More on children’s access to the exhibit hall. #APSA2015

Update September 9. 
APSA is very pleased we will be able to permit children into exhibit halls in future meetings. Details forthcoming. Our thanks to everyone who provided comment and feedback.

Update September 8.
We are continuing to reach out to APSA partners and other organizations to gather information and research. We are working to allow children access to the exhibit hall under certain guidelines/provisions. We thank you for your patience as we give this matter the careful consideration it deserves.

Update September 6.
There are many valid points and much good discussion happening. We are doing more research on this issue and want to be able to accommodate our members. We will have more details beginning on Tuesday, September 8th. We are currently working with staff and partners on this issue. We recognize this is an important discussion and will work as quickly as possible to come to a resolution. Thanks for your patience.

Sept 4.
APSA makes great efforts to be as welcoming and open to all attendees as possible. Conventions of our size require event insurance to secure contracts and use space at any hotels or convention centers. Event insurance does not cover children in an Exhibit Hall due to liability. We are committed to making the Annual Meeting as convenient as we can, but, unfortunately, this is not an area where we have flexibility. We are pleased to continue offering onsite Child Care and a Mother’s Room for nursing and pumping.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause members or attendees, but, unfortunately, we are not able to allow children into the Exhibit Hall. We invite you to leave your comments here for discussion.

Updates:

https://twitter.com/jordanckyle/status/639974701293436928

Jordan met with APSA President Jennifer Hochschild and said they had a great conversation. Jordan has been using the onsite child care services.

51 Comments

  1. If the insurance company won’t cover new parents bringing infants into the exhibition hall, then APSA needs a new insurance company. Child care and nursing rooms help, but it can be very difficult for new parents to travel to APSA — barring the exhibition hall to those with an infant makes it that much harder, and sends a terrible signal about whether this association welcomes those with families.

  2. The insurance policy that bans babies and children from the exhibit hall puts parents at a disadvantage by denying them access to the range of opportunities for professional development at APSA. Since many APSA members with children are graduate students and junior faculty, this disadvantage may be consequential for advancement to tenure. APSA should use its financial power to negotiate a better policy.

    In the future, one compromise might be to 1) allow infants and toddlers into the exhibit hall as long as they are secured in a stroller or a baby carrier 2) create a supervised, drop-off play room near the exhibit hall where parents could leave their older children for short periods of time.

  3. I raised my kids on the conference circuit and have been grateful to APSA for KiddieCorp. When my children were small, I never had any problem accessing the entire conference with them in tow if I liked. At APSA and at other conference in the profession, they followed me to exhibit halls, rode the hotel escalators, and played at my feet at panels. I have long thought of APSA’s childcare policy as enlightened and supportive of parents.

    Therefore, the story of a mother banned from the exhibit hall surprised me, and I assumed it was a mistake. Reading this explanation from APSA shocks me. It is not only unnecessary given my experience, it is unacceptably apathetic. It is not pre-ordained that this should be an issue. Indeed, as Professor Fortna notes, if the insurance company is the problem APSA much get a new insurance carrier. If this is a hotel policy, APSA needs to take this into consideration in selecting hotels in future.

    Let it also be pointed out that a “Mother’s Room” is sexist and insufficient. Many fathers also attend APSA with their children. Some are single fathers. Others are spouses supporting their career wives. Others are dual-career spouses tag-teaming between panels and events. Segregating mothers with their children at a professional conference, rather than allowing parents of both sexes and their children access to the entire event, is retrograde and non-family-friendly. And it is unacceptable.

  4. This is horrible! So, our liability insurance allows for drinking in the exhibit hall but not children accompanied with an adult? I think drunk political scientists are probably more of an insurance risk than someone walking through with an infant/child.

  5. Time for a new insurance company! This policy unnecessarily makes work-life balance even more difficult for political scientists of both genders, and sets a bad precedent for future APSA conferences.

  6. Why do parents feel the need to bring their kids along? A conference is a working environment and not particularly kid friendly. If you have kids, it is on you to come up with a plan not APSA. I leave my kids at home with their other parent. I know others who leave kids with grandparents. Why would you sign up to attend when you have a nine week old? Does an infant really need to be around 5,000 strangers carrying all sorts of bugs? A little common sense goes a long way here.

  7. I’ve wrecked my brain trying to find one reasonable explanation why it would make sense to ban kinds from the exhibition hall… and I’ve come up with – none.

    So, APSA, I hope you’ll find a better insurance option and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

    And – to the person who leaves their kids at home: Lucky you! Enjoy that privilege, but that’s not an option for everyone and there are many good (!!!) reasons why one would attend a conference with kids.

  8. Exclnt policy! Reduces unnecessary distraction in panel rooms, and protects the kiddies from adult germs! Would career moms bring their kiddies to Board meetings? How about lawyer moms stopping their arguments to change junior’s smelly diapers? This issue shows that some political scientists really do have a problem identifying meaningful issues to take a stand on.

    • Having been widowed with a one year old baby while still an Assistant Professor, I in fact did have to take my baby to meetings on occasion, take him to class, and bring him to conferences. Had I not had the support of my amazing colleagues, I doubt I would have gotten tenure or continued to be productive in my field. It is easy to say “banning kids is NO BIG DEAL” if you are the beneficiary of a particularly fortunate set of circumstances.

    • Unlike your comment, Dr. Kelleher, “career moms” AND dads often bring their children to conferences. And, an exhibit hall is neither a board nor a court room. It’s not even a panel room.

    • Most parents at APSA are not bringing their babies into the panel discussions, they make use of the child care. The exhibit hall is by no means a panel discussion or anything even remotely akin to a board meeting….it is mayhem with books and distraught political scientists trying to see if their book is being promoted by their publisher. APSA….get a new insurance policy. This is a meaningful issue. There is a problem with the discipline in terms of a lack of diversity and this policy impacts this issue. Further, what is up APSA….why this year regarding the exhibit halls? What insurance did you have in the past? Plenty of us have brought our children into the book room over the past decades, why the sudden change?

    • I have to say this is the single most inane comment I have seen by a political scientist in some time. I’m not quite sure why you felt the need to make it.

    • Next time someone says that sexism is not a problem in polisci, introduce him or her to William J Kelleher, Ph.D!

    • Although I’ve never brought my kids to an academic conference, I have taken my kids to meetings on campus on many occasions, including meetings with deans, the provost, the president, and members of the Board of Regents. They usually sit quietly outside the meeting playing on the iPad or reading, though on one occasion one of my kids was in the meeting itself watching the iPad because there was no good place outside the room. Sometimes, perhaps, I could have made alternative arrangements, but I think it’s important that those in administrative positions see for themselves the juggling that working parents (dads as well as moms) go through today.

  9. So just for one second let’s take APSA’s statement at face value rather than turn it into a veiled attack on parents.

    If so, the proper targets for inquiry is not APSA, but the venues and insurance companies that work with them.

    Local laws may well dictate this policy. It may be in place for perfectly good reason. It may not. I for one believe APSA when it says it is not the origin of this policy, but merely following inflexible guidelines.

    Whether those guidelines are preferable is a different question from whether APSA can do anything about them.

    It is also possible that some kind of rider is available to extend the insurance coverage, which might be quite expensive. Whether APSA members want to pay for the additional coverage is yet another question.

  10. This policy hurts the young moms, dads, and families who stand to benefit the most from all of the opportunities for professional development at APSA – even the exhibit hall. APSA should do everything within their power to have this policy changed by the next conference. I can’t imagine why the APSA exhibit hall should be any different from other weddings and events held in the same ballroom (that also require event insurance) that allow kids. This is a punitive and senseless policy, please work to fix it by 2016.

  11. APSA needs kids! Children connect us to our to our bodies, to our creativity, desires, the material, the moment and hope — something that too often is missing in professions like ours overflowing with masculinist norms. More kids in more APSA spaces!!

  12. I noticed that SPSP (held in San Diego this year) allows children in the exhibit hall. I’m sure the laws and contracts are complex but this is an important issue that other associations are resolving amicably.

    Some of the previous posters do not seem to be aware that many infants breastfeed. Often. And all night. And if your infant is not with you, you have to pump milk often and all night to keep up the supply of your milk and transport said milk to and from your home. Some of the pp might not also realize that it might be more convenient to travel with said infant rather than leave him/her at home with a partner to get up all night, particularly if there are older children involved. I myself did this when my youngest was 8 months and my oldest was just shy of 3. Some of the pp might not also realize that it might be difficult to time a child so that one can attend APSA free of infant, particularly when one is on the job market. I note that one of the women who faced the issue of being turned away was a graduate student on the job market with an infant.

    Graduate students have no power to speak out against the APSA. This may not be the case in this particular situation, but if I were meeting with Jennifer Hochschild as a graduate student, I would be gracious in order to save face in the profession.

    Jennie Sweet-Cushman (Chatham University), Angie Bos (College of Wooster) and I are working on a paper regarding family friendly conference policies and ideas. We have a long way to go before our conferences meet any kind of family friendly status. Providing child care to attendees and a mother’s room is not enough.

    • Agreed completely. Childcare and a pumping room on-site are important, but not sufficient to make APSA truly “family-friendly.” The children of scholars should also be able to accompany them to the conference! Particularly when we are talking about an infant, many times it is preferable to carry the infant around with you, rather than arrange childcare and figure out a strategy for pumping, cleaning pump parts, and storing milk.

  13. APSA should be applauded for having a room set aside for nursing (renaming it though would clearly be a wise step) Next step is to find a better insurance policy. Frankly it would be refreshing to see a few baby faces in the exhibition hall and we all know they create far fewer problems than the grown ups.

  14. I wonder if the real problem is that some children are disruptive and those in charge find it less embarrassing to ban kiddies across the board than to talk to a few parents individually. In our society we seem to be tending more toward blanket punitive policies under the guise of “safety” in order to avoid making judgments, the ultimate evil. If it IS simply insurance, for goodness sake, someone call the insurance company and raise holy hell.

  15. I don’t have any problem allowing all paid up members in the Exhibit Hall. You know, just so long as they paid the full membership fee or nonmember fee upfront. That sounds fair to me.

  16. I’m not sure which is more insulting: the ban, or this condescending statement by APSA that “we have no flexibility, but please feel free to leave your comments for discussion.” ????

    Here is what we need to know:
    -What exactly is the “liability” issue, and why does it apply to the exhibit room but no other room in the hotel, including panel rooms?
    -Who is the insuring company? And why can’t alternative insurance providers be sought for future years’ “event insurance”?

    I saw parents with two 5-8 year old kids in tow get prevented from entering the exhibit room. They handled it graciously, but it was still a bummer. I have an 11 year old who is a news hound and loves politics, and if he had been at APSA this year as he usually is, he would have definitely wanted to go to the exhibit room to look at the books. It is infuriating to think that he would have been prevented from doing so.

    • The statement may indicate that they have no flexibility with the policy right not, but comments may help them figure out a way to accommodate. Rather than condescension, trying to be responsive to an immediate concern.

  17. The particular question here needs addressing, of course, but the reason it presents an opportunity for APSA is that, if handled well by the organisation, it may make space for open conversations about access, and about how what seem like small problems consistently send the same messages to the same people: not here; not now; stay away. As an organisation, APSA represents the interests of the profession; the profession includes – disproportionately – young parents, raising young families, in diverse circumstances. The organisation is doing better than it has in the past, but other professional organisations for academics have done better, for longer: so how can we do better with the resources we have? What resources do we need to deploy well, visibly, fairly, in order to help graduate students members, junior faculty members, join, stay, and flourish in the profession? What signals do meetings such as these send?

  18. If APSA truly cannot renegotiate what is likely a standard boilerplate clause in the insurance contract governing exhibits, the Association should create the simple workaround of providing the option for parents to get conference badges for children under the age of 16. A nominal fee in the neighborhood of a few bucks ought to cover any minimal administrative burden. That way, the enforcers can continue to apply the rules woodenly, but parents who just want to spend a little time with their toddlers and infants while still doing something useful in professional development terms can be accommodated.

    Over the years, I’ve seen many infants and toddlers around the conference and in the exhibit hall. I’ve never heard of anyone having a problem related to a child’s presence at the annual meeting. Being able to bring mine when they were little made all the difference to me in my early professional development. Let’s maintain APSA as a space where people can be professionals and parents too.

  19. APSA activities to help advance women in the profession aren’t worth much if those initiatives don’t engage all aspects of women’s lives. Whether women and men bring their children with them out of necessity or choice, they should be able to access all parts of the meeting with children. As long as kids aren’t unruly or disruptive, they should be allowed. My husband is also a political scientist and we have brought our children to APSA many times over the years. My kids have been in the exhibit halls and have even attended panels when necessary. Perhaps they were there against regulations, but this also may be a new policy. It is one that should change.

    • I agree completely. The policy has to change. It is a concrete problem, plus it sends the wrong message about the culture of APSA.

  20. I applaud APSA for trying to address the current blight on our society that is babies being crushed by books. For too long this profession has ignored such tragedies and finally, someone has had the courage to say “no more!”.

    PS. Only political scientists could be this stupid. Don’t make excuses and don’t weakly apologize for the “inconvenience”. Admit that this is not a family friendly policy. Admit that it discriminates against scholars with children, particularly women who already suffer massive inequities in the job market because of their children or potential to have children. Admit that you made a mistake. And then next year get a new insurance provider.

  21. Insurance company does not insure your requirements, go get another insurance company that fills your need. Is that too complicated for academics? Or is the abnormal now the “new normal?”

  22. This policy needs to change, and APSA needs to negotiate a better deal or find a different insurance company. Other hotels and conferences have much better solutions to this problem.

    It’s disappointing that in this day and age some people still have the “why would you come to a conference when you have a baby attitude”. If a baby is disrupting something or otherwise a problem that is one thing, but it’s just so oblivious to the difficulty of caring for babies and children to assume that there is another spouse or grandparent or otherwise affordable child care available. Easy to assume, I guess, that everyone can and should care for their children the way you do, and that that is what should drive Association policy.

  23. APSA leadership, please, change the date of your conference, and change the exhibit hall policy. You can’t ban the children of your members from the exhibit hall; the substance of that policy, not to mention the optics, are terrible.

  24. “We have met the enemy, and they are us.”

    I didn’t attend APSA this year. After being on the association’s staff for four years with required attendance at the meeting, I decided to take a break. And besides, I have school age children and I’m overjoyed to be with them this year for the few days before school starts.

    I did follow the meeting on Facebook and Twitter, though, and when I saw the original tweet by our colleague about her experience at the Exhibit Hall, I got a pit in my stomach. My first reaction was the same as many that rapidly appeared on social networks: please, let there not be yet another obstacle for women in the profession. Actually, my plea was a bit more colorful and impassioned than that. I can curse like a sailor, and do so with some vigor, especially when I’m worked up. And I get worked up with some regularity about the status of women, parents, and families in political science and the academy.

    But the immediate second reaction – the one that made the pit grow exponentially – was anxiety as I anticipated and then read the responses that flourished within moments and continued for days online. In no time at all, the conversation was largely consumed by cynical, accusatory, inflammatory finger-pointing and name-calling. Most of it was directed at the Association, some of it at specific individuals – all political scientists or those in the service of the profession.

    We are so mean to each other. So quick to judge, to shame, and to assume the worst of each other. We perceive everything as so personal, so intentional, so antagonistic. And social media makes it so easy to react quickly and viscerally, without full (or any) information. Rude, disparaging, and sometimes ad hominem responses fit easily in 140 characters. Reflective, thoughtful analysis does not.

    But at the end of the day, all we have is each other when we search for solutions to the many problems we face as a discipline and a profession. We are tens of thousands of teachers, scholars, professionals, with complex and diverse personal and professional needs that often conflict. And we have imperfect institutions composed of imperfect colleagues who have and will continue to make imperfect decisions to accommodate our complexity. But learning from the mistakes and moving forward requires respect, patience, and – dare I say – optimism so that our vigilance on issues of equality (among so many others) will yield positive and productive results for all of us.

  25. I was president of the national Women’s Caucus for Political Science when I learned of this unfortunate event, and so the WCPS did discuss it at our business meeting, which Jennifer Hochschild attended. Jennifer told us the insurance issues were the cause of the young woman being turned away from the book exhibit and the WCPS then formally asked President Hochschild to make sure the APSA would rectify the issue before the next APSA conference. There should be many possible solutions, from APSA’s paying more insurance so supervised children can be allowed throughout the hotel to devising a waiver system, and so on. But the APSA simply cannot hold another conference in which a parent is not allowed into the book exhibit only because there is a child in tow. It is not reasonable to ask people to leave their children at home or even with a care giver, since many people lack the financial resources or would not want to leave a young infant with anyone else. I am sure the APSA will listen to our demands and will find an acceptable solution so this kind of unfortunate event does not occur in future. Laurel Weldon (president of the WCPS, with its 700+ members) and Frances Rosenbluth (head of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession) will make sure this is done.

    • Thank you for your leadership on this issue! I find it literally incredible that babies and toddlers who are completely contained within baby carriers or strollers are banned from the book exhibit. This has to change!

  26. As a single father, I just want to add my voice to the chorus requesting family-friendly conference policies. I have indeed brought my daughter to conferences with me. Given the academic job market means many of us live far from our families. So we do not all have easy choices for leaving children behind.It is not at all unreasonable to expect that some of us have no choice but to bring our children with us.

    Frankly, this already helps work to limit my conference attendance. There are real extra costs in bringing a child to a conference that are usually not reimbursed (plane tickets, meals, childcare, etc.). I have brought my daughter to meetings and events during conferences precisely because I am trying to limit those expenses (every hour with a babysitter/nanny/childcare provider can matter).

  27. I’m glad this mistake was made, because now we’re having a larger conversation about anti-family aspects of our discipline. Let’s be the group of scientists we want to be, starting with embracing our members as the holistic individuals they are.

  28. Novel idea: if you can afford APSA, you should be able to afford childcare. It’s not like you didn’t know when APSA would be held a year in advance.

  29. See my “State, Academy, Discipline” in the July issue of PS, part of the larger symposium organized by Carol Mershon and Denise M Walsh, itself part of their larger project on diversifying our discipline. Several points: 1) the US state does not provide support for parents or for workers that would make our lives less fraught; 2) in this context, we can’t expect our association to make up for the lack of support that is a responsibility of the state — but we can ask that, in our associational endeavors, APSA and other disciplinary organizations provide every reasonable support for our members and take the leadership by example that might have some modest impact on academia more broadly and perhaps even on the state; generally, our discipline has been relatively good on these issues; 3) addressing issues of childcare and child presence at APSA are not the sole responsibility of women in the APSA Women’s Caucus, the APSA Committee on the Status of Women, individual women in the discipline, etc.; and 4) we need to be careful about using the phrase “family friendly;” there is not some universal family model among APSA members, and policies that may be friendly to some families may be onerous for others.

  30. APSA’s policy is standard. I asked my spouse about her professional conferences. She pays 3 times per meeting what APSA charges me and has the same prohibitions against anyone under age 18 in the exhibit hall. In fact, I would not be admitted to the exhibit hall unless I paid for a guest pass.

    If you want to bring your kid to the meeting rooms, including the exhibit hall, you should pay a premium and buy a guest pass. I should not have to pay an additional fee (through increased meeting costs to buy a different insurance rider) just so that you can make a choice to bring your kid to a professional meeting.

    I will also add that she does not think it is very professional to bring your kids to a meeting or conference unless you have someone else in attendance to take care of them (onsite child care or not).

    • Where to start? Reasonably quiet, well-behaved, calm kids and infants should be allowed in all areas of APSA, so long as they are under the control of a responsible adult and they are not a distraction. Taking kids to a conference is often not a choice, but a necessity for a whole range of logistical, social, and biological reasons. Precisely because of our academic careers, many of us live in places where we don’t have any relatives to care for our kids while we go to a conference. So some parents need to take them along. In the case of the infant at APSA 2015, the baby was probably too young for conference-provided daycare, and the baby may well have been nursing, which makes it difficult to be apart for long periods of time. (People say, “just pump,” when it is actually very complicated — storing milk, washing and sanitizing pump parts in a hotel, etc. — and may not allow some women to remove enough milk, which can lead to debilitating infections. Plus some infants refuse to take a bottle.) When I had a 5 month old baby in 2013, I attended APSA for exactly 12 hours. I had planned to skip the conference entirely, because I thought it would be hard to go with a baby. But then I learned that I was getting a national award, so I changed my plans to go. It was a rough day that involved pumping in airport bathrooms and a host of other problems. The APSA nursing/pumping room was a lifesaver in some ways, but still a little odd (how would you like to be topless, hooked up to a machine, next to a senior colleague???). In retrospect, it would have been easier to bring my baby with me — but who knows if he even would have been allowed into the awards ceremony? We should take a cue from other conferences, like LASA (the Latin American Studies Association), and make it abundantly clear that both men and women are welcome and encouraged to bring their kids to APSA.

    • I brought all three of my kids, when they were breastfeeding infants, to APSA. At the conference, I breastfed them in public spaces and at meals with colleagues. Last year (2014), I co-chaired a business meeting while holding my baby. I did not see myself, nor was I seen, as unprofessional. In fact, the only comments I received were grateful ones. People told me they were glad that I was helping to make space for babies and parenting at APSA.

  31. I wasn’t at the conference, and when I attended I didn’t have the option of bringing my kids. But I would have liked to. I now run a lifelong learning program for seniors and we have had many stupid things re insurance. One museum where we rented the auditorium for a class insisted we have insurance (we have a blanket policy), but they insisted we cover them for alcohol. We don’t serve alcohol, never have….not at classes anyway. It didn’t matter. It does seem that risk management is running the world these days. I would favor changing the policy — it doesn’t fit in this day and age — if the APSA possibly can do so.

  32. “Reasonably quiet, well-behaved, calm kids and infants should be allowed in all areas of APSA, so long as they are under the control of a responsible adult and they are not a distraction. Taking kids to a conference is often not a choice, but a necessity for a whole range of logistical, social, and biological reasons. ”

    But who judges “quiet, well-behaved, calm kids”? Anyone with any experience in a restaurant or really any public space knows that there are wide variations in what parents will tolerate and what they think is “well-behaved.” Why is the onus on those of us who have left our children at home, or in the APSA provided care, to have to ask you to rein in your child?

    This is a professional gathering and a professional setting. There should be no artificial or unfair limits placed on anyone with any family situation, race, religion, gender, etc from attending. But nor should we assume this is a play ground, or a park, or a public space. We should make accommodations for a special circumstance like the individual faced, but parents of small children also have to realize that they have made certain choices in their lives and there are consequences and adjustments that have to be made. APSA is already extremely family friendly as has already been pointed out.

    This is a professional gathering first and foremost. To assume you should be able to take your child everywhere in the conference is a bit arrogant. Do you think you should be able to take your child to faculty and department meetings? To class?

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