The National Communication Association is an academic association that I'm a member of but one that tends to anger me to no end. And I'm not the only one. Their daily digest of distribution list postings are full of angry members' rants. There has not been one response to the flurry of angry emails from the execs. Here are a few of the complaints:

- They are holding this year's annual conference at the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego which is being boycotted by most other academic and professional organizations and citizens' groups because the hotel's owner contributed thousands of dollars in support of a proposition to ban gay marriage. They are also in the middle of a labor union dispute (their room cleaners have to clean more rooms for the same pay and have no job security)
- They wanted us to register for the conference so far ahead that most people get stuck with a gap between paying the money and getting the money reimbursed by our departments. This is a gap that hurts graduate students and people in teaching positions who still have tight budgets
- The convention program is looking more and more like a phone book and NCA does not allow us the option to just view it online to save a few trees
- The hotels with discounted rooms for the conference are full except for one, and the conference is still 4 months away
- They charge a big wad of money for the preconference courses/seminars but the instructors they recruit to teach/lead them don't see most of that money
- Younger scholars and people of color have complained of just not feeling very welcome at the conference (I'd agree)

And my complaints:
- They send us the badges in the mail and if you forget to bring yours to the conference you have to pay for a replacement badge -- why not just save the postage and envelopes, have the badges at the conference and have a badge pick up station at the check in? (they could learn a thing or two from organizers of tech conferences I tell you)
- The web site is horrendous which is particularly embarrassing (as in I'm embarrassed for them) because they are a communication association. It is impossible to find anything on that site and their new flashy "RFP tracker" is not even a web application, it is a link to a 53-page PDF file (OMG, are you kidding me?). Oh and they can't even keep the font sizes and styles consistent from page to page (ever heard of CSS?). Ugh, I could go on and on. The web site is just pathetic. Pair a design student with an information architecture/comp sci student together on an internship and let them have at it. It couldn't get any worse.
- Almost all the faces I see in the newsletter are of old white folks, usually men. You'd think it was a newsletter for AARP or something (oh wait, AARP would have more people of color in their publication). One of the articles in the last issue of Spectra (their newsletter) was a rant from a grumpy old professor who was annoyed with laptops in the classroom and with students bringing Blackberries and Palm Pilots (he admitted he didn't know the difference and, yes, he said Palm Pilots). Laptops are how we electronically take notes these days, those mysterious things that replaced typewriters which replaced stone tablets. See where I'm going with this? Technology serves a purpose and it's related to communication and an important topic of study in our field for people very unlike him (thank the gods). His claims about technology getting in the way of learning were hyperbolic and serve only as an indication of how out of touch he is with the way business (and academics) is done these days.

I guess I could sum them up as old fashioned, inefficient, disorganized, bloated, out-of-touch, and inflexible.


Ben said...

So then ... why are the members still members? I would think that in the face of poor logistics and communications skills of the association, most members would just drop off when they find less and less value in being a member. Start a rival association!

Fumbling said...

Some of those with tenure have stopped going to NCA, but those of us who have yet to find stability in our careers still need to demonstrate that we are capable of joining in the scholarly conversations that take place within NCA. They've been around over 94 years so we haven't much of an alternative.

Robyn said...

94 years!? holy moly. the major conference in my field is pretty bad too--better on unions and e-program but really bad with the tokenizing. the program a couple years ago featured pictures of a bunch of noted scholars of color. nice gesture and maybe even well-intentioned, but amusing in how inaccurate a representation of the field it was. this past year when the conf was in new orleans, the program cover featured that X that was spray painted on houses after katrina. uh what?