Blue States Want Red States to Face Consequences, but Travel Bans Are Harmful

Defenders of the law argue that educators and researchers can use other, nonstate funds to pay for travel. As a more established professor, I, for instance, have external grants and access to other sources of funding that I can dip into. But junior faculty members are much more dependent on university funds to kick-start their careers.

To achieve promotion with tenure, an assistant professor usually needs to show significant success in education, service and research. One of the ways a professor does that is by presenting at national conferences and establishing a reputation as an expert in his or her field. If such conferences are held in states that are on the no-travel list, however, some are stuck.

Jon Goodwin, an assistant professor of counseling, clinical and school psychology who also works at U.C. Santa Barbara, is interested in how to support unusually gifted students. He recently had a proposal accepted at the National Association for Gifted Children Annual Convention, the must-attend event in his field. He looked forward to presenting his work and networking with other like-minded individuals.

Unfortunately, the conference was held in Indianapolis this year. Because Indiana is on the banned list for passing a law similar to Georgia’s (overriding Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto), he could not travel there using work funds. He wound up paying about $1,700 out of pocket to participate in the meeting. Colleagues from other states could use their work funds for travel.

“These types of travel restrictions disproportionally affect those who work in the social and behavioral sciences,” Dr. Goodwin told me. “They prevent us from interacting with communities that are adversely impacted by discriminatory laws. We can’t disseminate our work to them or learn anything new about them.”

Next year’s conference is in Florida, another state on the banned travel list.

“I don’t think the law is doing anything productive,” Brandon Robinson, the chair of gender and sexuality studies at University of California, Riverside, told me. Much of Dr. Robinson’s research takes place in Texas, following L.G.B.T.Q. youth to study how family dynamics, and acceptance of their gender and sexuality, play into issues like housing stability and safety. In addition to having a more difficult time doing this work in person, Dr. Robinson also can’t attend many conferences, like that of the Southern Sociological Society, and can’t travel using university funding to present research locally in Texas, where it might do the most good.

“I don’t know how banning us from traveling is going to affect how local legislators vote in Texas,” Dr. Robinson said. “There’s no evidence the law is doing anything that people could claim is ‘working.’”


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