Board of Directors Minutes: January 8, 2015

Minutes

Meeting of the Board of Directors of the

Society for Classical Studies

January 8, 2015

New Orleans, Louisiana

The Board of Directors of the Society for Classical Studies met at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel in New Orleans, LA, on January 8, 2015.  Those present were Prof. Kathryn J. Gutzwiller, President, Dr. Adam D. Blistein, Profs. Joy Connolly, Mary C. English, Joseph Farrell, Denis Feeney, Sara Forsdyke, Bruce W. Frier, Michael Gagarin, Mary-Kay Gamel, Ralph J. Hexter, Sarah Iles Johnston, John Marincola, Laura McClure, John F. Miller, Matthew Roller, and Ralph M. Rosen.  Also present by invitation were two incoming Directors: Profs. Roger S. Bagnall and Michele Renee Salzman who would take office on January 11, 2015.  Prof. David H. Porter was absent.  Prof. Gutzwiller called the meeting to order at 3:35 p.m.

Action:  The Directors approved the agenda that they had received in advance of the meeting.

Action:  The Directors approved minutes of their meeting on September 19-20, 2014, that they had received in advance of the meeting.

Prof. Gutzwiller expressed the gratitude of the Society to the four Directors who were completing terms at the meeting:  Profs. Feeney, Farrell, Forsdyke, and Roller.  She also urged Directors to attend several special events that would take place during the annual meeting:  the performance of Antigonick directed by its author Anne Carson and a toast to the Society’s new name during the Presidential Reception.

Preparation for Search for New Executive Director

Prof. Gutzwiller described the process the Executive Committee had used to decide whether the Society should hire a search firm to assist in its search for a new executive director and then to identify a specific search firm.  The Committee recommended that the Society hire a firm, specifically the firm of Isaacson, Miller.  The firm had considerable relevant experience, and the Committee had confidence in the staff members who would be assigned to the SCS search. 

Although the firm would conduct a number of preliminary interviews with possible candidates, the Society would still appoint a search committee that would interact with the firm at every step and participate in interviews with the most promising candidates, including three finalists who would be brought to the 2016 annual meeting in San Francisco.  If possible, the entire Board would interview the top candidate.

Action:  The Board approved the Executive Committee’s recommendation that the Society retain a search firm for the upcoming search for a new executive director.

Action:  The Board approved the selection of Isaacson, Miller as the search firm to assist with the identification and selection of a new executive director.

Expanding College Classics Opportunities Committee

In advance of the meeting Directors had received a copy of a letter to members that Prof. Gutzwiller had recently posted explaining why she had formed an ad hoc committee to explore ways to support and extend the teaching of classics on college campuses.  She had received a number of useful comments from members in response to the letter, and the group would hold its first meeting in New Orleans. 

Meeting of the Cabinet

The Cabinet, joined by Prof. Frier as Senior Financial Trustee and Prof. Samuel Huskey, Information Architect, had met in Philadelphia on December 18 to follow up on the Society’s strategic planning effort 2012.  The result of the meeting was a series of recommendations from the Cabinet to reword the Society’s statement of purpose, establish advisory groups of individuals from portions of the membership that were not usually represented in the Society’s leadership, and to establish a structure that would generate a steady flow of interesting content for the Society’s web site. 

Action:  The Directors approved the following wording for the Society’s statement of purpose:  To advance knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the ancient Greek and Roman world and its enduring value. 

Action:  The Directors authorized Dr. Blistein to amend By-Law #2 (Object) by replacing the current language with the new statement of purpose.

Directors discussed the Cabinet’s recommendation that the Society form four advisory groups consisting of members who were

· Primary and secondary school teachers

· Graduate students

· Independent scholars

· Non-tenure track faculty, including adjuncts, part-timers, and those with temporary appointments

The Cabinet had also recommended that one of the at-large directors, preferably in the second or third year of a term on the Board, serve as a convenor of each group.  The Board agreed that the participation of directors in these groups could inhibit the other participants, but that it was worth trying this structure in the interests of making sure that discussions stayed on track, and that useful information emanating from the discussions was quickly conveyed back to the Board.

Action:  The Board approved the formation of the four advisory groups recommended by the Cabinet on an experimental basis and modified the language of the Cabinet’s recommendation to state that at-large directors assigned to each group should serve as liaisons to their assigned advisory groups and report concerns and suggestions to the Board.

The Cabinet had recommended that the Society form an Editorial Committee to generate and monitor content for the Society’s web site and social media platforms.  Vice presidents would still be responsible for making sure that information relevant to their divisions was up to date, and staff would also continue to post material directly relevant to their duties, but this new Committee, headed by an Editor-in-Chief who would receive a modest stipend, would be primarily responsible for the Society’s digital presence and would have autonomy in making judgments about that content.  After discussion, the Board agreed that the Editorial Committee would report directly to the Vice President for Publications and Research; since the Committee’s responsibilities would concern the public face of the SCS, they would not, in that be sense, be autonomous but, within the governance structure, would have editorial control over much of the society’s digital content.

The Cabinet had further recommended that the members of the Communication Committee be the Editor-in-Chief as chair, the Information Architect, the Vice-Presidents for Outreach and for Publications and Research, and six others.  The at-large members of the committee will serve staggered three year terms, and the Chair will serve a five-year term.   All will be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Vice-President for Publications and Research.

Action:  The Board approved the formation of an Editorial Committee for the Society’s digital media with the following charge:  The Committee and Editor-in-Chief will generate and edit content for the web site, while consulting as needed with officers, staff, and members of the Society.  They will also be responsible for organizing the SCS’s social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Action:  The Board authorized the payment of an annual stipend of $5,000 to the Editor-in-Chief of the Editorial Committee.

Reappointment of Information Architect

Prof. Gutzwiller reported that Prof. Huskey was looking forward to helping the new Editorial Committee to take advantage of the web site that was currently being redesigned. 

Action:  The Board appointed Prof. Huskey to serve a second four-year term as Information Architect. 

Financial Matters

Auditors’ Report for the 2014 Fiscal Year.  Directors had received both the financial statements prepared by the Society’s auditors, BBD, LLP, and the accompanying letter in which the firm outlined its procedures and described the extent of its responsibility for the statements.  Prof. Frier pointed out that the auditors were expressing reasonable but not absolute assurance that the financial statements were accurate, and that the Board should note that the auditors had found no misstatements in the materials provided by staff. 

During a recent conference call, the auditor had reminded the Finance Committee that because of the small size of its staff and the willingness and ability of Dr. Blistein to handle all financial transactions, the Society did not have an appropriate segregation of responsibilities for this activity.  However, this problem was successfully mitigated by having Financial Trustees review monthly banking and investment statements.  The Board should keep this situation in mind during the search for the new executive director.  Dr. Blistein’s successor might not want to assume the same level of responsibility in this area, which would reduce and possibly eliminate the problem of insufficient segregation of duties.  On the other hand, the Society might need to find assistance with its financial management outside of its staff. 

Prof. Frier noted that the statements showed healthy growth in all three types of assets, in large part because of investment gains.  Unrestricted and total assets in particular had increased.  The Finance Committee would continue to monitor the results of the recent change in investment guidelines that established 65% as the target for the equity portion of the Society’s endowments.

Internal Financial Statements.  Dr. Blistein had distributed to Directors a memo describing the assumptions underlying interim financial statements that he produced as well as a statement for the 2014 fiscal year, a revised budget for the 2015 fiscal year, and a table showing investment performance for the first half of the 2015 fiscal year.  He noted a correction for the table of investments.

Report of the Outgoing Vice President for Program

Prof. Farrell thanked the Board for its support and advice during his term.  He had distributed to Directors in advance of the meeting a document summarizing his experiences as Program Chair and recommending that the Board make permanent an experiment he had initiated of having at-large directors provide initial reviews of 40 to 50 individual abstracts each year. 

Action:  The Board authorized the Program Committee to continue to enlist the assistance of at-large directors in conducting an initial review of individual abstracts.

Annual Meetings

2015 Annual Meeting in New Orleans.  Dr. Blistein reported that before on-site registration had begun that morning, more people (just under 2,200) had registered for the meeting than were registered for the entire meeting in Seattle two years earlier.  The current figure was also 250 higher than registration at the previous meeting in New Orleans in 2003.  A poor job market was definitely not responsible for this increase, and staff were not sure why it was happening.  One modest factor was increased guest registration which was already higher than it had been for all of the Chicago meeting the previous year, a meeting that had attracted 2,500 registrants.  The current meeting was, unusually, taking place on a date different from that of the American Historical Association, but several Directors felt that this was not likely to be a factor.  The distance of the meeting from the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and members’ interest in visiting New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina might have improved attendance.

Both meeting hotels (Sheraton and Marriott) were attempting to remedy failures of heating systems in their meeting rooms.  Staff’s relationships with their AIA counterparts continued to be good, and initial reactions to the first app ever created for the joint meeting were very favorable. 

Action:  The Board of Directors asked Dr. Blistein to send a letter of thanks to Mr. Kevin Mullen of the AIA staff who was largely responsible for the production of the new joint meeting app.

Future Annual Meetings.  Dr. Blistein described the events that had made it necessary for SCS and AIA to change the location of the 2016 annual meeting from the Marriott to the Hilton in San Francisco.  As part of this change it had also been necessary to make the meeting begin a day earlier so that it would run from Wednesday through Saturday.  The new pattern might make it easier for some registrants to stay until the end of the meeting, but it could also cause difficulties for registrants who were holding their first classes of the semester during the week of the meeting.

Dr. Blistein stated that he had expected the New Orleans meeting to be a good predictor of the future of the annual meeting in a poor job market and an era of reduced travel funds, but the unexpectedly high attendance in a particularly bad year for interviews and in a city that sometimes required high travel expenses was making this analysis more complicated.  He had already discussed with AIA staff the importance of conducting a follow-up survey to try and find out what had stimulated attendance in 2015 so that the societies would have good information on which to base their selection of meeting sites for 2020 and beyond. 

Report of the Executive Director

Placement Service.  With the possible exception of the 1999 annual meeting in Dallas, the number of institutions conducting interviews at 2015 meeting was by a large measure the lowest that Dr. Blistein had ever seen.  Only 30 institutions were conducting interviews, down from 54 the previous year and 10 fewer than the previous low number (40 in Anaheim).  Based on his reading of job advertisements, Dr. Blistein thought that about 5 institutions might have used online interviews instead of coming to the meeting, even if these schools had conducted their interviews in New Orleans, 35 institutions would still be a historically low number. 

About the same number of candidates (550) had registered for the Service as last year.  In part because users had another year of familiarity with the online system, few registrants had encountered any problems with it.  Placement Director Renie Plonski had scheduled almost all interviews by December 20. 

Annual Giving.  To date members had donated over $34,000 during the fiscal year.  This number was slightly ahead of the amount raised in the first six months of the previous year.  It would still be a challenge to reach the Development Committee’s goal of raising $65,000 during the current year, but the Committee’s efforts to solicit funds at the meeting, including the encouragement of donors to wear a blue ribbon, would increase the likelihood of success.

Membership.  The Society had about 3,015 individual members as of the end of the year, a number which was down by about 50 from the end of December 2013.  It was possible that some of the loss was due to the change in the Society’s name.  During the fall the Membership Committee had reached out to a number of members who had not yet renewed for 2014 and had convinced about 25 of them to do so.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 6:35 p.m.

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