Honoraria in Philosophy


A philosopher writes in with a query about paying philosophers for talks and the like…

I’d like to learn more about honorarium practices for philosophy talks. How common is it to offer an honorarium? Under what circumstances (e.g. departmental colloquium, conference, public lecture, etc.)? What is a typical amount? It would be especially helpful if respondents can identify the type of institution they’re at (e.g. rural US state research school with an MA program, private, highly-prestigious liberal arts school in New England, etc.). Finally, I would be interested in learning other philosophers’ thoughts on the practice. Do people think offering honorarium is obligatory / appropriate / expected?

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Kevin
Kevin
6 years ago

My department is in a regional comprehensive state institution in a mostly rural area about an hour outside of Minneapolis (BA program only). Our practice has been to offer speakers who drive from relatively close institutions an honorarium of $150 and to offer speakers who fly in an honorarium of $250.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

I’m a graduate student at a big state research institution, but one with some strict budget constraints. I recently helped organize a graduate conference, with a tenured and well-known professor as the keynote. We gave them $350, $100 to cover travel and the nights at the hotel.

Our speaker actually offered to decline the honorarium if it meant it would help our budget, which was very nice of them. We ended up making everything work, but probably could not afford to pay anyone more than the amount we paid last year, which probably rules out many possible speakers.

When we are looking for keynotes for the grad conferences, we actually spend a decent time debating whether so-and-so would take this amount to come speak, and so I myself am pretty interested in what other people consider reasonable.Report

anon female grad student
anon female grad student
6 years ago

$250 to $500 for a talk, and of course we either book or reimburse their travel & hotel.Report

HK Andersen
HK Andersen
6 years ago

Canadian research university with an MA program: we do not usually offer honoraria (honouraria here!) for our colloquia series. We do pay for hotel and food, and reimburse for travel. When I’ve organized conferences here, there were no honoraria for visiting speakers or keynotes, although my colleagues might have for other conferences (I can’t speak to that).

On several occasions we have had speakers traveling with children for whom we used the existing university system for offering honoraria, so that the amount matched the expected cost for the childcare we arranged during their visit. The honorarium was a useful pre-existing format to allow us to cover their childcare expenses.Report

anony
anony
6 years ago

Back when I was an undergrad, in the early 2000’s, an English prof of mine mentioned receiving $1500 for a talk. He wasn’t a big name or anything. I wonder if such practices in Philosophy were once different, and more lucrative. Sadly, my suspicion is that times have changed, and that average, non-BFD speakers are lucky to have at minimum travel costs covered.Report

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
6 years ago

#2, I’ve given a keynote at a grad conference that paid no honorarium (but did cover expenses).
#5, I don’t think so. I don’t think honorariums have changed since the early 1990s — which means their value has decayed with inflation, but they haven’t gone down.Report

David Dick
6 years ago

When I was Speaker’s Chair at Calgary I led the charge to abolish the $250-$300 honoraria we paid to speakers. Since we also covered the full cost of the visit, it didn’t seem like the extra amount of money would be decisive for anyone we were inviting (and might just cause an international tax hassle for them and for us and so end up being a disincentive instead). Once we got rid of the honoraria, there was room in the budget to entirely cover the cost for another speaker, making our series that much better. I haven’t been doing this job for a few years, but our Speaker’s series is very much alive and well, so I don’t think it’s hurt our ability to attract speakers.

I don’t think I’m committed against honoraria in all cases (I have gratefully accepted a few myself), but in our case, it didn’t make sense to continue the practice.Report

Chris Surprenant
6 years ago

I run a small ppe program at the University of New Orleans. While all of our events are open to the public, some are advertised and promoted to undergraduates and community members primarily (debates, panel discussions, public lectures, etc.), and others are for the benefit of the faculty and advanced undergraduate students (e.g., paper seminars).

For our guests that participate in the paper seminars we usually don’t pay honorariums, but we cover all travel expenses and take them out to one or two very nice meals while in New Orleans. My thinking (rightly or wrongly) is that they’re benefitting from the opportunity as much as we are, since we all read the paper in advance and the guests are asked to submit an in-progress paper. But for the “public” events, generally we pay the speakers anywhere from $250 to $1000 depending on the circumstances (who they are, if we’re sharing them with another university, etc.). We also cover their expenses, take them to one or two nice meals, etc.

I’m always surprised to see how many people are opposed to honorariums. For someone who has to travel, you’re asking them to give up, minimally, two days–days they could be spending with their families or whatever else–to come to your campus and do some work for you. Unless there’s reason to think that simply paying expenses is just compensation (and it can be in many cases), it seems appropriate to offer an honorarium.Report

Michael Kremer
Michael Kremer
6 years ago

@HK Andersen: “Honourarium” would be a very peculiar spelling even in Canada… You won’t find it in the OED! The “ou” in “honour” is from Norman French I believe (think “honneur”), whereas “honorarium” is directly from the Latin (hence, no “ou”).Report

Christopher Hitchcock
6 years ago

At Caltech — a relatively well-off research institution — we don’t offer honoraria. We do cover travel expenses and can take speakers somewhere nice for dinner (with no restrictions on paying for wine, as at some state schools). We do have one distinguished speaker series on “science and society” that sometimes brings in philosophers (e.g. we’ve had Elliott Sober and Michael Friedman) as well as others of interest to philosophers. That pays $1500 I believe (and also is unusual in offering to cover travel expenses for the speaker’s partner, if desired).
In my experience as a speaker, I would say that roughly half of departments offer honoraria, typically around $250. Personally, an honorarium makes little difference to my decision to accept the invitation. That decision is based on: my schedule and timing; how convenient/inconvenient the travel is; whether I know people at the place I am invited, or whether there are philosophers I want to talk to; whether the city/location is a desirable travel destination.Report

Fritz Allhoff
Fritz Allhoff
6 years ago

I’ve noticed a difference in offers based on what sorts of things are expected from the visit. Sometimes it’s just show up and give a talk. Sometimes it’s that plus meet with students to talk about graduate schools or whatever. Sometimes it’s guest teach a class, too. I usually think it’s better to do more things than fewer, especially if fewer means more time sitting in a hotel room. But I suspect most of us don’t make the decisions to come based on the honoraria; rather, as Chris says, there are a range of other factors.Report

Mark Alfano
6 years ago

My department, which is pretty far out of the way for most visitors, pays for travel, room, and board, and typically offers an honorarium of $500.Report

anonymous
anonymous
6 years ago

My department offers $400-600, and also tries to coordinate scheduling with other universities in the area so that we can offer a speaker more than one talk. We also try to offer speakers from underfunded public institutions more than speakers from large private research universities, because the travel funds available to philosophers at public universities tend to be much less than the funds available to philosophers at R1 private universities.Report

Erin Tarver
6 years ago

I think it is worth noting that some places giving “honoraria” of apparently sizable amounts are doing so in lieu of paying directly for speakers’ travel expenses. I teach at the SLAC arm of a private research institution, and we offer local speakers $300, and speakers who would have to travel any sizable distance (usually out of state) $1500. They are then responsible for booking their own travel. The upside to this is that if you can manage to minimize your travel costs, you can increase the amount you are paid. I’ve also experienced this as a speaker at a state institution, where I was paid $750, but had to cover my own travel costs. I think I ended up with a net of about $200, but only because I was just a few states away and able to rent a car and drive.Report

Christina
Christina
6 years ago

I teach at a SLAC, and we offer travel, lodging, and a $300 honoraria for visiting speakers. We also frequently try to coordinate with another school in the same area to share the costs and so that the speaker can get a better honorarium. Personally, I’m always very grateful for honoraria when I give talks. My total annual research budget at my school is less than $1000, and I use honoraria not only to cover the “incidental” costs associated with travel (e.g. babysitters/housesitters) but also to attend conferences once my departmental travel funds are depleted.Report

Dawn Keeballs
Dawn Keeballs
6 years ago

We do $250-300 honorarium + travel and (nice hotel) lodging. Good dinner, too, which works out to a reasonably nice deal even though the speaker has to spend time with us.Report

Jim
Jim
6 years ago

We cover all expenses and sometimes (depending on the subgroup and occasion) offer an honorarium; it could be $100 – $500. Our annual named speaker series offers a large honorarium (two or three thousand for three talks).

When I ran the Department’s main speaker series many years ago, I gave a silver-plated university mug engraved with the speaker’s name and date (available through the Bookstore). This cost much less than a typical honorarium and usually was very well received. Years later some of those speakers fondly recall receiving it. I doubt that anyone recalls a typical honorarium.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

I received my Ph.D. at a major public research university. Each year, we would host at least one graduate student conference, with varying topics. When I co-organized a conference on the philosophy of science, we paid our keynote speaker $500 to speak and covered his travel expenses (flight and hotel). There may be some variation from conference to conference, but that seemed to be pretty standard.Report