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As a grad student who does not drink, I can say with great confidence that there are many instances where I've been passed-over, even belittled, and/or ignored by other graduates and faculty because I was "that guy" who didn't drink alcohol at the post-seminar bars and departmental functions. The rampant beer/wine/scotch/etc. snobbery among academic philosophers seriously helps perpetuate the noxious upper-class-white-male in-group/out-group classism and machismo that makes the profession hostile to others who aren't so monocultural.

If you think modal realism elicits prejudiced "incredulous stares" among philosophers, you've seen nothing yet until you've told them you're a tee-totaler.

Matt DeStefano

As a grad student, I heartily approve of this policy and suggest that all philosophers should adopt it as soon as possible.

Mark Alfano

Matt: I'm sorry to hear that, and I hope that this policy doesn't strike you as just another way to exclude people. Though my post was titled "on buying beer," what I meant was broader than beer -- or alcohol for that matter. I hope we get a chance to chat over coffee or tea at some point.

Matt DeStefano

Mark - I think you misattributed the comment from KR to me. I'm sorry to hear that choosing not to drink alcohol causes alienation, and hope my other comment doesn't seem to brush this aside as inconsequential (the comment hadn't yet appeared when I initially wrote my own!).

Mark Alfano

Oops, sorry -- both of your comments showed up at once. I'd be happy to chat with either or both of you over any liquid of your choosing!

Andrew Cullison

A group of us from Rochester agreed to adopt this policy. We also...

1. Try to cover meals when possible (especially if most of our travel to the conference has been covered by a research budget). If you didn't have to pay a dime, open your wallet and help a grad student out.

2. Make sure the graduate student knows what the deal is. We say: "Just so you know, we don't think graduate students should pay, but you are now on notice. When you land a tenure-track gig, you have to try and cover tabs for graduate students" This hopefully has two effects. First, it encourages this behavior. Second, it makes the grad student less guilty for accepting freebies.


My advisor would often take us all out to informal dinners, often with a prominent speaker from abroad.
He *always* paid the bill, even though the restaurants were sometimes quite expensive. He used the google doodle system in advance to make sure that those of us with family commitments (such as me) would be able to make it. Some of us were a bit uncomfortable when the guy spent hundreds of dollars on a bimonthly basis, but he would just unabashedly say 'Look I'm a full professor on an endowed chair and I make $ xxxx (multiple times our individual salaries). My mortgage is paid off and I have no children. I feel happy to pay for you guys, and if any of you land a position like mine, you can take me out to dinner some time'.
This at any rate lessened our discomfort, allowing those of us who had higher expenses (e.g., a dependent partner) or children to engage fully in informal networking. I still feel very grateful to him and hope that some day I can do the same thing for my grad students.


I do see a downside. For a professor who does not drink, or has never been introduced to this idea, it becomes an expectation that may be a surprise at an inconvenient time.

Also, there is the problem with entitlement. A little generosity makes for happy grads, but the expectation of generosity destroys the very thing that elicits the happy feeling in the first place.

Mark Alfano

JB: Interesting points.

I don't think this should be the general expectation unless the professor in question explicitly adheres to the policy. Kant notwithstanding, just because I do this doesn't mean everyone else does as well.

And the point about generosity is well-taken, but as I tried to explain in the original post, this policy isn't actually about generosity. It's about fairness to grad students (and others in precarious positions).

Kyle Whyte

When I read Mark's post I just saw "beer" as the particular example, not a norm that should be some standard, given the obvious exclusions it brings with it. In general, I affirm, and put in practice myself, that I cover dinner or refreshment expenses with graduate students. I know some faculty who don't do this, and when I see it in practice, it's always really bizarre to me. One time I was at a place where I was giving a paper and there was a dinner to follow. I think my meal was covered but then some of the graduate students who came to dinner didn't have their meals covered. It wasn't the cheapest place either. I can't remember the details of what happened, or how I handled it, but something got worked out, I believe. Anyways, in situations where graduate students don't get covered, it strikes me as a matter of unfairness, because it is about access to professional support and development. So if some faculty wants to do conversation or host somebody over appetizers or coffee, etc., the graduate students should not have to bear a financial burden to participate.

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