The date of APSA

Some of my colleagues in the profession are passing around a link to an online petition to change the data of the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. As long as I can remember–and, I think, long before that–the APSA meeting has been held over Labor Day weekend (end of August/early September). Over the years, I have heard many complaints about the date. I have also heard from (even) older members that this matter has been debated many times in the Association, and Labor Day just keeps coming back as the default. It may be that many members see it as bad, but there is no clear better choice.

The specific petition being circulated proposes early October as the set time for the APSA meeting. This is bad for two reasons, and so I am not signing the petition.

(1) That is typically the first weekend of the fall quarter. Not all of us are on semester systems (the inconvenience of the meeting being at the beginning of fall semester is given in the petition as a reason why Labor Day is bad).

(2) Any date later in September or well into October will conflict with major Jewish holidays* some years. Already the Western Political Science Association (WPSA) often conflicts with Passover (the meeting includes the first night of Passover–the most important–in 2015). A couple of European association meetings in the last year or two have been held precisely on Rosh HaShannah or Yom Kippur; let’s not have APSA make the same mistake.

I understand that most APSA members are neither on the quarter system nor holiday-observant Jews, but can those of us who are one or both of the above get to weigh in on any possible date change? I guess not. These petitions have a “sign to agree” option, but not an “attach a dissenting report” option.

As for the date, I actually do not object to Labor Day. It isn’t a holiday weekend of any significance to me. But I get the point that for some it is. And if I were on a semester schedule, I might not like it. (Then again, the meeting ends Sunday morning, and all US professors have Monday off, so is it such a big deal?) I do not even attend APSA very often, so the specific date won’t matter much to me. But if we are going to change it, October is just about the worst of all options.

Most likely, the inertia of this large an association is going to result in the same outcome as all previous reviews of the dates: keeping it at Labor Day weekend.

* Rosh HaShannah (two days for the Jewish new year), Yom Kippur (a day of fasting and no work, and the holiest day of the entire year), and Sukkot (a major week-long festival with two or four, depending on one’s tradition, no-work days) all come over a period of about three weeks beginning near the Autumnal equinox. This current Jewish year began just days after Labor Day, 2013, but the workings of the calendar dictate that it will never again be that early, in Gregorian terms, for millennia. The usual range of these holidays is mid-September to late-October, depending on the way the two calendars overlap in a given year.

6 thoughts on “The date of APSA

  1. Apparently the specific weekend they are talking about is closer to mid-October, so not right at the beginning of fall quarter, and also never conflicting with Rosh HaShannah. Still, it would be at a bad time in the teaching calendar for many of us, and would conflict some years with other Jewish fall holidays.

    All around, a bad time of year for the meeting, in my opinion.

  2. I suspect that Labor Day is the focal point because it’s a good time to get massive conference facilities and thousands of hotel rooms in bad-late-summer-weather cities. New Orleans was hurricaned-out a couple years ago. Boston and Washington DC are always disgustingly hot and humid that weekend. Atlanta was a terrible idea. Chicago isn’t too bad at Labor Day, and SF was terrific before hotel workers began what seems to be a 20-year strike.

    I see no reason to change the schedule. But I also avoid the conference most years – it’s just a zoo of people, and 99% networking, 1% scholarship. Frankly, I think the internet has made annual conventions obsolete.

  3. No disagreement here, Mike.

    I will add that Seattle was great for the meeting, and I hope it will be on the schedule again. I do avoid the meeting when it is DC because the weather is so unpleasant then. That certainly was not an issue in Seattle (although locals were complaining that it was hot–it was low 80s, with low humidity).

  4. The NOLA decision was a major debacle. I remember the chuckles I drew when telling some folks a year out that I was not planning to go to the meeting in New Orleans because that’s hurricane season. My one and only hurricane season was APSA 1985. After wobbling just offshore throughout the meeting, the storm hit on Sunday or Monday, but I had stuck around for planned sightseeing. One smallish hurricane was enough for me, thank you very much.

  5. A revised version of the petition explicitly stipulates that the specific weekend in October would be chosen to avoid conflicts with religious holidays. I will consider that a small victory. I am still not in favor of moving APSA to October, however.

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