during the day. But administrators think we're just sitting and listening to the same BS they do.

That's my theory of conferences. And why is it that our administration pays for endless conferences for administrators, and then severely limits funding for faculty? A question for the ages.

But now, signing off to go learn stuff!


  1. As an academic playing the part of an administrator and handling travel expense reports, I'll guess that another part of the problem is the paperwork involved. It sounds very straight-forward, but I promise, you've never seen a more complicated report. It sucks up most of my day just to process one. And god help you if you need receipts or something more involved. I'm tempted to tell everyone to stop traveling, just so I can get something else done besides travel reports.

    As for why administrators get gobs of money to go to conferences, I have no idea. Perhaps it's this vague feeling that administrators will forget how to do everything if they're not constantly being retaught how to do their jobs?

    (this comment brought to you by the letter "snark" and the number "in need of more coffee")

  2. Also, we *are* doing important work in that bar. This is something administrators can't seem to believe. At least ours here in Arkansas won't believe in. They don't pay our bar bills. They'll pay for our donuts and our chips and our huge hotel rooms, but not our glass of wine so we can hang around and talk shop with our colleagues in the bar. No! Back to the hotel room with you! Watch some TV!

  3. what would an adminstrative conference be like? "gosh, these darned people we are administering. they are all too lazy to fill out their forms, and they sit around talking about these boring substantive things all the damned time. when's the 'get off my lawn' session?"

  4. I'm at a conference too, and I share your feeling about those king size beds in hotel rooms. I'm in a suite that is about half the size of my house!

    I heard some great papers this afternoon about drama in the 1590s!

    I thought all English folks went to conferences like the David Lodge ones. Historians are much too staid.

  5. Bardiac, you're probably right about the way some administrators (those who weren't faculty first) imagine faculty conferences. That's also why they can say things like "why don't you just post your papers on the web and invited written comments?" They don't get how important the give and take of the Q&A and the conviviality part of the conference are for the ferment of ideas.

  6. I know that administrators have defended their conferences as more worthy in the past because "this applies to every student, staff member and faculty member" whereas, obviously, our stuff just matters to us and maybe our colleagues, students and other people in our field.


    I always cling to the one side of the bed when I'm away at a hotel. Otherwise I risk waking up disoriented, trying to figure out where I am in relation to floors and other important stuff! To counter that lonely look, I have been known to lounge across the rest of the bed reading a good book or catching up on the internet.

  7. Anonymous3:05 PM

    Interestingly, our deans have been to at least 5 conferences fall term alone (including one that I was invited to attend): no way, no how I could attend 5 in one year (and not just because of cost).

    I, too, was at a conference over the weekend, in a humougous room with a king size bed, and, get this, a soaking tub! Heaven.