Ah, Untenured, Iíd quite forgotten about your questions. I meant to try to answer them back last month but itís been a busy semester thus far, and I wanted to check my first thoughts with as many reliable sources as possible. On that basis, I think a rather more accurate and fair set of answers than Nardoís might run thus:1. The website says, "The foundation of the success of the Round Table is the assurance that this learning community will be composed of outstanding educational leaders." Yet, an invitation we sent to me and others very early in our careers, with no reason to pick our CVs out for a group of 30 select scholars in anything.
The conference is clearly a round table and therefore draws scholars from various points in their careers. Perhaps youíd been recommended by a supervisor or colleague who was more impressed with your academic work than you realized. Or perhaps your academic star shone brighter at the start of your careerÖ. ;)
2. The name "Oxford" seems to have little to do with the event being sponsored by the prestigious Oxford University, other than renting their space. Why is this event not called the "Harris Manchester College" round table? And per the website, what exactly does "collaborative assistance" mean? Why does a college sponsoring a research event call that event "Oxford" even though Oxford University appears to have nothing to do with its sponsorship or administration? Is Harris Manchester College related to Oxford University at all? If so, how?
Harris Manchester College is one of the 38 constituent colleges of Oxford University. The colleges are the University, so HMC has every right to bill its activities as university related. One presumes that ORT and HMC collaborate on the conference. It is not unusual for Oxford colleges to arrange plenary conferences during vacation period, or indeed for the University to arrange such conferences and host them in the colleges. And the ORT is clearly at the top end of the spectrum of such conferences. On that basis, the fact that the ORT website shows it has been held at various colleges including HMC suggests that it has extensive links with several Oxford Colleges. Participants to whom Iíve spoken highlight another Oxford connection: the conference is specifically structured to give delegates a taste of the Oxford collegiate method of maximizing an educational communityís time to exchange ideas by living, eating and socializing together. As Iíve mentioned in an earlier post, all the ORT programs Iíve seen are very busy. On further investigation, it appears this is a method traditionally employed across English learning, at Oxbridge and at the Inns of Court, for example. It works well enough to have survived from the 13th Century to the present day, but is, like most of the best ways of doing things, very expensive. Oxford and Cambridge cost significantly more per head of student than other English universities (this is a major political issue in terms of state funding and university independence Iím told): on cost implications of this for ORT delegates, please see below.3. If this event is so selective and prestigious, why was the invitation so vague that it appears to offer bascially inclusion of anyone from any topic?
That would depend on the invitation you received presumably. But considering that the conference is a policy/academia round table, it would presumably need to draw people from many different areas.4. Why is the price of the event so very high relative to benefits (see earlier posts in this thread attesting to the high cost) provided as to imply a significant profit motive for the event greater than one would expect for an academic conference?
The price is not excessively high. Oxford is a particularly expensive city in a high expense economy. Oxford University and its colleges operate a very expensive form of instruction. Relatively little of that cost is passed on to either students or conferences. If the ORT is hiring college accommodation, separate central meeting venues for day and evening sessions and world class facilitators then clearly its costs must be similar to those of a college for the ORTís duration, without any endowment or outside revenue so, in other words, astronomical. But when you consider that some US institutions charge you upwards of $8000 for conferences exclusive of board and lodging then $3000 for a fully residential conference such as ORT is not by any means excessive. Also, given the current exchange rate, Iíd think ORT must be a not-for-profit organization: if they were profiteering theyíd doubtless relocate to Oxford Mississippi.5. I cannot find submission standards. Are their submission standards? How many papers are rejected as compared to accepted? If so, what are those standards that are applied?
The Forum on Public Policy submission standards are quite clearly posted on the ORTís website, so no mystery here. Papers must have been presented at a Round Table and pre-judged by a facilitator. After that, papers are externally reviewed. 6. If invitees are "selected" as ORT's website claims, then why are invitations not customized whatsoever (mine being such an example) beyoned what any mail merge can do?
Again, the website explains clearly the process of determining invitees. To summarize: ĎInvitees to Round Tables are determined based on several criteria, among which are nominations by earlier attendees, courses that invitees teach, their presentations and writings, and their professional involvement in a relevant area of interest. An attempt is also made to diversify as to the type of institution, public or private, and to involve institutions representing different levels of education, i.e. schools, community colleges, four-year colleges, graduate and research universities.í Thatís a direct quote from the FAQ section of the ORT website. Iíve checked it with two previous participants and both say they have nominated other people from various disciplines and professions. They wouldnít give names, and I wasnít shameless enough to drop a hint for myselfÖ7. Why did ORT invite someone convicted of a crime, specifically fraud? According to the newspaper report, the invitee "extorted thousands of dollars from deputy Gary city clerks who worked for her over the years. At least, it must be hoped that she learned from her mistakes that led to her 2003 conviction for mail fraud. What is most astonishing about all this is that she was given an invitation [from the Oxford Roundtable] without having her credentials checked out by the organizers." What application standards allowed this to happen? See http://nwitimes.com/articles/2005/02/04/opinion/times_editorials/82f0fbc10f0d21dd86256f9e00055275.txt
Presumably she was invited on the basis of academic or professional merit untainted by her conviction. The ORT can hardly run criminal background checks on its participants when it is selecting blindly according to merit or recommendation.
I hope that sets your mind a little more at ease Untenured, and eases your bile Nardo. On a tangentially related issue, it might just be the residual Southern gentleman in me, but I canít help thinking itís a low blow to insult a dead man, and particularly in his widowís hearing. Maybe Grania (The Widow) has a thick skin, but Iím sure she doesnít deserve to hear her husbandís good name trashed, even in anonymous jest, or if she never visits this thread again. Maybe Iím being hypersensitive but Iíd feel easier about this thread if Nardo were to apologize for that slight.