Maintaining fair and diverse SPSP preconference groups

Maintaining fair and diverse SPSP preconference groups

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Petition to
The Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Why this petition matters

Started by Athena Aktipis

Dear conference organizers,

Thank you for your efforts to organize the meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. We understand that organizing such a meeting is a great deal of work and that there have been challenges with accommodating the preconferences because of a growing number of people registering for the meeting.

We are writing because we are concerned about the accessibility of the Evolutionary Psychology preconference for a growing number of trainees in Evolutionary Social Psychology. Evolutionary Psychology offers a theoretically grounded framework for generating and testing hypotheses about human social behavior. It is a valuable tool both for gaining insights into human behavior and for developing interventions to improve human flourishing.

Attendance at the Evolutionary Psychology SPSP preconference has been growing in recent years, with 100/100 spots filling up at the most recent preconference in Portland. This year only 65 spots were given to the EP preconference. From the beginning, the preconferences organizers (Jaimie Krems and Michael Barlev) noted that this was not going to be enough space and asked if a larger room could be provided to accommodate the EP preconference community. They were told that it would not be possible to provide a larger room. As a result, many graduate students will not have the opportunity to present their work to the Evolutionary Psychology community at SPSP, which means that they will miss out on the opportunity to receive critical feedback that is essential for a successful launch of their careers in social psychology, and will be deprived of networking opportunities as well. We have been informed, also, that they will be forbidden from coming into the room where their community of scholars is meeting during the preconference. As I am sure you can appreciate, this kind of professional and social exclusion can have grave consequences for student’s careers and also for them emotionally. We are fundamentally social creatures and so being excluded from a meeting of one’s core community is a very troubling experience.

We understand that in planning such a large meeting, there must inevitably be some compromises and that some communities will be disappointed with the resources provided to them. We also understand that there are many factors that go into determining how the preconference rooms will be allocated. We would simply ask that more effort be made to find creative solutions so that growing communities like Evolutionary Psychology have an opportunity to flourish at SPSP, rather than being forced to exclude valuable members of the community and students for whom presenting their work at the preconference is the main benefit from attending SPSP.

Given that the attendance at SPSP is growing, this should mean that more resources are available to solve problems like this when they unexpectedly (or expectedly) arise. For example, it should be possible to add conference space at nearby venues for preconferences that are too large to fit in the main conference space, funding this with the increased revenues from the unexpected growth in conference attendance. Another solution could be to empower the preconference organizers to find a solution/alternative space that would be more appropriate for the size of the preconference and offer to cover the costs (within reason) of alternative space.

We respectfully request that, in future years, the SPSP conference planning committee consider more seriously the consequences of fracturing preconference communities and work harder to accommodate preconferences in rooms that are an appropriate size, and consider creative solutions as these challenges arise. Given that social psychology is an area that prides itself on inclusion, diversity, and transparency, we hope that providing appropriate space for preconferences will be a priority in future years.  

Athena Aktipis, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University

On behalf of a concerned community of scholars

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