Maeve McKeown is a Junior Research Fellow in Political Theory at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She is a former co-editor at New Left Project and convener of the St Hilda’s Feminist Salon. Hers is the fourth post in a series on:
Ethics in Academic Events
As theorists of justice and professional ethicists we are used to scrutinizing the practices of others. Is it not about time that we turned our analytical skills and discerning moral sensitivities on ourselves? Inspired by discussions at the closing of the workshop ‘Global Justice and Global Health Ethics Exploring the Influence of Iris Marion Young’, this series of posts seeks to examine our own actions and practices and explore the moral dilemmas of the academy.
As political theorists we often critique inequality in society, but we rarely critique inequality in our own profession. We know that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few tenured professors, with junior faculty struggling in short-term, poorly-paid, precarious contracts, often moving cities or countries on a yearly basis (with all the hidden costs that incurs). We know that there are few women and people of colour in permanent, senior positions. So what are we doing about this? And how does it apply to conference organising?
One of the ways academics disseminate their research and are spotted for jobs is through presenting at conferences. But conference fees and travel expenses are often too expensive for junior faculty, with their just-about-living wages (or sometimes not living wages). Short-term contracts usually do not come with research expenses, or at least not sufficient expenses to participate in overseas or even local conferences.