As some of you may know, I was supposed to be a presenter at the annual conference of the Little Big Horn Associates (“LBHA”) this weekend. As I announced here, I changed my mind and elected not to participate.
It’s high time that I explain why.
It seems that the LBHA has a policy that it will not pay members to participate in its conferences in any fashion. That means no compensation, no travel expenses, nothing. Never mind that this is an organization with an endowment that surpasses six figures. The policy is that if you’re a member, they pay NOTHING at all. In short, the idea seems to be that they expect you to give your time and expertise for nothing. At least where I sit, it doesn’t work that way.
That explains why, when I was asked to participate in their 2006 conference, which was held in Richmond, they made a membership in the organization part of the package: so they wouldn’t have to pay me anything. Of course, nobody explained that to me then. Rather, I thought it was standard operating procedure. I found out this spring that this idiotic and myopic policy in fact exists, and that they actually see nothing wrong with it.
For me to attend their conference, I would have had to have given up two days in the office, totaling a couple of thousand dollars of lost billable time and about $400 in gasoline costs to get to and from Hagerstown. And I was supposed to do all of this for free.
Here’s my policy: I am the one who chooses when I work for free when it comes to conferences and events like this. As just one example, I never charge battlefield preservation organizations or Civil War Roundtables for my time, typically only asking to have my travel expenses covered. For anything else, I expect to be paid for my time. I’m not saying I have to to be paid what I might otherwise bill if I were in the office, but it needs to be something to make it worth my while to come. Let’s remember that I live six hours away from Gettysburg and six hours away from Antietam, meaning that I pretty much lose two days just coming and going. And in this day and age of $4 per gallon gas, it ain’t cheap to come and go, either.
This organization, which is beset with political woes that I won’t even begin to describe, evidently doesn’t believe that it’s worth paying presenters to appear unless they’re not members and have a high profile. Unfortunately, I renewed my membership this spring before I knew about this idiotic policy of theirs, meaning that under the policy, there was no chance of my getting paid. Had I known, I would not have renewed, and then I might have been able to force them to pay me. They likewise categorically refuse to reimburse travel expenses for members, either.
Then there’s Ted Alexander. They wanted Ted to participate–which would have required either time off from the Park Service or his giving up a day off–and they weren’t going to pay him anything either, even though he’s not a member. When we heard that they were going to pay Jeff Wert to come speak (Jeff is not a member; obviously, there is no consistency in the enforcement of their stupid policy), we both a blew a gasket, and that’s when I decided to back out.
There’s another issue to address. The current chairman of the board is a man named Bill Blake. Bill also was the one to put together this conference this weekend, so he’s the one I dealt with in discussing the event. Bill categorically refused to give Ted or me any guidance, instead insisting that we develop our own programs. We were supposed to talk about something related to Custer’s activities in the area, but got no guidance at all. There are lots of retreat from Gettysburg things in and around Hagerstown to discuss, but none of them have anything at all to do with the subject of the conference. Ted and I found the lack of any guidance incredibly frustrating.
The subject of the conference this year is Antietam. Frankly, we can’t understand why. Custer was a staff officer who spent the day at the Pry House with McClellan. There’s nothing of interest there, but yet that’s the subject of the conference. Instead of asking Ted to lead the tour–he is the park historian there, after all–they hired a tour company with some guide we’ve never even heard of leading the tour. Ted was, quite rightfully, very offended by that, and I don’t blame him a bit. It’s worth noting that they’re paying for that, too.
The combination of all of these factors is why I elected to remove myself from the lineup for the conference. And, as long as this idiotic policy remains in place, I won’t be participating in any more of their programs, either.Scridb filter