Scott Gerber on who goes to conferences, etc.

Mark Graber MGRABER at gvpt.umd.edu
Fri Mar 10 07:05:37 PST 2006


I confess to being puzzled by all of this.  If the argument is that both
academic hiring and conference attendence does not reflect some
objective standard of either merit or diversity, I agree completely,
mostly because I think there is neither a universally accepted objective
standard for merit nor diversity out there.  Nor have I heard one
proposed.

If the objection is there are some clearly strange factors involved. 
Again, I agree.  Consider, for example, influence of having school aged
children on frequently conference attendence and moving up the academic
ladder (which at some law schools requires you visit for a year, then go
back to your home institution for a year).  I could make a powerful
argument that one of the crucial problems with the historical
institutionalist school of political science is that almost every
prominent person I know of has made career decisions based on family
rather than professional prominence.  And we can go on.  In short, I
suspect for every member of the list, they are both part of advantaged
categories and disadvantaged categories.  Does it all even out in the
end?  Not, I think according to the above non-existence universally
accpeted objective standard and not, I think, for what I think are the
best standards for merit or diversity.  But it seems rather silly to
obsess on the criteria by which we all disadvantaged ignored our many
advantages, not the least of which is being in a profession that pays us
more than 99.99 percent of the world's population to read stuff we enjoy
and write about things we are interested in (did I note, by the way,
that I suspect the lesser name law professors are making substantially
more that the bigshot political scientists--if we are going to have
equity--it should be all the way, though of course that means I have to
give some of my salary to the janitor, whose job I would not take, even
with a pay raise).

How about the following.  I do not think any one this list is a
household name.  All of us are bigshots in some parts of the universe
and tadpoles in others.  A good deal of academic conferencing is about
expandin the influence of some parts of the academic universe where one
thinks the work is really interesting.  But the really good news is that
most of us are cheap.  Pay my transportation (not necessary for Boston,
Philadelphia or Long Island, where I have family), feed me (necessary)
and I come.  This would be the most shameless plug on this list if I did
not add that the same is probably true for everyone on this list who
does not have family commitments to the contrary (as I have five years
ago).  In short, anyone who is interested in having a conference with
difference voices can do so.  If you do not like my crowd, form your
own. 

MAG


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