What Trump means for academic conferences

One of my first thoughts when I heard that Trump was elected was that it meant much fewer opportunities to hear diverse voices at international conferences held within the US. I attend a lot of conferences – many of them have international audiences.

One thing that American’s don’t often realize is just how difficult it can be for someone to get to a conference in the United States. Now people will need to deal with increased hassle for getting visas as well as increased hassles for getting through border security – and increased worries about personal safety. If you think I’m overreacting, note that Turkey has already warned its citizens about travel to the US.

I think that international organizations will be re-thinking hosting conferences in the US.  I will re-think attending international conferences in the US, even though I live here. If organizations want international representation, they will start hosting more conferences in Europe or Canada. I suppose that is a good thing for Canadians – but really, it is a bad thing for academics as a whole. It means that it is going to be more difficult for people to participate in conference – including US citizens.

I do think it will also mean more opportunities for Virtually Connecting. More people will need to present virtually and will also want to share in the hallway conversations that Virtually Connecting hosts. But even this makes me a little sad. In part because Virtually Connecting brings people closer together, and with that comes a deeper desire to meet in the same physical space. It is that desire which brought me to the OpenEd conference a few weeks ago. I really wanted the opportunity to share physical space with so many of the people I have met through virtually connecting. I see that there will be less opportunity for this sharing of physical space in the coming years.

That was only part of my reaction to the Trump election … it is the part I’m willing to talk about openly. As Canadians living in the US, we cannot physically attend protests – however, we can protest with our pocket books. With that in mind, my husband and I have made donations to charities that will need to provide more services, organizations that we believe in, Planned Parenthood and Mexican American Legal Defence and Educational Fund.

Feature image by IdobiOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, Rebecca. Even as a Canadian university professor (and therefore in a position of significant privilege), I have felt increasingly worried about my upcoming planned trips to the US. I mentally prepare myself each time to be at the receiving end of taunts and threats. Even without visa problems and the like, I am concerned that people like me will self-select out of US-based conferences. This makes me think that conference organizers need to be a little more proactive about codes of conduct (e.g., see the example of OpenCon: http://www.opencon2016.org/code_of_conduct) and logistics like helping organize ride-sharing from airports, shared transport to and from the conference hotel, and dinner options. Even if it only sets the tone, it helps reassure people that the modal attendee “has their back.”

    • Rajiv, I think you point out an important obligation for organizers of conferences to provide a kind safe corridor for visitors to and from the venue. Sadly, the exchange of ideas that “Made America Great” will be restricted to smaller and smaller groups of people.
      As just regular people who were born in the US, moved to Canada years ago and became dual citizens, the harassment we already get for traveling on Canadian passports has caused us to stop visiting what at one time felt like our home. To me, the reality is people in the rest of the world need to get used to the notion that the US is going to become less ans less worth the trouble putting up with and we need to make other plans.

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