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On Collegiality and Not Being a Jerk

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After disagreeing with their first point, I think I can agree. If you can't afford the time and money to spend the whole time at a conference, then you probably shouldn't apply in the first place. Point three's a good one. Not sure how I feel about point two though.


It seems to me there's the consideration of tact. It's one thing to just say, "You might be interested in article x by y which repeats many of your points, or raises objections to the points you've raised." Perhaps it's different at conferences, but I see this happen in the classroom and I don't see anything wrong with it. In fact I much like it, because I learn about many great articles that I otherwise would have missed. But of course it's something completely else to, "go on for an uncomfortable several minutes," or to, "proceed to address not the panelists, but the other audience member," and turn this into a two-man neanderthal-brow-beating-contest.

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I think this is really relevant in all fields, not just Philosophy! :) Good read!


I agree with point #1 in that it's bad practice to attend a conference for only your session (whether it's going home early or skipping all the other sessions). I also think it is dishonest if you are being funded to attend--then you should attend! However, while I do agree that it's "bad academic manners" (BAM) to only attend your own session, the opposite is not true. I don't think anyone is expected to attend every single session unless it's a small focussed meeting with no parallel sessions. My conferences tend to be 5 days long (Mon-Fri) and I usually try to take the equivalent of one entire day off (either skipping two half days or a full day) in order to do whatever I want in the city that I'm visiting. In most meetings, you will burn out listening to everyone and there will be sessions where you have no expertise or are not interesting to you. I'm not saying that you should only stick to sessions on your topic--it's important to have breadth--but it is fine to perhaps focus your energy on only 70% to 80% of the meeting.


In a similar vein, I don't think it's bad practice to attend only 3 out of 5 days at the meeting. This can cut your costs in half, especially if you have to worry about child or pet care while you are gone. So I don't agree with "all or nothing" but I do agree that it's BAM to act selfishly and only go to conferences for your own personal gain.


I think Point #2 is very important though. The Q&A section of a presentation is not the place to get into an argument about who is right, in my opinion. Usually there is like 5 minutes of questions, which is no where near enough time to do a serious scholarly debate. It's also not the place to embarrass the speaker or show your own plumage. Instead, the purpose of the Q&A should be for clarification of the speaker's arguments and methods. It's not a time to criticize or "peer review"! Also, questioners should be conscious that other people have questions too, it's a pet peeve of mine when one person asks one question after another and is completely oblivious that others might want to ask their own questions! And it's an even bigger pet peeve when people don't ask questions at all but just make statements promoting their own work!!


Point #3 applies to session chairs as much as they do apply to speakers. I feel it is as much a BAM for someone to go over as it is for someone to not cut off the speaker at the proper time.


Point #4 is interesting. In my experience, half of the time, our nametags are turned the wrong way around anyways. But I think having institutions listed is important. It's up to us to be decent human beings and not judge people based on their affiliation! I think it's useful when people who are applying to graduate programs want to find current grad students in that school and the affiliation listing is really the only way they will know. The conferences I go to also have other markers like "first time attendee" (to encourage people to reach out and talk to nervous newbies), or "grad student/jr. member" or "full member" and executive positions are also marked. I find these helpful and I find that they encourage professors to talk to the more junior people (and to help grad students meet each other)! Also, sometimes the location of the school is a good icebreaker, like "Oh hey, I grew up near University of X!" etc.

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Regarding point #2, my professors, save one, didn't allow grandstanding in the classroom. We were certainly encouraged to debate and civilly criticize another's point(s) but there was a fine line that if we crossed the professor would tell us to discuss it privately or they would forcibly change the discussion. Sometimes it was hard to tell where that line was but generally I looked for signs that the wider audience had shut down or that I had reached a point where I was being critical and not constructive.

I should note that the professor who allowed grandstanding was recognized as a great scholar but loathed for his classroom environment. No one escaped his classroom without being completely eviscerated in front of the entire class and he took delight in seeing students do it to one another. Quips like "it's the most useful thing you've contributed to the classroom all semester" or "at least you're attractive" were light days.

Edited by xypathos
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