On buying beer

(Cross-posted at the philosophers’ cocoon)

When I was on the market last year, one of the many lovely people I met was an assistant professor who had a policy about beer.  His policy was to never let grad students pay for beer, if he could help it.  At first, this struck me merely as extremely generous.  I’ve come to think of it, though, as one of the more admirable policies a professor can have.  Here’s the thing about beer: philosophers drink a lot of it.  We actually have good taste when it comes to beer, which is rare among academics, or people for that matter.  We also like to talk shop over beer.  So having a beer with a colleague — especially someone more senior than you — is an important part of professionalization and networking.  You can end up with co-authors, letter-writers, sympathetic referees, and host of other things by having a beer with senior colleagues from time to time.

This can easily lead to intended and unintended forms of exclusion.  People who don’t drink get excluded.  People who need to get home to take care of their kids, their parents, or their ailing partner get excluded.  Perhaps most common: people, such as grad students, who can’t afford it get excluded.  That sucks.  I’m also mindful of how absurdly lucky those of us who have well-paying tenure-track jobs are.  In grad school, I had two side-jobs to make living in NYC affordable.  I was on the verge of leaving the discipline for two years while I struggled on the job market.  Those of us who won the lottery need to keep firmly in mind that we are the beneficiaries of the “imperceptible updraft of inexplicable luck.”  For these reasons, among others, I’ve adopted this policy as well.

On top of this, I think it’s also important that it be common knowledge within one’s department that one has this policy.  If the point is to encourage grad students (and others who are in precarious positions, such as VAPs and post-docs) to come out and do the networking thing, it’s important that they know in advance that they’re not going to have to pay.  Otherwise, only the adventurous, the well-enough-off, and the lucky end up benefiting.

What other small but consequential policies do y’all have or suggest?

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