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#HiddenAcademicLabor: Conference Planning

December 16, 2017

I’ve spent about 6 hours today, overall—on a Saturday—planning for the 2018 S-USIH conference. I won’t lie: it’s been a bit of slog.

The bulk of my time was spent translating the hotel contract, with various rooms indicated, into an Excel spreadsheet in order to create a “room/time/capacity grid.” This work helped me plot *exactly* out how many panels are possible, but also helped me think through the publishers exhibit space and to fine-tune the plenary spaces.

Creating the spreadsheet and visioning spatial needs helped me compose a detailed, six-question email to the hotel (500 words total). Therein were several requests for clarifications about the contract, but also requests for new needs. Those may end up causing a contract revision and up our hotel deposit. But that can’t be helped.

All of this had to be done so that we can present more precise packages to publishers who may want to sponsor plenaries with happy hours, dinners, or hors d’oeuvres. Publishers are planning this month for all their 2018 events and needs. The planning committee team needed details in order for our outreach to yield better results. This means having acquisition agents on site to see our work and tap our members for projects.

What’s my point in making all of this explicit? This is the kind of stuff that tenure committees generally ignore. It’s “service” to the field. I’m doing it as a volunteer—for the love of U.S. intellectual history, and my colleagues. Conferences matter because in-person collaboration and vigorous discussion forward the knowledge enterprise. A well-done conference makes academia a living thing. – TL

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