Saturday, December 5, 2009

Question about future of SBL

I am sorry to post again on SBL, but perhaps my frequency since the meeting reflects the intensity of my concern. I am a practical person and it seems to me that there has to be resolutions to some of the problems facing our society, especially as long as we remain divorced from AAR. I'm trying to brainstorm some possibilities for solutions.

So I am curious, especially to hear from fellow members: would consolidation of some of the units be part of the solution? What are the pros and cons? Are there ways to re-envision the formation and structure of units to allow for more interchange among members in our society? Is it possible for units to consolidate while still maintaining individual agendas?

Those of you who are in other organizations that operate with discipline units, how do you organize?

6 comments:

Greg Carey said...

I've been following your posts on SBL, April, and I have to say I'm torn. (You may recall I'm the one who asked whether they want us to continue expanding sessions). I have a strong anti-elitist bias. When we have fewer sessions, you get sections inviting big names for big audiences. Junior scholars get frozen out. On the other hand, it seems clear there were too many sessions this time -- esp. with audiences of 6-12. In Rhetoric, we're cutting back from 4 sessions to 3.

M. Tyler Gillett said...

Does anyone at SBL keep a record of how many people attend each session? I assume not; otherwise, the Nag Hammadi panels wouldn't routinely be held in rooms that are too small for the audience.

It seems to me that requiring session organizers to keep a tally of how many people attend their sessions might go a long way toward organizing the sessions better, and perhaps consolidating similar themed sessions with low attendance.

Judy Redman said...

I wonder whether the proliferation of sessions is in response to two other issues in academia - obtaining funding to get to conferences and the pressure to publish?

The only way that I (or anyone from Australian universities AFAIK) can get institutional funding to attend a conference is if I am presenting. Attending SBL Annual Meeting or International Meetings without funding is prohibitively expensive for students and even if you are on a professorial salary and can claim expenses against your income tax, not getting funding from your institution decreases the number of conferences you can afford to attend.

And then there is the need to have a track record in order to get scholarships, jobs and tenure. Presenting at SBL is part of the track record. Getting a paper together for a conference and getting some feedback, even from a small audience, is a good start for producing a journal article.

So maybe SBL is responding to demand from scholars?

Stephen C. Carlson said...

As a current Ph.D. student whose institution will reimburse some SBL related expenses only if the student is presenting a paper, I would have to agree with Judy Redman that the multiplication of session has been a benefit to those just beginning their careers.

Colin Toffelmire said...

I agree with Judy and Stephen, there is a lot of pressure on us as doctoral students to present at conferences generally, and SBL particularly. I also share Greg's concern that reducing the number of sessions will freeze out younger scholars. This is not just with regard to presenting papers, but also with regard to participating in steering committees. The fewer the sessions, the fewer the opportunities.

Also, my impression of SBL (this was my first time) was not the same as your apparently. Only one of the sessions I went to was particularly poorly attended, and that was on Tuesday morning when everyone was on their way to the airport. I went to a lot of sessions (almost every time slot for the whole weekend), and they were all well-attended affairs.

Dr.Jim said...

One of the problems for young scholars hoping to get a track record are the number of very specialized sessions-many of which offer invited papers, against the number of sessions open to offers of papers. It is often hard to invite oneself, especially if one doesn't have the right connections.

I can see the appeal of specialized session, but there is something to be said for the more general, open topics too, and I think it is there that most new scholars have a hope of getting a slot in which to present.