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

Advertisements

Goodbyes and Early Flights

I am heading back to Montreal on a 6:30am flight tomorrow morning. I’m definitely not excited for this trip.

I’ve never been the best morning or night person. I’ve been staying up later and later as my workload has increased, but waking up early continues to be an issue for me.

Saying goodbye to Austin is hard, but time continues to march on faster than I would like.

Until next time, Texas.

Eloragh

Dear Austin

Dear Austin, TX,

I live in Montreal. When I was 17 years old, I would have sawed off my arm to live in Quebec. Now, I don’t really enjoy it. There is a lot about moving to a completely different country with a different style and system of living that isn’t great for a young person.

But you, Austin, TX, have roped me in. Maybe it’s because the person I love most lives there and never stops talking about how much he loves you. Maybe I really enjoy Summer Moon and Torchy’s Tacos. Maybe I love your business-friendly policies and booming economy.

I don’t really care why I love you, I just know that I do. I know that every time I have to say goodbye, it’s the kind of ache that only comes when you truly adore what you are leaving.

Eloragh

Donut Taco Palace

Today started off at a place called Taco Donut Palace, so it started off pretty damn well.

I spent the day with my boyfriend who I haven’t seen in three months, met a mentor and supervisor of mine, explored downtown Austin, and realized that what I am doing in Montreal truly does not make me happy.

It’s not that I’m miserable. I think there is a long distance between happy and miserable. However, one may argue that being in the middle of these two extremes is even worse. It wouldn’t be a far fetched idea to compare the state to limbo.

For now, I’ll stay in limbo and feel out my options. The reality is, my life is far too short and fleeting to allow myself to stay in situations that don’t make me as happy as possible.

Eloragh

Taking Back Control

These last few weeks have not been the easiest time of my life. I’ve been consistently sick, tired, and in a frenzy since landing in Montreal. I’ve been stuck in this idea that I cannot miss any school and to do so would be to jeopardize any chance at success.

It’s dangerous to feel this way. Last night, my boyfriend and I had a serious talk about what it meant to be so far apart and how we both had to make efforts to see each other. In truth, I had made little to no effort. I was waiting for him to come to see me. Until last night, when I looked up a flight to his city and realized that it was perfectly within my reach.

High school never defined me or what I was capable of, so why would college? When I’ve always been told that university would give me more freedom, I can tell you that I’ve only felt trapped these last few weeks. By realizing that I was pressuring someone else to come to me and not acknowledging that I had the power to go to them, I was inhibiting myself and allowing school to control me.

I fly out next Thursday, by the way.

Eloragh

Self Defense in Canada

While living in the states, a lot of my friends would remark about how “lucky” I was that I was a dual citizen of the US and Canada. I’ve written about Canada and why I don’t think it’s as golden as leftists in the states make it out to be before, but I want to touch on another controversial topic: self-defense.

When I told my boyfriend I was going to be out late for classes and lectures, he immediately asked if he could send me a bottle of pepper spray. We talked about it for a while before deciding that it would be in my best interest to be able to defend myself regardless of how safe Montreal is known to be. Yesterday, he reminded me that I really needed to purchase a can or let him send me one. After digging around and trying to see where I could find any form of mace, I was informed that it is illegal in Canada.

Canada has some pretty strict laws regarding firearms. Vice did a great video showing exactly how extensive and irritating the process of purchasing a gun legally is. Although many people agree that firearms are not necessary for a day to day life, they may not be aware of what objects are classified as such a label. Under Canadian law, pepper spray is in the category of firearms.

Kellie Leitch, a member of the Canadian House of Commons, recently proposed that ban on pepper spray be lifted for the sake of women’s rights. The government responded with a statement to the Huffington Post:

“… Ms. Leitch’s proposal is unrealistic and offensive to women across this country. Her misguided approach places the onus on women to defend themselves rather than focusing on addressing and preventing gender-based violence…”

As a woman, I actually do want the onus to defend myself to be placed on me. I don’t trust anyone more than myself to do what is best for me in a crisis. I sure as hell do not want to depend on the Canadian government’s ability to “address and prevent gender-based violence” instead of respecting my right to defend myself. There is not enough security in their promise.

You may be asking yourself, what can Canadian’s use to protect themselves? Well, we get to use the Streetwise My Kitty Self Defense Key Chain.

self defense

At this point, I’m not really sure what the Canadian government is trying to express. On the one hand, they want women to understand that they shouldn’t expect or prepare for assault because the government is working so hard to end it, but on the other hand, they give us degrading options like a pointy keychain that looks like a cute cat. What’s worse, the fact that my government is trying to make me believe that the reason they took away my right to defend myself was to lift me from oppression or that my only choice to get around self-defense laws is this ridiculously embarrassing toy?

Women do not want the state to take our self-defense into their control. They want the right to carry pepper spray, the right to feel safe late at night, and the right to know that their families aren’t dreading a phone call that the ended up dead in a metro station. Kelly Leitch’s proposal was not oppressive to women. What is oppressive is that women now have to depend on the promise that the Canadian government will do such a good job at ending gender-based violence that we don’t even need to think about protecting ourselves. This is not only a problem for Canadian women, but for everyone residing in this country. We were all born with the right to take our own security into our hands until it was stripped from us and we were told to say “thank you.”

Eloragh