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13 April 2012 @ 09:24 pm
Musing on WSSA  
I was going to wait until I got home to post this (for those who don't know, I am at the Western Social Sciences Association conference in Houston right now) but I am worried if I don't post it now and get all my thoughts out, that I won't be able to sleep. (Seeing as I was up at 5am after only sleeping a few hours and it is now past 11, I need sleep)

While I haven't been on LJ much because of work and school, some of you may know that I strong-armed eilowyn into presenting her paper on feminism in the Whedon fandom both as a panel paper here and to enter it in the paper competition. I really didn't give her much of a choice in the matter because as you who know me know quiet well, I am very persuasive. :)

I feel like I made the wrong decision. And I need to clarify that. I don't feel like I made the wrong decision to encourage Lexi. Her paper was amazing. It was better than I have seen many graduate students do. She deserved to be here, she deserved to be on a panel with two tenured professors, she deserved to win her honorable mention at the paper competition.

My decision was encouraging her to present at this particular session of WSSA.

I am not sure how many of you are in graduate programs or who teach in the US Academy. But we are in a time of crisis right now. Specialized studies departments are being cut or folded into other programs, "vanity" sciences or "soft" sciences programs are disappearing. The real estate in universities is shrinking and there is only room for what are the "legitimate sciences".

This was very prevalent at WSSA this year. A conference that usually spans 4 days now was done in just 2. Panels were compressed and some never even were done because people could not afford to come. Panels that should have been 4 people were two and sometimes even one, attendance was down. In my own panel, where I usually can expect 12-25 people, I had 3.

I'm disappointed because I wanted this experience to be amazing for Lexi. I wanted her to feel the wonder and the thrill of people surrounded by like-minded academics, for people to listen to your research and want to engage with you. (And I want this for all my students honestly. If I wasn't teaching intro classes, I would encourage them to go to conference as often as possible). I wanted this conference to be so much more than it was for her. She had to be exposed to a very nasty bit of business that upset me (which she did talk about on her journal) and I didn't want her to have any kind of bad experience with this conference.

I'm just sad because last year was so amazing and engaging, the panels were thought provoking and insightful, the conversations had a depth that is lacking a lot in a field that values quantity over quality sometimes. I just really feel like I owe Lexi a public apology about this. She deserved much better because she is brilliant, insightful, and a pleasure to spend time with.

I should say that for any of you out there who are undergraduates (or even graduate students) in the social sciences, if you are interested in presenting academic research at conference, please contact me. I hope that this post won't deter you from it because aside from this year, I think conferences are an amazing opportunity for not only networking but personal growth. I always learn so much when I attend and in fields I normally would not engage in. My goal is not to search as someone focused on research but to rather be like the professors who changed my life, who mentored me, and to bring undergraduates into these events to keep them going. I think it is incredibly important to provide opportunities for undergraduates to attend events that are vetted, that are subject to peer review and structure, to give them not only experience but a good item for their resumes and CVs.
WeHo M.: Stock - Schoolafrocurl on April 16th, 2012 01:07 am (UTC)
I'm so sad that this is the state of academia right now that this WSSA was more the norm than the exception this time around.