The BSPC Card System

Way back in 2000, when I was an Assistant Professor at Western Washington University, I started a conference called The Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference. I had several specific goals in mind. Mainly I thought there should be a fun, workshop-style conference during the summer in some pleasant location, and I realized that I was in a pleasant location, so I thought I would give it a try. I borrowed from Dean Zimmerman the idea of having a bunch of people convene for discussions of some papers that they had all read in advance. (In the summer of 1996, when I was at West Virginia University, Dean invited about 8 metaphysicians to come to Notre Dame for such an event, which he called the First Annual Metaphysical Mayhem.) But I wanted the Bellingham Conference to be a general philosophy conference, which would bring together people from all different areas of philosophy to discuss work that would be of interest to all of them. And I wanted it to be a more gender-balanced and generally diverse conference than I was seeing in philosophy at the time.

There were a few rough spots along the way, but I learned a lot from a lot of people about how to achieve that last aim, which I had come to care about more and more, and I am quite happy with how the Bellingham Conference turned out. Now, for some reason, all traces of the conference have been removed from the WWU Philosophy Department website. I think it’s a shame that there is no historical record of this event that ran for 16 years. As it happens, most of the web pages that I made for the conference over the years are no longer on computers that I have access to, and the web pages for the several most recent  BSPCs were made on iWeb, which makes them difficult to share or post. So I have saved the pages from the last Bellingham Conference, the 2015 BSPC, as PDFs, and I am placing them here, in case anyone is curious. (Unfortunately, the links don’t work, since these are just PDF versions of the pages.)

The main reason I am doing this is that I am often asked about the card system (for calling on people during Q&A) that the Bellingham Conference used for its last 6 years. The system was developed by Adam Elga, Liz Harman, and me in 2010, and I think it was a useful way of leveling the playing field, so that everyone would have an equal chance of being called on during discussions. Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea if some information about the BSPC Card System was available somewhere on the Internet. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the card system or how it might be adapted for different types of events. (I use a variation on it in some of my undergraduate classes, for example, and it seems to be a very effective way to avoid the problem of having 3 or 4 particularly aggressive students dominate class discussions.)