Conference Call of the Board of Directors of the
Society for Classical Studies
June 15, 2015
The Board of Directors of the Society for Classical Studies met via conference call on June 15, 2015. Those present were Profs. John Marincola, President, and Roger S. Bagnall, Dr. Adam D. Blistein, Profs. Mary C. English, Bruce W. Frier, Michael Gagarin, Mary-Kay Gamel, Kathryn J. Gutzwiller, Ralph J. Hexter, Stephen Hinds, Laura McClure, John F. Miller, Ellen Oliensis, Ralph M. Rosen, and Michele Renee Salzman. Profs. Joy Connolly, Sarah Iles Johnston, and David H. Porter were absent. Prof. Marincola called the meeting to order at 3:00 p.m.
Action: The Directors approved the agenda for the call that they had received in advance.
Action: The Directors approved minutes of their meetings on January 8, 2015, and January 11, 2015. Subject to a correction to the list of participants in a conference call on February 4, 2015, the Board also approved the minutes of that call.
Report of the President
Search for New Executive Director. Prof. Marincola described progress to date on the search for the new executive director. He had invited members to serve on the Search Committee, and Isaacson Miller, the firm retained to conduct the search, had interviewed members of the committee as well as others knowledgeable about the SCS. Prof. Marincola invited Directors to speak to representatives of the firm if they had not already done so.
The announcement of the position would appear soon, with applications to be sent to Isaacson Miller. The Search Committee would review applications in a conference call during the fall with the goals of the Committee interviewing 6-8 candidates in person in December and the Board interviewing a few finalists in January.
Advisory Groups. Over 60 members had responded to Prof. Marincola's letter about the formation of four advisory groups of members in demographic areas not usually represented on the Board. At least two of these groups would meet in person in San Francisco, and the convenor of each of them would report on their deliberations during the January 9 Board meeting.
Communications Committee. Prof. Gagarin and Information Architect Samuel Huskey had helped Prof. Marincola to identify appropriate members of this new committee charged with generating content for the Society's new web site and social media outlets. The group would begin its work shortly.
Other. The Directors had received summaries of two conference calls of the Cabinet that had taken place since January, and Prof. Marincola reviewed those discussions with the Board. He described the ongoing work of the ad hoc committee on expanding college classics opportunities and officers' efforts to revive and have SCS participate in an advisory board for the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. He also said that he had recruited all but one speaker for his Presidential Panel on the more vulnerable members of the profession and invited Directors to suggest an additional presenter.
Development. Dr. Blistein reported on Development Committee activity and annual giving receipts on behalf of Prof. Porter. The Directors had received minutes of the Committee's meeting on January 9 and of its conference call on February 26. The Committee had reviewed the activities it had initiated at the recent annual meeting and identified the ones that should be carried forward to future meetings. The spring annual giving appeal had shared Prof. Marincola's emphasis on vulnerable members and had been successful in getting members to designate their gifts for corresponding purposes like the annual meeting travel stipends for graduate students. The appeal had been less successful at getting members to give larger donations or for the first time. The Committee continued to benefit from feedback from the Ambassadors and felt that this group was helping SCS to retain donors. During the fall the Committee would consider the establishment of a bequest fund.
Dr. Blistein thanked Board and Development Committee members for their generous responses to a very recent special appeal designed to ensure that annual giving met the Committee's goal of $65,000 in receipts. He thought that the Society would meet this goal before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. As of the date of the call the SCS had already received over $60,000 in pledges and online gifts. During the next two weeks he expected to receive additional gifts from both the Board and Committee and from responses to the Spring mailing. Although that mailing had taken place over two months earlier, the office continued to receive a few new gifts from members each week.
Finance Committee. The Directors had received minutes of the Committee's meetings of January 9 and May 29. Prof. Frier had already summarized the former meeting for Directors at the Board's meeting on January 11. On May 29 the Committee had met with staff of BNYMellon who had recently taken responsibility for the Society's investments. These advisors had given a thorough report on the status and prospects of the investments in a very uncertain environment. They had recommended that the Society return to the target allocation of assets it had previously held: 60% in equities and 40% in cash and fixed income securities with the possibility of varying from this target by 10% in either direction. This would give the advisors the ability to take advantage of increases in interest rates that might occur.
The advisors had presented estimates of the impact of different rates of disbursement of funds on the Society's endowments over thirty years. These estimates suggested that in the current environment the Society needed to adhere to a withdrawal rate between 4.0% and 4.5% of the value of investments. Dr. Blistein had prepared the initial draft of the budget for the next fiscal year on the basis of a 4.3% withdrawal, but the Committee had been concerned about the impact of extraordinary expenses for the search for and transition to the next executive director, and the advisors felt that no adverse long-term impact would result from retaining for one more year the 4.5% rate used during the current fiscal year.
Prof. Frier then asked Directors to discuss several recommendations made by the Committee that would affect budgets for subsequent years:
Actions: The Board voted to
- decline a request to fund an increase in effort in the American Office of L'Année philologique.
- approve a new fee structure for a new version of GreekKeys that would not come with any provision of support by the Society.
- eliminate Placement Service fees for member candidates and subscribers.
- approve a fund consisting of gifts from the Friends of Ludwig Koenen to the Research and Teaching Endowment that would support training in papyrology. The Society should form a Committee consisting of a member of the Education Committee, a member of the Publications and Research Committee, and a member appointed by the American Society of Papyrologists to draw up guidelines, solicit applications, and make these awards.
- add gifts made by the Friends of Michael Putnam to the portion of the Research and Teaching Endowment that was already supporting the Minority Scholarship.
Preliminary Financial Statement for 2015 Fiscal Year. Dr. Blistein had distributed a statement that anticipated a loss of about $22,000 for the fiscal year that was about to end. This would be approximately the amount of payments outstanding at the end of the year and would have been a surplus if the Society had withdrawn the entire amount budgeted for disbursement from the General Fund. In fact, it had retained $70,000 in the Fund that could be used to offset an expected deficit in the coming year.
Budget for 2016 Fiscal Year. The Directors had received a budget for the next fiscal year that incorporated all of the recommendations made by the Finance Committee at its meeting on May 29. This included retaining for one more year a disbursement rate of 4.5% of the average values of the Society's endowment funds. The anticipated deficit for the year was just under $48,000, largely because of the expenses of the search for the new executive director and the possibility having to maintain two separate offices during the last two months of the fiscal year.
Action: The Board approved the budget for the 2016 fiscal year put forward by the Finance Committee.
Members' Fields of Interest. Prof. Gagarin had received a request from the Women's Classical Caucus that the Society add two categories to the fields of interest that members were currently asked to indicate when they paid their dues: Women and Gender: Greek and Women and Gender: Roman. He had asked the Publications and Research Committee to review this request. The Committee thought that the Society would do well to consider other changes in the list, including some consolidations, but recommended that the SCS add these two categories now while the Committee continued to monitor members' responses.
Action: The Board asked the Publications and Research Committee to review the list on a regular basis and make changes in it as it thought necessary.
Report of the Executive Director. Dr. Blistein discussed with the Board the possible effect of the upcoming transition in his office on existing staff. He also outlined the calendar of events for the Directors' meeting on September 11 and 12.
There being no further business, the call was concluded at 4:35 p.m.