Conferences: places to present new ideas and old mistresses

March 23, 2007

For most academics, conferences offer the exchange of new and cutting-edge ideas that are the lifeblood of their work, writes Phil Baty.

But for some, it seems, they also present the perfect opportunity for a pursuit that is rather less scholarly - the conducting of affairs.

A senior academic lifted the lid this week on one of higher education's worst-kept secrets - that academics conferences can be hot-beds for bed-hopping.

In an article in The Times Higher 's Conferences supplement, Susan Bassnett, pro vice-chancellor at Warwick University, reveals how she was wooed (unsuccessfully) with a series of anonymous amorous notes at an international conference in Austria only to discover that her suitor was a married academic.

She also recounts the tale, from a conference that she organised herself, of the "distinguished literary theorist" who complained when she failed to place him in a hotel room with his mistress.

She writes: "'So sorry,' I said, 'I had no idea'. 'But everyone knows about us,' he declared."

Another academic told The Times Higher : "I used to work at a Northern university where the department was split into two camps: those who were happily married and those who were up for it.

"Some people went to conferences with no other intention than copping off with someone.

"They would be rubbing their hands with some glee atthe start of the conference season."


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