Board of Directors Minutes: September 19-20, 2014

Minutes

Meeting of the Board of Directors of the

Society for Classical Studies

September 19-20, 2014

Philadelphia, PA

The Board of Directors of the Society for Classical Studies met at the AACR Conference Center in Philadelphia, PA on September 19, 2014.  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, John Marincola, Laura McClure, John F. Miller, David H. Porter, Matthew Roller, and Ralph M. Rosen.  Also present by invitation was Prof. Dee L. Clayman, Delegate to the American Council of Learned Societies and Chair of the Succession Planning Committee appointed by Prof. Gutzwiller.  Prof. Sarah Iles Johnston was absent.  Prof. Gutzwiller called the meeting to order at 8:35 p.m.

Prof. Gutzwiller asked the Board to discuss the quality of instruction in Latin and Greek at the graduate level.  Directors agreed that in general current students were not as well trained in the languages as they had been in the past, but that similar declines could be seen at both the precollegiate and collegiate levels and that at the graduate level some of the decline was due to modern pressures for doctoral students to obtain their degrees as quickly as possible and to become competent in more areas of study than the languages themselves.  Directors suggested several ways in which SCS could respond to this situation:  These included developing a statement on the appropriate content of graduate programs and encouraging the organization of summer seminars for intensive language study.  Since some graduate students receive funding only for the regular academic year, outside support might be necessary for some to attend such seminars.

Directors also discussed ways in which the Society could support non tenure-track faculty, particularly those early in their careers and graduate students who want to consider jobs outside of traditional faculty appointments.  With regard to the former, SCS could encourage department chairs to serve as mentors to their visiting faculty and the visitors themselves to use these short-term appointments to improve their teaching and gain experience as generalists.  This would make them more attractive to smaller departments in institutions that put a high priority on faculty’s performance as teachers.  In the long run, the Society’s outreach efforts would support junior members by creating enthusiasm and demand for classics courses.  The Society also needed to find ways to convince academic administrators that training some graduate students for nonacademic positions was an effective use of resources.  The meeting adjourned for the evening at 10:00 p.m.

The Board resumed its meeting at 8:30 a.m. on September 20; the same Directors and guest were in attendance.  In advance of the meeting Directors had received an agenda as well as minutes of the Board’s meeting by conference call on June 11, 2014.

Action:  The Board approved the agenda for its meeting on September 20, 2014.

Action:  The Board approved the minutes of its conference call on June 11, 2014.

President’s Report

Prof. Gutzwiller described the cabinet’s communications with Information Architect Samuel Huskey and Confluence, the company chosen to redesign the Society’s web site.  The cabinet had answered an extensive questionnaire from Confluence and participated in a conference call with Prof. Huskey and Confluence personnel. Confluence was currently working on programming that would combine the Society’s main site with the existing placement and program submission sites.  Soon, however, it would be necessary to generate new content for the revised site.  The Cabinet plus Profs. Huskey and Frier would meet in December to identify actions and programs, particularly ones connected to the Society’s outreach mission, that would advance the strategic plan conducted in 2012.

Review of Strategic Plan

Since holding a strategic planning meeting in March 2012, the Board had devoted time at each of its September meetings to discussing the recommendations made at that meeting, measuring progress towards goals established then, and considering possible changes in the Society’s direction.  The Succession Planning Committee appointed by Prof. Gutzwiller to plan for the search for a new Executive Director in 2015 had recommended that the Board confirm its support of the plan before launching the search to provide guidance to the search committee.  The Directors had therefore received a summary of the meeting in March 2012 prepared by facilitator Laura Mandeles as well as a report to the Board from then President Jeffrey Henderson in July 2012 on subsequent discussions by the Cabinet. 

Prof. Gutzwiller asked the Board to examine first the language for mission and purpose (“To maintain and advance the field of classics and the people involved in it”) and for organizational vision (“A sustainable, dynamic, diverse multi-generational membership organization that works effectively through internal and external collaboration”) in Ms. Mandeles’ report.  Directors agreed that the mission and purpose did not reflect the Society’s interest in reaching nonacademic audiences and that it might be appropriate to replace “classics” with “classical studies” to reflect the Society’s new name.  It might also be useful for the statement to be longer.

Action:  The Directors asked Prof. Gutzwiller to form a committee to propose both a revision of the current brief statement and a longer version for adoption by the Board in January.

The plan had established four major roles for the Society, and the Directors discussed appropriate directions for each one.

Advocacy and Outreach.  Directors agreed that this role included more than just outreach to nonacademic audiences.  Each division should discuss how its activities could serve all of its possible audiences with particular attention to groups that were not regularly represented on the Board such as graduate students, adjunct and junior faculty, independent scholars, and K-12 teachers.  It would be useful to form advisory groups from each of these populations.

Information Resources.  To keep the new web site fresh and up-to-date it would be important to solicit material from a wide variety of sources.  The Society’s ambition should be to make its web site a central location for data about the field and resources in the field.

Connections in the Field and Human Capital Development.  Encouraging the divisions to serve all segments of their audience and forming advisory groups would help to make progress in these areas.  Both the Nominating Committee and vice presidents recommending committee appointments should seek out members from the advisory groups where appropriate.  Efforts to serve adjunct faculty would be particularly important; the Professional Matters Division should recommend a statement of good practices for approval by the Board and possibly for inclusion in the Statement of Professional Ethics.  SCS should also strengthen its ties to other societies with overlapping interests.  

Succession Planning Committee

The Directors had received a report from the Committee as well as a number of supporting documents.  Prof. Clayman described the process the Committee had followed and the experience of its members in conducting searches.  The Committee asked the Board to consider a number of issues before embarking on a search for a new Executive Director, and Prof. Clayman felt that the Committee’s most important recommendations were that the Board should agree on a strategic plan, and that it should develop a description of an ideal candidate. 

Schedule for the Search.  The Committee had proposed a schedule for conducting the search, and Directors suggested a number of modifications to it:  approving the advertisement at the June 2015 conference call so that it could be published before the recommended date of September 2015, allowing for the possibility that the entire Board might interview one or two finalists for the position at one of its meetings in January 2016, and making at least an initial offer later that month with the possibility of making an appointment before the recommended April date.

Scope of the Search.  Directors discussed the knowledge of classics to be sought in the next Executive Director and agreed that a background in the field was desirable, but that a background in promoting humanities would also be advantageous.  As stated in the Committee’s report, appropriate candidates needed to have some financial management skills, but the Society could alleviate some current concerns of its auditors by assigning some work currently performed by Dr. Blistein either to other staff or to a contractor.  The Finance Committee should be prepared to advise the search committee on this aspect of the job description and to determine the additional expense of this reassignment.  The advertisement should be open to the possibility that the new Executive Director would move the office but also state that the office could remain at the University of Pennsylvania.

Directors agreed with the Committee that the Finance Committee should determine a salary range for the position.  Dr. Blistein stated that he could use public records to provide information on comparable positions.  Prof. Marincola said that during his Presidency he would draft performance criteria for the new Executive Director’s first year and a contingency plan in case of any delay in finding Dr. Blistein’s successor.

Search Committee and Search Firm.  Directors agreed that the Search Committee should consist of five to seven members.  They considered hiring a search firm at some length.  Doing so would increase the cost of the search but would also increase the possibility of finding good candidates outside of the classics community. 

Action:  The Board authorized the Executive Committee to interview search firms and to recommend to the full Board in January whether a firm should be hired and, if so, which one.

Financial Matters

Association Investments.  Directors had received a document showing that each of its four invested funds had grown by about 15% net of additions and withdrawals.  Prof. Frier reported that the Society had profited from its recent decision to set 65% (an increase from 60%) as the target for equities investments in each of the Society’s four funds.  Despite these gains, as recommended by the Society’s investment advisor, the Finance Committee continued to reduce the percentage of each fund’s value that it withdrew to support current activities.  During the 2014 fiscal year good cash flow had allowed the Society to avoid withdrawing the entire amount budgeted for the General Fund.  Prof. Hexter noted that the performance of Society’s investments was not as strong as that of some universities, but that was in part due to the relatively small size of its endowment which precluded its participation in certain kinds of investments.

Financial Statement for 2014 Fiscal Year.  Dr. Blistein had distributed to the Board an unaudited statement comparing budgeted to actual amounts during the fiscal year.  The statement projected a surplus of just under $62,000, a larger amount than projected.  The surplus was due to the absence of printing costs for Newsletters, a financially successful annual meeting in spite of bad weather, and an unexpected increase in placement revenue in spite of AIA’s departure from the Service.  The surplus contributed to the recovery of the General Fund from expenses it had borne to carry out the Gateway Campaign.  Prof. Frier pointed out that two thirds of the Society’s income came from only three sources:  investments (19% of all income), dues (22%), and annual meeting registration (24%). 

Updated Budget for 2015 Fiscal Year.  The Directors had received an updated version of the budget that they had approved in June.  The new document reflected changes in expectations for certain revenue and expense items based on final numbers from 2014 and anticipated a surplus of just under $39,000.  Prof. Frier noted that so far it had been possible to again postpone scheduled withdrawals from the General Fund.  It was not yet clear whether these disbursements could be avoided altogether during the year.  He added that the Society typically operated at a basis just above breaking even; it could not easily undertake additional programs without obtaining outside funding.

Dr. Blistein commented on several items in the budget.  The document still anticipated just over $50,000 in placement revenue, but, to date, the number of institutions registering was lower than in the previous year, which might reduce income.  Royalties from the printed version of Barrington Atlas had not decreased as expected from 2013 to 2014, and it was possible that in 2015 or (more likely) 2016 the Society would start to receive revenue from the new Atlas app produced by Princeton University Press.

The total cost of revising the web site would be about $36,000; this amount would be depreciated over 3 years.  At the end of the 2014 fiscal year the Society had received a number of gifts designated for the Minority Scholarship; this had increased the amount available for this program in 2015.  $5,000 of the $10,000 budgeted for a development consultant would instead be used for the management of the departmental census by the University of Chicago’s Survey Lab.  AIA staff had identified a suitable vendor to produce a joint annual meeting app at a lower cost than expected.  The budget did not yet contain an amount for a facilitator for the strategic planning meeting in December. 

Development

Prof. Porter reported that the Development Committee would hold a conference call soon.  He expressed satisfaction that annual fund receipts during the last fiscal year had exceeded the Committee’s goal of $60,000, and he thanked Directors for matching gifts from new donors.  Those matches represented the amount needed to exceed the $60,000 level.  The number of donors and the average gift had increased over the 2013 fiscal year, but not by as much as the Committee had hoped.  He pointed out that the number of online gifts had doubled, probably because the Committee had followed up its mailed appeals with additional ones via e-mail. 

The newly formed Ambassadors group had contributed to the success of the annual giving campaign.  They had called members who had been regular donors to annual giving during the Gateway Campaign.  These conversations had encouraged continued support by these members and had provided a vehicle for members to suggest issues that the Society should address.  The difficulties faced by adjunct and part-time faculty was a topic regularly addressed during these calls.  During the 2015 fiscal year Ambassadors would probably be asked to make similar calls to members who had been new donors in 2014.

Directors discussed the possibility of providing members with a mechanism for recurring gifts and how the Society might support faculty not on the tenure track.  They also discussed the possibility of offering matching gifts for new donations again and the expectation that all Board members would contribute to annual giving.

Discussion of Board Responsibilities

In advance of the meeting Directors had received a booklet entitled Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards produced by BoardSource, an organization that published useful materials for volunteers and staff of nonprofit organizations.  Prof. Gutzwiller stated that she thought the Board should consider its own work at a meeting where it was devoting so much time to the Society’s planning process.  The Directors went on to discuss the Board’s performance in each of the ten areas of responsibility listed in the booklet.

Determine Mission and Purposes.  Incoming Directors needed a better orientation before their first meeting.  This might take place, in part, just before the first Board meeting in January.

Select the Chief Executive.  The Board clearly was meeting this responsibility by devoting so much effort to succession planning.

Support and Evaluate the Chief Executive.  Dr. Blistein currently received an effective annual evaluation.  If his successor did not have a substantial background in Classics, that person might need additional support from the Board in this area.

Ensure Effective Planning.  Over the last few years, the Board had spent a considerable amount of time on planning, and its long-standing tradition of having a wide-ranging conversation about an important topic in the field on the Friday evening of its September meeting also served this purpose.  It should be possible to have more discussions of this kind.  Reports made regularly at Board meetings should clearly state where discussion or action was needed.  The Society needed to find better mechanisms to encourage and respond to feedback from members.

Monitor and Strengthen Programs and Services.  The Board received regular reports; the new web site would make it easier for members to find them.

Ensure Adequate Financial Resources.  The Society was in good shape financially in the short term but needed to find more outside sources of funding if it was to expand any programs.  Directors could help to identify potential donors.

Protect Assets and Provide Financial Oversight.  Unlike many nonprofits, the Society does not have an Audit Committee, but the Finance Committee performs much of the work of an Audit Committee, and the Board meets annually with the external auditor.

Build a Competent Board.  Members tended to elect Directors who were well-known scholars from major research institutions.  This reduced the variety of perspectives on the Board.  It would be useful to form advisory groups of members at career levels or in institutions not well represented on the Board.

Ensure Legal and Ethical Integrity.  The Society had reasonable safeguards in place.  Next year the search committee for the new Executive Director would need to keep this responsibility in mind.

Enhance the Organization’s Public Standing.  Overall, the Society was devoting considerable effort to outreach, but this was an area where Directors individually could do more.  They might, for example, write brief profiles of themselves for the web site explaining why they were willing to serve the Society. 

Reports of Vice Presidents

Education.  Prof. English asked Directors to see her written report for the status of Education Division awards and annual meeting panels.  The report also described JCCAE initiatives to create a database of online learning opportunities for secondary school students and to hold a reception for K-12 teachers at the annual meeting.  In addition, she had been discussing with Prof. Farrell the organization of webinars on topics of interest to AP teachers.

Outreach.  Prof. Gamel reported the Division was developing promotional materials for two upcoming performances in New Orleans (Anne Carson in her Antigonick and the Performance Committee's version of Plutus).  The Performance Committee had asked the Publications and Research Committee to include performance studies in the Society's statement about research in classics, and Prof. Gagarin said that the Publications and Research Committee was reviewing all of the statements previously produced by the two divisions before they merged in 2013.

Prof. Gamel noted the issue of Amphora produced during the spring and the development and subsequent conversations among a national network of classicists involved in outreach activities.  The Committee on Outreach was developing a mission statement for the Division.

Professional Matters.  Prof. Miller stated that all the committees in the Division had contributed to a revision of the Society's census of classics departments which would be administered during the Fall by the Survey Lab at the University of Chicago.  Results from the survey would be available in January, and the Division would continue to supplement its own efforts by identifying and linking to useful information produced by other organizations such as the Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.  He asked Directors to inform him of other relevant data collection efforts, and Prof. Porter stated that he expected the Teagle Foundation to publish a pertinent study on liberal arts colleges soon.

Program.  Prof. Farrell reported that the Society was almost ready to publish the program of sessions for the meeting.  The Program Committee had received 395 individual abstracts, a large number but far from the largest number ever received.  The schedule of sessions was crowded with a particularly high number of panels.  A new feature of the 2015 meeting was synchronization of session times with AIA.  In addition, the AIA Program Committee had agreed to cosponsor a relatively new feature of the SCS program, a debate.

For the last three years on a trial basis at-large Directors had helped the Program Committee to review individual abstracts.  This new initial review period had permitted the Committee to hold just one meeting instead of two each year and to spend more time on program planning.  Prof. Farrell agreed to discuss this practice with his recently elected successor, Prof. Michele Salzman, who would take office in January.  If she wished to follow this procedure during her term, he would propose language modifying the Society's Regulations for consideration by the Board at its first meeting in January.

Publications and Research.  Prof. Gagarin discussed the organizational changes that the Société Internationale de Bibliographie Classique (SIBC) had recently implemented for L'Année philologique.  He expected that Prof. Clayman would become President of SIBC at its meeting in November.  The Society had recently received a request to review a manuscript containing a historical commentary on several books of Cassius Dio for publication as a monograph.  Prof. Gagarin had concluded that the Society had an obligation to consider the book for publication despite the suspension of its monographs series because it had published the other commentaries in this "Dio Project" series. 

Prof. Donald Mastronarde, who has been maintaining the Society's GreekKeys software for over a decade had informed Prof. Gagarin that he intended to produce one more update of the software before his retirement in 2015.  Prof. Gagarin noted that the Society would need to find someone else to maintain the software or make it available at no charge on an as-is basis.  Prof. Gagarin had distributed to Board a proposal the Society had received to produce TAPA and maintain the member database.  He asked Directors to submit comments on the proposal to him.

Other Business

Dr. Blistein reminded the Board that it would meet in New Orleans on January 8 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. and on January 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Because of the lateness of the hour, he would submit a report to Directors on activity in his office via e-mail.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:10 p.m.

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