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Inside the APA: Changes to the Eastern Meeting

By Andrew Cullison and Jeffery Dunn

We are the outgoing and incoming Secretary-Treasurers of the Eastern APA. The upcoming Eastern APA meeting will be Andy’s last meeting as Secretary-Treasurer, and Jeff will take over in 2017. In the past three years, the Eastern has seen two significant changes that we believe have resulted in an overall better Eastern conference for all APA members.

First, the two changes:

Not a Job Fair

The APA is no longer the large job fair that it used to be. We saw that decline most significantly over the last four years. Last year, less than 25 schools interviewed at the Eastern. The conventional wisdom was that this would lead to the Eastern being a much smaller and less significant conference. However, as we note below, this has not materialized as the academic portion of the conference has grown in the absence of job activity.

Date Change

Freed of constraints as a job fair, we have had more flexibility with the timing of the conference. Thus, in 2016 we moved the conference from its traditional time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to early January. Moving the program in this way gave us flexibility in several ways including in terms of length and location.

The major consequences of these changes:  

Much Bigger Program

The Eastern has historically had a smaller academic program than the Pacific, due somewhat to its role as a job fair but even more to the constraints placed on our time block by needing to fit between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. With the two changes mentioned above, the Eastern’s academic program is now comparable in size to the Pacific Division’s program. This year’s conference program has 50% more sessions than last year’s conference and it will be almost double the size of any conference that was held in December. We’ve managed to do this without being any less selective. The number of submissions has significantly increased each year for the last four to five years. There is even more room to grow as a venue for outstanding philosophical work.

Better Receptions

The decline in the Eastern as a job fair has eliminated some of the more unpleasant aspects of the reception (aka, “the smoker”). We’ve also eliminated the endless free beer in favor of a ticket system for a limited number of free—but better— drinks, including local craft beer. This has changed the atmosphere of the reception noticeably, which is now both lively and welcoming. In short, the reception has become the kind of reception that most philosophers would want a reception to be.  

Exploring Better Winter Venues

The Eastern APA is actively exploring better venues for our winter conference and fortunately our move to the first week in January makes that more viable. There are incredible deals to be had for large conferences during that week, even in warmer parts of the country. We’re happy to announce that the January 2018 meeting will be held in Savannah, Georgia right along the Savannah river in the heart of downtown historic Savannah. Something like this would not have been possible in the week leading up to New Year’s Eve.

Above we’ve noted some changes specific to the Eastern. But it’s worth closing with one more significant change that should improve the APA experience for all members. The APA has been working hard to streamline coordination between the divisions and create a better experience for members across the different divisional conferences. One example of this is that, for the first time, all three divisions collectively negotiated hotel contracts with a single hotel chain. Our collective purchasing power, resulted in significant additional concessions for each division. For example, at our meeting in Savannah in January 2018 we will get $5 back for every room night booked. That’s close to $6,000 that can be put toward additional perks for conference attendees (e.g. coffee breaks).

Andrew Cullison is director of The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University and current Secretary-Treasurer of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association.

Jeffrey Dunn is an associate professor of philosophy at DePauw University, a small liberal arts college in Indiana. His research focus is formal epistemology and he teaches classes in logic, philosophy of science, and epistemology. 

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