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The Real Culprit: The SBL and AV Equipment Charges

November 11, 2010

Several bloggers online have been discussing the charges that the SBL is asking for concerning the upcoming conference in Atlanta: Jim here and here, Jeremy Thompson , and Roland ‘the best SBL title ever’ Boer. The matter concerns this email that was sent out to presenters for the conference:

The SBL Annual Meeting in Atlanta is fast-approaching and we want to ensure that you have the AV equipment and support you need to enhance your presentation. If you are receiving this email, you indicated an interest in ordering AV materials (LCD Projector or Overhead Projector) when you submitted your paper/abstract. The current rate to order an LCD Projector (beamer) and screen is $25 USD and the current rate to order an Overhead Projector and screen is $20 USD. On September 17th the rates will increase to $75 and $60, respectively. In mid to late October, all incomplete AV orders will be canceled.

Jim states

Seriously? I have attended a lot of academic conferences in my life and NEVER seen presenters levied a fee for use of equipment.

Because of this Jim has offered the use of his own AV equipment for anyone interested at SBL, and James McGrath has considered the purchase of a mini-projector (he’s presenting twice so this is doubly costly for him).

So is this a case of the SBL trying to “gouge” it’s members? Actually I think it might be a case of bad planning.

I went ahead and called the hotel in Atlanta where the conference is being held. After being passed around a few times I finally was put in contact with their AV manager. Upon inquiring how much it would cost to get a projector for a room I was told…

wait for it…

$450.00 a day!!!!!

There’s your real criminal! I’m sure that the SBL could work a ‘better’ deal either with the hotel or an outside rental company, but let’s say conservatively they have booked 15 rooms for the conference, for an AV system in each room at a cost of $450 it would add up to $6,750 a day. Times that by 4 days and you have a grand total of $27,000 dollars.

How would you like to be the person at SBL who had to walk into his boss’s office and provide him those figures? “Oh bee tee dubs, the hotel is going to cost us an extra thirty grand. My bad!”

Of course the question remains: was it a good idea to disperse this cost among the members in this manner, i.e. charging presenters? However, if they were to levy a “tax” at the conference to all attending, with the current attendance guestimated around 650 persons, it would add up to $41.50 a person. I’m sure we would all equally balk if we were told we had to pay that extra amount before we received our pass.

The hotel (the real criminals!) have made it difficult either way.

Here’s my suggestion, seeing as it looks like they had this problem last year as well in Rome: the SBL should go buy some AV equipment. They could do it for a lot less than this hotel is charging, and they would have it for all of their upcoming conferences without running into the same issue over and over again. It certainly can’t be any less cost feasible than spending tens of thousands of dollars at each conference, and it would actually serve the membership. There may be some cost issues surrounding this, but I am sure they are not insurmountable.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2010 9:55 am

    I have no idea what the cost of a projector is in the US but working with (the no doubt higher) Irish figures, with some very fast back of the envelope calculations, SBL could fit themselves out entirely with a range of different screens and projectors for different sized meetings for the price of rental from these Atlanta gangsters. 🙂

  2. Jim Aitken permalink
    November 11, 2010 10:11 am

    Don’t you mean the attendance is expected at 6500, and therefore the extra cost would be 4.5 dollars per person (assuming your conservative estimate of 15 rooms is anywhere near the mark)?


  3. November 11, 2010 11:23 am

    I’ve never been required to pay for AV equipment. And I’m involved in the executive for the Canadian Theological Society and am active in the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association. Both foot the bill for presenters. Even still, knowing the costs for renting AV equipment here this doesn’t even come close (and I’ve been part of planning for Congress in Ottawa, Montreal and Fredericton – Montreal was the most expensive so far). Something isn’t right. At those prices they better not have an exclusivity contract – which would mean they could fine McGrath and others for using their own equipment.

    What has it been like in other US cities?

  4. Jake permalink
    November 11, 2010 12:25 pm

    Pfffft, all you techno-geeks are slaves to the machine! If you can’t present it on a chalkboard or (at best) an overhead projector, then the problem isn’t the greedy fat cats in Atlanta, the problem is you! Up the revolution!!! Chalkboards for all!!!

    • November 16, 2010 3:49 am

      Uh Jake, aren’t Flannelboards more biblical?

  5. Jon H permalink
    November 11, 2010 2:25 pm

    They might have a hard time flying with those fancy projectinators, these days. Could be bombs, after all. Plus: fragile.

    Probably better to find local rental agencies wherever the conference is going to be held.


  1. thoughts on the sbl’s pay-per-projector policy « XKV8R: The Official Blog of Dr. Robert R. Cargill

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