I have a complaint that I’ve never seen addressed publicly, but talking to colleagues has made it clear that I’m not the only one affected.
For better or worse, the bulk of my professional life takes place these days in academia. Schools, universities, invite me to lecture, give concerts, and so on. I’m grateful to them. Most of them ask me to arrange my own plane trip, promising to reimburse me for the airfare. Recently this happened with several schools at once, involving flights to Europe, and I don’t have that kind of cash on hand, so I charged the tickets to my credit card. On average, lately, it’s been taking schools about six months to reimburse me, and sometimes more, by which time the interest on that charge has grown larger than the original ticket price. So for each trip I make as an invited and honored guest, I pay hundreds of dollars in interest on the plane fare to the credit card company, while the university gets to keep making another six months’ interest on the delayed reimbursement. (And I will add that this is only about universities – I’ve done the same thing for professional organizations and non-academic foundations, and their reimbursements arrive lickety-split. Only academia makes a reimbursement crawl through months’ worth of red tape, because no professional person would be so stupid as to put up with it.) I am assured, “Our business people say it’s easier this way.” Well, of course it’s easier – for them! And considerably more lucrative for the university.
I am at the point of turning down offers from schools that ask me to pay for airfare in advance. When did it become all right for universities to obligate professors to loan them money at negative rates of interest? Why does anyone put up with it?