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How I am excited to receive merit-based scholarship to attend a diverse conference. Not.

Date: May 27, 2010

Several months ago, I sent in an application for “diversity scholarship” to attend this year’s Desiree Alliance conference for activists, scholars, and social workers involved in advocating for sex workers. The conference will take place in Las Vegas late July.

Since I have recently become unemployed, and my grass-roots organizing in the sex worker’s rights movement does not bring me any income, I cannot afford to attend the conference without the scholarship. I estimated that I’d need about $400 for lodging and transportation, plus there is this $150-250 registration fee that the conference expects participants to pay.

I was prepared to spend perhaps $200 of my own money, and use frequent flier miles to get me there, but needed the scholarship to pay for the rest–or at least have the registration fee waived. I told them: “If I do not receive any scholarship, I will not attend the conference. If the registration is waived, there is a small chance I might be able to attend, depending on what deals I find on travel and lodging, and also on whether or not I can use my friend’s frequent flier miles.”

The scholarship application was in depth: it asked about my race/sexuality/disability/etc., communities that I come from, my relationship to sex work and sex worker community, and references. Some of what I wrote in the application was deeply personal, because I felt that they’d had to know me to understand why I would benefit the conference with my participation.

I wasn’t upset that Desiree Alliance did not award me the scholarship to help me with the travel and lodging expenses. But I was offended by the cheerful tone of the email that informed me that I did not make the cut.

The Desiree Alliance Diversity Scholarship Selection Committee has reviewed your application. We are awarding you a Merit Scholarship, which is a partial scholarship for registration to attend the Desiree Alliance Conference, “Working Sex: Power, Practice, and Politics.” In Las Vegas from July 25-30 2010. We appreciate your interest in this conference!

We will be providing you with a partial registration scholarship of $100 of the $250 registration fee. We hope that you will be able to secure the remaining resources to attend!

In other words: not only did they not offer me any scholarship, they didn’t even waive the registration. They are basically just giving me the early registration discount which I would have received if I had just registered several months ago instead of responding to invasive questions in hope that they would at least waive my registration.

I do realize that they probably have very limited funds, and I don’t claim to be more worthy of scholarship than those who received it (if any, that is). But why did they have to be all cheerful about “awarding” partial scholarship, which in reality is no different from early registration fee? I just wish they had simply told me that, unfortunately, they were unable to fund my expenses, and then offered the reduced registration–not as a “scholarship,” but in order to compensate for the fact that I missed the opportunity to register early because of the scholarship application process.

1 Comment »

  1. […] is an update to an earlier post about being awarded “merit based” “diversity” scholarship to attend Desiree […]

    Pingback by » I am going to attend Desiree Alliance conference after all. — July 14, 2010 @ 1:53 am

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