Musings about academe in haphazard fashion.
So, it’s that time of year again. I have to travel in the first week of January as I almost always have for the past 10 years to the American Historical Association Annual Meeting; this year it is in Washington, D.C. As a side thought, I often wish those January meetings were not in cities like Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, etc. I had a much better time exploring the cities and getting around when it was in Seattle, Atlanta, and New Orleans with the weather and climate. Anywho…the reason for writing this is to rant a bit and explore this issue of faculty having to pre-pay for all work-related trips and the hassle and difficulties that involves with paperwork before and after, multiple offices on campus getting involved, and the length of time from the booking of flights and payment of registration fees to the actual reimbursement.
I’m wondering why there isn’t a greater protest from faculty over this particular issue, especially in support of Junior, untenured faculty who may not be in a solid financial position to cough up potentially $1000s that would be on hold for months until reimbursement. I remember in 2007 when I was accepted to present a paper at the 50th anniversary meeting of the Society for the History of Technology that was meeting in Lisbon, Portugal. After conference registration, airfare, lodging, transportation, and meals, I had spent around $2000 for a four day trip, though I had been as frugal as possible; at that time, as we had just moved to Georgiaa couple months earlier; every penny that was out of my hands caused difficulty with paying bills and basic needs. It was agonizing to wait for reimbursement.
It would not be such a terrible ordeal if it were not for the additional task of the paperwork trail. For those of us whose research or conference presentations takes us out of the country, the issue of receipts can become problematic. For all the hotels I stayed in while in Guatemala where the proprietor’s only took cash and could not read or write to give a receipt, to the example of Portugal where my taxi driver was an immigrant from Poland with whom I could not communicate except to give my Hotel address and there was no possibility of a receipt, faculty, like myself, often end up “eating” a lot of our expenses. For all the dinners networking has taken me to that exceeded the “per diem” limits allowed by the university, and for all of the conference hotels that exceeded the measly limits of the $99 allowed, it is no wonder my spouse groans and grumbles when I say another conference is on the horizon.