The professional listservs are buzzing with the usual post-conference conversations: the best way to deliver a paper, the (lack of) presence of technology at the conference site, and how expensive the conference was. The big three discussions. These discussions happen each and every year after 4Cs. I find myself deleting most of the messages, but I'm trying to keep up with the posts about expenses.
One thing that strikes me about the discussion is how much cash many attendees apparently spent. Some are reporting spending upwards of $1,500-2,000. What?
I get an even grand from my department to cover conference travel. Now, I had to be careful, but I came in *under* budget. A package that included airfare and four nights in a hotel (a Super 8 in Queens that required me to subway into the city each a.m.) cost me just over $600. Registration, including an all-day workshop, was $135. That left me over $250 for food and subway fare. Breakfast was free at the hotel and included a waffle station and good coffee. Between parties and a dinner with a publisher, I bought about one meal a day out of pocket.
Others on the list--including a few tenure-track folks--are reporting horrendous travel support from their departments. Some report only getting a couple hundred dollars. Not even the most frugal can work with such paltry support without paying lots of cash out of pocket, which many end up doing. A colleague of mine in the business school points out that this is the only profession where we essentially *must* (i.e., in order to get tenure) travel as part of our work but in which our place of employment doesn't always pay for those expenses.
Should the big conferences travel to cheaper sites? Yes. I'd love to see 4Cs set up a rotation including more diverse areas. How about the mountain west? How about the de-industrialized midwest? I know you need a hotel or series of hotels that can support thousands of attendees sleeping each night and going to sessions each day, but I don't think you have to go to NYC or Chicago to make that feasible. NCTE--the only NCTE I ever attended--was in Detroit about ten years ago. The Cs used to do Cinci. on a somewhat regular basis. Keep New York et al in the rotation but widen the range of locales.