Peace Symposium struggles on, with or without funds

A symposium of international “peace psychologists,” scheduled for this summer at Portland State, is struggling to come up with the funds to pay for all the speakers planned at the event, but organizers are seeking creative ways to come up with the money.

During a time in academia when budgets are being tightened, grants are aggressively sought after and the competition for funding grows stiffer each term, it is progressively more difficult to finance the growing number of requests.

Barbara Tint, a Professor in the Conflict Resolution Graduate Program is working on putting together the symposium of the International Union for Psychological Science’s Committee for the Psychological Study of Peace. The symposium, which is invitation only, seeks to involve upwards of 40 participants from around the globe. Labeled “Peace Psychologists” by Tint, these participants are among the top of their field in the studies of conflict resolution, peace and conflict and violent conflicts.

With the help of a group of graduate students, Jon Joiner from the Multicultural Center and the two other co-chairs at Whitman College and The University of Ohio, Tint will continue to look for funding in any areas possible. “At the present, there’s just not a lot of money to go around,” Tint said.

“We’ve still got a couple of grant applications out. Everything takes an incredible amount of time, and we are in danger of losing the people we want to bring, as people need time to get ready.” Tint continued. “We go so far with the money we have. In an ideal world, I’d get another $10,000-15,000. It’s just a bad time in education land.”

Currently, Tint is in the process of raising funds to bring speakers from such countries as Israel, East Timor, Kenya, the Philippines, India, Palestine, Indonesia, Mexico and Costa Rica. Because of the location in the United States, many participants need help with the funding of transportation and lodging.

The decision to hold the symposium at Portland State University, the first time it has been held in the United States in 18 years, was not decided on until just this past September.

“We’ve done relatively well considering that we were asked to do this fairly late. It was a couple of months before we realized how much fundraising we really had to do,” Tint said. Despite the short notice, the committee has managed to secure speakers from around the world. Now the only question is how to pay for them.

The theme of the conference, “Power, Domination, Peace and Conflict,” seems appropriate given Tint’s attitude toward the necessity of maintaining this diversity. “It is unconventional to try to raise money to bring people here. But I feel committed to doing that,” she said. “My concern is that we will have a bunch of white people from the United States and North America. The people from these regions have a tremendous amount to offer.”

Tint has received financial support from a variety of areas, including the Speaker’s Board and other small foundations. They have even requested funds from other U.S. participants, who are helping to fly out other speakers. Other participants are bringing in cots for visitors to sleep on, while others are tripling up in rooms. It really does speak to the theme of the conference that we are looking for people with resources to help those without,” said Tint.

The committee is always on the lookout for other ways of cutting back costs and receiving more funds in order to achieve the most international symposium.

“It would be a lopsided perspective if it were just people from the United States,” said Stephanie Jahnke, Grad student and Program Administrator in the Conflict studies department.

Joiner, whose work in the Multicultural Center shares many of the same goals as that of the conference, feels strongly about the need to support this venture financially. “The national and international significance of this kind of symposium would go a long way to enhance PSU’s academic and scholastic reputation, while at the same time bringing into focus the subject matter of the symposium. Fundraising is such a worthwhile venture and it is always a tough proposition, but a very necessary one” said Joiner.

For committee members such as Tint and Joiner, this is more than just a symposium – this is what their careers are about.

“In my line of work, exposing the University to a range of interdisciplinary studies is a highly valuable enterprise. This is what I do day in and day out. It behooves me to support this project as much as I can,” Joiner said.

The conference will take place on the PSU campus June 19-26.