The Hypocrisy of a Conference – Violating Their Own Principles
Earlier this year, I was very excited to submit my Abstract on Parental Mental Health to the International Conference on Policies and Parental Support, hosted by York St John University Business School (UK) in association with the Institute for Social Justice.
My topic was Parental Mental Health: Helping Clinicians, Frontline Staff & Employers Recognize and Support It, which discussed the persistent lack of awareness regarding mental health, and acknowledging parents as one of the most overlooked groups, affecting them socio-economically, psychologically, physically all which have a trickle-down effect to their children and families.
The Conference, according to their website, says it “will provide a platform for discussion on various aspects of social and legal policies that impacts parents in the workplace, at home and in society,” so when I received the email that my Abstract was accepted, I was over the moon!
Further reading, however, caused me significant distress and disappointment, which is why I am writing about it.
To present my work, I was expected to register for the conference for a minimum of one day to deliver my session and required to pay a Conference registration fee of £140.
So, I’m giving my time, my research, my experience and my work to this Conference for others to benefit from, yet I have to pay for that?
Something didn’t seem right, especially at a Conference that was meant to explore social policies and its impact on parents and families.
I wrote back to the Conference organizer:
I’m so happy that my paper has been accepted for a virtual presentation.
I would love to accept, however, I am wondering if, because I’m presenting virtually, am I still required to purchase a ticket for the day-of?
Unfortunately, I am not in the financial position to be able to afford that cost, so if there is a sponsorship or bursary available that I would be able to apply for as a low-income individual, that would be helpful.
Please let me know.
Thank you again for your acknowledgement of my work, and I hope that I will be able to contribute my knowledge and experience to #ICPPS22”
After speaking with their Team, the Organizer replied, saying that the expectation is for all presenters to register and that there was no funding for the project to offer bursaries.
I was not asking to be paid; I was asking to not have to pay.
I became frustrated at the unwillingness to support, thinking that waiving the fee would have been a reasonable accommodation/gesture of good-will, so I sent my thoughts:
I understand that if presenters will be in attendance that they should register, however, being in [Canada], I will not be at the Conference, so it seems odd that a ticket should be purchased when I do not get the benefit of attending the event.
This feels exclusionary and as something that could be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
I am not affiliated with an organization or a university who could pay my way – I am a non-working parent with a mental health disability who is presenting at a Conference regarding policies and parental support, including the financial impact on parents, but am being told that I have to pay over $220(CAD), to speak (work) and provide the Conference with my knowledge (about parental support), despite not being able to attend?
Looking at the Conference themes, this situation aligns with many of them – how policies impact parents and families; if I want to present and help others with my experience, your policy says that I have to decide between buying a ticket and feeding my family.
I hope that your team will reconsider.
This is the problem with academia and the lack of awareness when it comes to the important and valid contributions of those of us with Lived-Experience. My insight can provide a type of education and knowledge that one cannot get from a book. I offer a perspective that is real and truthful, backed by emotion that builds empathy among those who are there to listen and learn.
I also learned that there is no virtual access to the Conference, but that I would be able to view some of the presentations months later.
It was clear to me that this was some sort of sponsored speaking event – a place where Universities and governments (and charlatans with cash) could parade around their research to bolster the image of their institution…or maybe it was just an unethical money-grab.
Either way, the whole thing stunk.
How can we trust in a conference’s credibility if they are demanding that speakers pay for the opportunity to speak? It’s akin to advertorial in a newspaper or Promoted Posts on social media.
Further to that, how can we trust in the speakers, themselves? What is their reasoning for being there and is the information actually valid or is it pumped up to get the (paying) presenter more clout?
On the Conference’s Eventbrite page, it’s written:
“Events Access & Inclusivity
At York St John University we are committed to making our events as welcoming and inclusive for as many people as possible.”
Ignoring the socio-economic aspects of inclusivity, which prevent many talented and knowledgeable individuals from accessing and achieving equity (as has happened in my case), especially in academia, this group seems focused solely on the physical ones.
My disappointment is still very present as I think of the many people whom I could have helped by presenting my first-hand knowledge of the importance of parental mental health, and how many clinicians and front-line staff could have benefitted from the information that I planned to bring forth; information that I have presented at other conferences here in Canada (without having to pay for it), but won’t be able to now because of an ammoral and unaligned [with their purported objectives] decision.