New APA Travel Fund for Philosophers of Color (updated)


The American Philosophical Association (APA) has announced that it is creating a travel fund for philosophers of color. According an APA press release, the fund is aimed at supporting “philosophers of color who would otherwise find it challenging to participate in APA divisional meetngs and other APA-sponsored conferences. The fund is supported exclusively by donations.”

There is a campaign currently underway to support the fund.

To help get the new fund off the ground, APA member Janice Dowell and the M arc Sanders Foundation have issued a challenge. Professor Dowell, the winner of the 2014 Sanders Prize in Metaethics, has pledged $1,000 of her prize money to the travel assistance fund, and the Marc Sanders Foundation has committed another $2,000 to it—but only if the APA raises $5,000 in additional donations for the travel assistance fund by April 10.

If you’re interested in contributing, you can do so here.

(via Amy Ferrer)

UPDATE:  Please see the remarks by Elizabeth Anderson, posted by Amy Ferrer, in comment 8, below.

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Manyul Im
6 years ago

Is there some way to word this or conceive of it in such a way that it doesn’t seem like passing the hat for our poor colleagues of color? I want to think this is a good thing but it feels slightly offensive to me. I don’t quite know how to put it into an argument, however. Perhaps it is a misguided feeling.Report

Jan Dowell
Jan Dowell
6 years ago

I am really sorry to hear you find the proposal offensive, Manyul. I should say that the APA is not to blame here; they have essentially adopted the proposal I pitched to Liz Anderson, in her capacity as President of the Central Division, as chair of the program committee. So, let me say a bit about what I was thinking by way of explaining why the proposal has the form it does.
From the vantage point of program committee chair, the barriers philosophers of color face in participating in APA meetings as a result of structural racism became clear to me in a way that they hadn’t before–though no doubt they should have. In offering the proposal in the form I did, I took into account what I already know–that many senior philosophers attend meetings–even appear on the program–without paying their registration fees or, sometimes, even their dues. So, my thought was, raising the fees or dues of senior philosophers to pay for the fund was not likely to make *more* of them pay their fees or dues. Given this, that seemed an unpromising way to expand the APA’s budget in the way needed. A second reason I proposed voluntary donations is that it occurred to me others might reasonably complain that their extra fees and dues weren’t addressing an issue that they cared more about. (Childcare, for example, is something I know some feel quite strongly that the APA should offer.)
As it happens, again from my vantage point as chair of the program committee, the barriers philosophers of color face in getting to our meetings as a result of racist institutions (institutions, I am well aware, I have benefitted from) clearly presented themselves to me as something I, and the APA, should, if we can, rectify, in the interests of justice, and, should, if we can, rectify in the interests of making sure the folks who would make for the best meeting can participate. So, while there are many important issues the APA might address with extra funds and others might have offered different proposals, because this is how things looked to me, I came to care about this one. My hope is that there are enough folks who care as I do to create a travel fund that could make a real difference to the composition of our typical APA program.
Having said this, I should admit that it never occurred to me when I pitched this proposal that it would strike anyone as a request for a handout on anyone’s behalf. This is no doubt a limitation of my imagination. For just about everything I do, I am keenly aware that there was probably a better way to do it. 🙂 If that’s so here, I hope you’ll help me learn from my mistakes by letting me know what I could have done differently to do things better.
I also hope that if you, or anyone else, has a concrete suggestion for how the APA might better pursue its goals of justice and inclusiveness, that you will contact Amy Ferrer, the APA’s Executive Director. The APA is not a faceless bureaucracy. It is made up of hard working folks, most of them volunteers, who are trying their best to improve our profession. Amy is highly dedicated to her job, very hard working, and receptive to suggestions. If you think there might be something the APA could be doing better, I know she would love to hear it.Report

Manyul Im
6 years ago

Thanks, Janice, for the thoughtful reply. I should say more clearly that though it feels slightly offensive to me, I am genuinely on the fence about whether that feeling is justified and was hoping for some help to sort through it. Perhaps this call for donations frames the virtuous generosity of the privileged against the dependent neediness of the underprivileged in an unfortunate way? I’m not attributing agency to that — especially not to you; but it does affect me that way and to the extent that other philosophers of color feel that way, I guess it’s worth discussing.Report

Jan Dowell
Jan Dowell
6 years ago

Thanks, Manyul. Can you help me see a way forward here? I am not virtuously privileged, I’m unjustly advantaged and would like to do what I can to help make my profession better.Report

Manyul Im
6 years ago

The existence of this fund seems beneficial. But maybe more obvious participation of philosophers of color in decisions that affect us — including decisions that potentially benefit us or that enable/empower some of us to help others of us — might help in subsequent efforts to make the profession better. Hope that’s helpful.Report

Jan Dowell
Jan Dowell
6 years ago

“At its meeting in November, the APA board of officers approved a proposal from the task force on diversity and inclusion to create a travel assistance fund for philosophers of color.” — http://www.apaonline.org/news/219242/Help-us-launch-the-new-travel-assistance-fund-for-philosophers-of-color.htm
Members of the task force on diversity and inclusion are: Elizabeth Anderson, Lawrence Blum, Peggy DesAutels, A.J. Kreider, Susanna Nuccetelli, Mickaella L. Perina, Ronald R. Sundstrom, Kenneth Taylor, Anne S. Waters, JD, Ph.D, Robin Zheng, and Anita Silvers.
I add this only so our discussion might be based on the facts, rather than armchair assumptions. At this point, it would likely be better to leave this discussion to others.
My deep apologies again for any offense I’ve caused. It was certainly neither intended nor foreseen, though perhaps it should have been.Report

Manyul Im
6 years ago

Thanks for the list, Janice. Really, I wasn’t assuming anything about the actual participation of philosophers of color, just the unintended perception created by this post in me and maybe some others. I am trying to be helpful but I also sincerely apologize if raising this question hasn’t helped.Report

Amy Ferrer
6 years ago

Thanks to all who have already donated to the new fund, and to those like you, Manyul, participating in the conversation about the fund and its value to the profession. Elizabeth Anderson, chair of the APA Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, which recommended the creation of the fund to the APA board, asked me to share the following response to some of the concerns that have been raised:

————————————-
Dear All,

The Task Force on Inclusion and Diversity made this recommendation for a travel fund. The majority of members of the Task Force are philosophers of color. The Task Force Recommendations were approved by the APA Board of Officers, which also includes philosophers of color. So multiple philosophers of color were consulted on this recommendation, and they approved it.

It should be noted that the establishment of a travel fund for philosophers of color is but one measure in dozens that have been adopted by the APA Board in response to problems of inclusion and diversity in the profession. If this travel fund were the only thing that APA were doing to promote inclusion of philosophers of color, then the charge that it has misunderstood the causes of under-participation in the APA on the part of philosophers of color might have some merit. However, the charge makes no sense given that the travel fund is being launched in the context of a far more comprehensive response to a wide range of factors leading to the under-representation of philosophers of color in APA activities–factors identified by the philosophers of color on the Task Force, by the many philosophers of color who independently communicated their concerns to the Task Force, and by philosophers of color on the APA Board. One of those factors identified by philosophers of color was financial hardship.

The visible underrepresentation of philosophers of color at APA meetings is a concern over and above the underrepresentation of low-income philosophers more generally. In addition, such underrepresentation may undermine the functioning of the inclusiveness committees, which are part of the governance structure of the APA. At least one chair of one of the inclusiveness committees for philosophers of color was unable to travel to a recent APA meeting due to lack of funding.

Feel free to share this communication with anyone who has concerns about the travel fund.

Cheers,

Elizabeth Anderson
Chair, APA Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion
————————————-

Those wishing to review the report of the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, including its many recommendations referenced above, can find it on the APA website, here: http://www.apaonline.org/resource/resmgr/Docs/diversitytaskforcereport.pdfReport

Manyul Im
6 years ago

To Amy, Elizabeth, Janice, and anyone else who was involved in the aforementioned work, including the Task Force members:
I appreciate the time you’ve taken to point me and others to the larger context in which the call for donations for this fund was developed and made. I do still think, after mulling over the reaction I experienced, that it would be helpful to have a voice of a philosopher of color given more prominence in moving forward the valuable work of diversifying the profession. A prominent voice is not merely symbolic; it offers a sense of shared decision making in a public and noticeable way for those whose representation we are trying to improve. I know “the APA” is not an abstract thing but composed of those who are willing to serve the association. Nonetheless, given its history and much of its current circumstance, announcements regarding philosophers of color that come from those who represent the APA in leadership roles but who are not philosophers of color can in some instances be alienating to those of us who are not, frankly speaking, white. I offer this only as further information as an effort to be helpful and I hope it will be taken that way.Report

Roberta L Millstein
6 years ago

Why on earth isn’t the APA enforcing a policy that you have to be registered for the meeting in order to appear on the program? Other societies manage to do this. (I realize that this is tangential to the main issue, but as it’s listed as a reason for the fund — which I am in favor of — I thought I would ask).Report

David Sobel
David Sobel
6 years ago

Liz’s remarks provide us with another clear picture of how much the new APA is doing to improve the profession of philosophy in the US. Many of us have been disappointed with the efforts of the APA in the past. But I have noticed a sharp change for the better in recent years under the leadership of Amy Ferrer. I hope Liz’s words provide an occasion for us to more fully appreciate how rapidly the APA is improving. And to notice how incredibly lucky we are to have people like Liz Anderson, Sally Haslanger, Tommie Shelby, Louise Antony, David Copp and a host of many others put their valuable time and energy into APA leadership despite its being a somewhat thankless task.

Amy Ferrer is knowledgeable and reachable. I recommend to all who have a real concern about the APA’s work to either gather more information or contact her directly so that either she can explain why what the APA is doing makes sense or she can learn from your concerns and improve the APA in light of them. Not infrequently people complain publicly about the APA without doing either. This is unfair to those who volunteer their time for the APA, as well as unproductive, as it deprives the APA of the chance to learn from feedback. The new APA is, in my experience, receptive to good ideas and usually has important considerations to offer for why they are doing what they are doing. Questions about the APA’s work or suggestions for the future can be sent here: [email protected]Report

Manyul Im
6 years ago

Just to be clear, since I’ve been the only quasi-antagonist in this discussion: there’s no intention on my part to deny the value of the work that Amy, Janice, or anyone in the APA’s committees have done. Publicity for the donations appeared in this public forum and I had a response that I thought was worth public discussion because I wasn’t sure whether my response was idiosyncratic. I’ve learned from private communications that it is not. I do find it weird that this has become a question about how well anyone is doing their service to a very valuable cause. That’s not what bugged me in the first place. Look, the issues of philosophers of color are not without overlap with those of, say, white women philosophers. But white women philosophers don’t represent philosophers of color in every respect. The progress made in advancement to positions of leadership by white women is heartening. I’m a complete supporter as anyone who knows me will attest. That progress is not as apparent for philosophers of color. Being in academic administration, I’m in two arenas now where most of my peers are white. It’s exasperating. I really just wish the announcement about donating to assist philosophers of color who need the assistance had been somehow more clearly stamped with the voice of philosophers of color. Citing the committee on diversity and inclusion has helped — thank you. I apologize again for rocking the boat.Report

David Sobel
David Sobel
6 years ago

I guess I needed to be clearer that I was responding to what I see a quite broad trend that this thread is by no means an especially salient example of.Report

Amy Ferrer
6 years ago

Thanks, Manyul. We appreciate that we have a responsibility to ensure that the voices of philosophers of color are rightly prominent in APA initiatives, especially those initiatives focused on diversifying the profession, not only in their development but also in their communication to the membership and the public. We will work to do better in the future.Report

Marina Oshana
Marina Oshana
6 years ago

Manyul, you are not the only “quasi-antagonist” on this issue. My initial reaction was the same as yours, and I raised similar objections in a private email to Amy and other members of the board when the announcement came out. Liz’s email reply helped to allay the bulk of my concerns.Report

Meena Krishnamurthy
6 years ago

In case anyone is interested, I have posted a brief response to Manyul Im’s initial (and important) worry here: http://politicalphilosopher.net/2015/03/09/apa-travel-fund-for-philosophers-of-color/Report