The Worst People at Academic Conferences

AynRandCon has been over for less than 12 hours, but I wanted to give you a run-down of what I thought were the worst types of people I met during the conference. I don’t want to burn any bridges here (although I highly doubt anyone looked into me deep enough to find this site) so I’m not going to name names. If someone from the conference does stumble upon this and thinks that one of my references is about you, I promise you it probably isn’t.

Bad Conference Person #1: The Researcher

During most student conferences or academic conferences, there will be an opportunity to speak to people in academia, in finance, law, economics, tech, etc. It really depends on what the conference is based on, but just know that there will most likely be a chance for the student participants to talk to people that they find important or valuable.

In any given group of students that attend these conferences, there will be several that I categorize as “researchers.” They do their homework on these mentors and professors, usually in hopes of seeming intelligent or as though they care more than the rest of the people who didn’t do the work they did. Their questions usually start with “I was reading your thesis last night…” or “I noticed in your dissertation…” or “I found an article that you published…” and so on.

When this happened today at the conference I was attending, the professor laughed and said: “why would you do that to yourself?” Which I found absolutely hilarious for a few reasons. First of all, it completely undermines what the researcher thought they were going to get out of doing all of that work. Secondly, it is an acknowledgment from someone whose life revolves around academics and academic writing that academic language is dense garbage that is painful to read.

I don’t want to name names, but that professor was one of my favorite speakers of the entire event.

Bad Conference Person #2: The Questioner

Here’s how it went down at AynRandCon (and what I presume goes down at most academic conferences): we listen to professors and intellectuals speak on the subject that the conference is about for around 30 minutes and then there is a 10 to 15 minute Q&A session where the students can get up and ask the speakers to elaborate on their ideas or offer their thoughts on other related subjects.

There will be four or five students who are determined to ask as many questions as possible. Maybe I’m not doing these students justice, maybe their minds are just that complex and ever-thinking, but I find it hard to believe that they thought they had genuinely productive questions to ask every single speaker. Call me crazy.

Many of these students are the most confident or charismatic of the bunch, which tend to be their better qualities. They have the ability to draw people to them or together into groups and make connections with ease. You’re probably going to find them irritating during the lecture sessions, but when you get to speak with them in person you’ll most likely appreciate their presence and charm.

Bad Conference Person #3: The Underprepared One

AKA Me. This was AynRandCon, an objectivists dream come true. However, I’m not an objectivist. If you’ve read anyone talk about Rand and her thoughts, they probably state this at some point. The “I’m not an objectivist, though” point is a disclaimer. It’s a defense mechanism for avoiding the inevitable accusation of subscription to a dogma or ideology. They’re afraid of being told that by claiming to be “objectivist” that somehow groups them with a set of extremists. Maybe it does.

In this case, I’m not claiming to not be objectivist because I don’t want to associate with objectivism or the cult-like following of the philosophy. I’m claiming to not be an objectivist because I am innocently ignorant of most of Rand’s ideas. Less so after this conference, but still relatively unaware nonetheless.

My first introduction to Rand was far too early, but I’ve been curious about her ever since. Her ideology of selfishness as a virtue always shocked and intrigued me. It felt mysterious and rebellious. My entire life I had been told that I existed to be charitable and kind, that my families success meant that I was privileged in a way that meant I should reject wealth and the products of hard work. Rand, as far as I understood, said otherwise. She asked me to be proud.

This piece was supposed to be cheeky and cute. No one at this conference was “bad” in any way that I could perceive. Despite my suspicion of the potential deification of Rand through a conference named after her, I can see that this event was about much more than her and her ideas. It was about offering young people with somewhat alienated ideas to come together and find a common ground. To be told, “yes, you’re allowed to disagree, but make sure you know why you’re disagreeing.” To make connections, to talk about politics and philosophy, to have fun, and to act professionally all at the same time. Rand’s name brought these people together, but she didn’t consume our time.

I will be writing more in-depth about my time at the conference. I can say that my love of philosophy and free thought have been reinvigorated. I feel as though the gloomy weather of Montreal is somewhat representative of the socialist politics that control life in the province. It feels gray and dismal, as though my ideas and my rationalization is just a result of some flaw in my ability to reason. Now I see that my thought process is perfectly fine, just not very popular at McGill.

Eloragh

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