Executive Director's Report: 2009

This is a report on activity in the Association Office during 2009. It is intended to supplement information about Board and committee meetings and especially the reports of our very hard-working vice presidents that appear regularly on the web site and in the Newsletter.  The following paragraph appears, with few changes, in each of my annual reports, but it bears repeating at least once a year if not more often.

The APA is ambitious in that it operates programs that are similar to and sometimes even more sophisticated than those of much larger learned societies.  If Classics is to continue to be a core discipline of the humanities, we have to do the kinds of things that MLA, AHA, College Art, and Religion do for their fields with a third or a fifth as many members.  Volunteer labor, substantial amounts of it, is the only way we can provide the kinds of essential services that our bigger sisters do, and I am grateful to the many APA members who take on our work without compensation and sometimes without reimbursement of expenses. 

In previous years I and my predecessors have delivered this report during the business meeting at the annual meeting, but it was Past President Ruth Scodel's useful thought to change the format of that session to make it less of a time when officers talked at members and more of an opportunity for interaction between members and the Board.  I will post this report on our web site a few days before the annual meeting in the hope that you will raise questions and make comments about it both in Anaheim and afterwards.

Financial. Our fiscal year ends on June 30 of each year, and our auditors, Briggs, Bunting and Dougherty of Philadelphia, completed their audit of our financial statements for the 2008 fiscal year last Winter.  The April Newsletter contained a summary of that report, and you can obtain the complete report on the APA web site (see link at the bottom of this page) or from my office. 

If you look at Page 2 of this report, you'll see that our total assets increased by almost $500,000, which is, of course, a good thing. However, you'll also note that those assets fall into three categories:  unrestricted (money we can use for any Board-approved purpose), temporarily restricted (money that that a donor has given us to spend over time for a specific purpose), and permanently restricted (money that a donor has given us to keep in perpetuity and invest so that we can use the proceeds of that investment for one or more of our programs).  Depending on the terms of each endowment gift, the investment proceeds it generates can be unrestricted or temporarily restricted income. 

In the 2008 fiscal year permanently restricted assets increased by almost $700,000, all of which consisted of contributions and pledges to the capital campaign.  Temporarily restricted assets increased by over $125,000 during the year.  This figure is the result of a calculation (see Page 10 of the auditors' report) that adds new grant awards (e.g., from the NEH) and restricted investment income (e.g., proceeds from the Pearson Fund that can support only the Pearson Fellowship) and subtracts what the auditors call "releases", money spent in accordance with donors' instructions.  In March 2008, near the end of the fiscal year, we received over $400,000 in new NEH grant funding for both the American Office of l'Année philologique and the TLL Fellowship.  These funds will support those programs in the 2009 through 2011 fiscal years.

Of course, June 30, 2008, was just a few months before the most severe declines in financial markets, but equities in particular had already begun to lose some of their value by that point.  As a result, unrestricted assets,  declined by about $250,000, and the following page (Page 3) of the report shows that this result was caused by both operating and investment losses.  (In addition, Page 3 shows that investment losses reduced the amount of the increases in temporarily restricted net assets.)  The fact is that we show operating losses in almost every year, but we are able to continue to fund the ambitious programs we undertake without significant increases in fees because our investment income usually makes up the difference and even generates a modest increase in the underlying endowment.  When financial markets are in decline, however, the operating losses are compounded. 

Because this financial statement shows comparative figures for 2007 (when equities were still increasing in value), the bottom of Page 3 gives a particularly clear demonstration of how we depend on our investments.  Compare the columns for Unrestricted Assets for 2007 and 2008.  After listing our sources of revenue and the program areas (Education, Outreach, Program, etc.) where we have expenses, the auditors provide a figure they call (somewhat opaquely) "Change in Net Assets Before Other Changes", but which you can think of as an individual year's operating budget:  i.e., fees and other income collected, grant money drawn down, and expenses incurred.  The "other changes" to which this heading refers are investment activities in the General Fund.  (Investment activities in the Coffin, Pearson, and Research and Teaching Funds appear under Temporarily Restricted Net Assets.)  These "other changes" include dividend income, capital gain distributions, actual gains and losses on instruments bought and sold, and, perhaps most important, changes in the value of funds we continue to hold. You can see details of these calculations on pages 10 and 11 of the report.

Note that for Unrestricted Assets the "Change ... Before Other Changes" is very similar for both 2007 and 2008, a deficit of about $125,000.  However, the figures for "Other Changes", i.e., our investment activities, are very different:  a surplus of $272,000 in 2007, but a deficit of $117,991 in 2008.  Obviously, we could not go on forever drawing down funds from an endowment that was losing value, but the rate at which we do draw (5% of the average value of a fund over the last three years) is one that will be familiar to many members from their own institutions and one that can withstand occasional losses in value. Again the 2008 statement gives a good illustration of this principle:  The investment surplus in 2007 was twice the size of the loss in 2008, and there were also six-figure surpluses in 2005 and 2006 as well. However, when I was writing last year's version of this report, we knew, first, that the loss for 2009 was likely to be even larger than the one for 2008, and, second, and more important over the long term, even if the markets were to stop their declines, our investments could easily have a much lower value for a prolonged length of time.  A 5% draw from a smaller average value will provide less income to support operating expenses, and we therefore needed to find some economies in our activities.

At the January 2009 Annual Meeting in Philadelphiathe Finance Committee and then the Board talked about the kinds of economies we could institute both immediately and when the budget for the next fiscal year went into effect.  When it met in May 2009, the Finance Committee was able to act on the scenario I described at the end of the last paragraph:  While it probably did not have to worry about further declines in financial values, it also couldn't count on any increases. Hence, the budget that the Committee proposed to the Board which the latter body accepted with some modifications in June reduced expenses by about $60,000 for the fiscal year by taking the following actions:

  • requiring members to request printed copies of TAPA, the Newsletter, and Amphora
  • publishing only one issue of Amphora in the current fiscal year
  • continuing to send the Annual Meeting Program to members only on request
  • significantly reducing the amount of food served and eliminating the complimentary beverage at the President's Reception
  • eliminating the orientation for members attending their first annual meeting and asking my staff to find ways to reduce audio-visual expenses at the annual meeting.

While these economies have had some unfortunate effects (which I'll discuss below), I think that they were the correct ones to institute. And, combined with some other favorable financial trends, they are having the desired impact on our budget and our endowments.  First, because the 2009 annual meeting was larger than anticipated (generating more income without significantly more expenses), and because we were able to institute the new policy about printed Newsletters immediately, total expenses for the 2009 fiscal year were about $45,000 below budget.  As a result, we needed to draw down only 3.4% rather than 5% of the three-year average value of our General Fund.  This left more money in this endowment available for investment as markets recovered over the last six months.  In the current fiscal year the budget has benefited from our ability to stay in Claudia Cohen Hall at the University of Pennsylvania for another year. 

While we will not assume any further increases any time soon, I am happy to report that our investments have participated in the recent recovery in financial markets.  At this time last year the General Fund was below $2.3 million; its value is now slightly over $2.6 million.  The value of the relatively new Coffin Fund had sunk below the total of the gifts that endowed it (the permanently restricted figure of $61,679).  As a result, to preserve assets in that fund, we did not make a Coffin Award last year.  However, this fund is now worth over $65,000, and I am confident that we will make an award this Spring. 

No withdrawals are planned for the Research and Teaching Fund which holds gifts made to the current Gateway capital campaign until - at the earliest - the Summer of 2011.  As a result, it has always had a particularly aggressive investment strategy emphasizing equities and so suffered more than the other funds when markets declined, and, like the Coffin Fund, fell below the level of gifts actually deposited.  Fortunately, in late 2008, the Campaign received some major cash gifts, including a $325,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  Our advisors at BNYMellon Wealth Management maintained a very large cash position in this Fund until early 2009, only gradually reentering equity markets during the Spring.  The fund's current value (almost $1.6 million) is more than $100,000 above the value of gifts received.

Every three years one of our Financial Trustees rotates out of office, and this year's rotation will be a particularly difficult one for me personally.  I have been Executive Director since July 1999, and except for a short period in 2002-2003, Ward Briggs has been a hard working member of the Finance Committee with which I interact on a regular basis.  When I joined the Association, he was the appointed member of the Committee with a term scheduled to end in 2001, but he agreed to stay on an extra year so that we could modify the rotation to avoid replacing two members (the appointed member and a Financial Trustee) of this four-person Committee at one time. (Besides, the prospect of losing both Ward and the late Zeph Stewart at the same time was too terrible to contemplate.) In 2004 he started the term as Financial Trustee which concludes in Anaheim.  Every member of the Association owes Ward a great debt of gratitude.  In both appointed and elected office he has combined his incomparable knowledge of the history of our field with a solid understanding of what members need from the Association and a careful study of financial realities inside and outside of the APA. 

Capital Campaign and Annual Giving. I am very grateful to the members who came forward this year with generous gifts not only to the campaign but also to annual giving. Particularly in difficult financial times it is unpleasant to have to ask you to support two different fund-raising goals, but it is necessary.  The Gateway campaign is about our future:  our ability to maintain the American Office of l'Année philologique after the current (and final) NEH grant expires in June 2011 and to fund new projects that we are only beginning to realize that we need.  During 2009 our Education, Publications, and Research Divisions held meetings that are likely to generate new programs that we will want to implement.  As Toph Marshall put it during this year's Research Division retreat, "This is our innovation fund," and we will depend on it to bring these good ideas to fruition.

While many members (about 350 of them) have been generous, many more (about 2,500) have not yet made a campaign pledge.  If you are in that group, please consider doing so.  We need to raise slightly over $1.1 million by January 2011 to claim all outstanding matching funds in our NEH challenge grant.  On the other hand, it is unlikely that APA members alone could generate that much revenue in a single year, and it is here that the decline in financial markets has made our fund raising for the Gateway campaign more difficult.  Both foundations and wealthy individuals have seen their assets shrink and so have reduced their levels of giving. 

One of our responses to these conditions was to organize, with major assistance from Prof. Gregory Nagy and his staff at the Center for Hellenic Studies, an event at the Center in late September at which Garry Wills, a member of the Campaign's Honorary Advisory Committee (and a generous contributor to the Campaign itself), gave a talk entitled "Reading Greek in Jail:  The Importance of Greek in My Life."  The purpose of the event was to introduce the Campaign to people unfamiliar with our organization and to give an example of the Gateway's promise of conveying our enthusiasm for Classical antiquity to a wider audience. We made a number of new friends at that event and are considering something similar in New Yorkthis Spring. 

I think that in the coming year we will have to give donors even more reasons to support the Campaign.  This will entail, among other things, giving more concrete examples of what we mean by a digital portal and an American Center for Classics Research and Teaching.  The demonstration video that Ward Briggs made last year (http://www.apaclassics.org/campaign/campaign.html) and the event at CHS were good starts in this direction.  But, even with a burgeoning "innovation fund", APA by itself cannot provide all the information about the ancient world that people inside and outside of academia want.  Further, it would be wasteful for us to duplicate the good work on the Internet that many members and nonmembers are already doing.  What we can do is help people to find that good work, and fortunately, a number of members have already volunteered to assist with this effort. In Anaheimthe Outreach Committee and other groups will be moving this project forward.

At the same time as the Campaign is about our future, annual giving is about our present.  To avoid further reductions in current programs at a time when - as described above - we need to limit our draw on our existing endowment, we need members' support in this area as well.  This year our Development Director Julie Carew has made it easier for you to support both funds by implementing online donation mechanisms for both annual giving and the Gateway campaign.  You can easily find these links by clicking on "Support APA" in the top right-hand corner of the main page of our redesigned web site.  

Communication with Members.  In 2009 we instituted some significant changes in the way we communicate with members, and that work is ongoing. Members clearly welcomed the opportunity to vote in Association elections online.  Nearly 1,200 members (out of an eligible total of about 2,800) cast ballots.  In my ten years at APA, the highest participation in an election was 491 members although my predecessor (three times removed) Roger Bagnall recalls participation in the 700-800 range when he was Secretary-Treasurer in the early 1980's. Whether you use my experience or Roger's as a base, the election turnout is clearly much improved.  A number of you suggested improvements for the online ballot, and we will implement them next year.

Also in the coming year we will have online submission of annual meeting panel proposals and abstracts that are reviewed by the Program Committee. Josh Ober put me in touch with a group at the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) that handles electronic conference submissions and proceedings for a wide variety of academic groups, and we are already well on our way to having our own system in place.  Because of the decentralized nature of our program, we present some challenges to SSRN.  Our Program Committee reviews just over half of all original submissions for an annual meeting program.  Members also submit abstracts to more than a dozen affiliated groups and four or five sponsors of organizer-refereed panels, and the Program Committee sees their sessions only when the groups have finished their review of abstracts.  It then reviews those sessions only for adherence to Association regulations.  For at least a while, therefore, I think it's likely that we'll have a hybrid system of electronic submissions to the entire program.  If you want to submit to an affiliated group or organizer refereed panel, you'll follow each one's submission instructions.  If you're submitting an at-large panel or an individual abstract, you'll submit to the APA Program Committee via SSRN's web site. In developing all of these mechanisms the first priority of my office will be to ensure that procedures for anonymous review remain firmly in place. 

We also implemented a new, and, I think, cleaner web site design this year.  The process of changing to the new design and a new server took longer than we wanted it to, but it turned out to be a labor-intensive process to bring over all the old material we have on the site (particularly more than a decade's worth of annual meeting abstracts and job postings) with their URLs intact.  Web Editor Robin Mitchell-Boyask has more than enough to worry about keeping the site current; so, my office was responsible for the archives.  And, again, I apologize for problems last Fall when we were finally ready to transfer the site to its new host.

One of the advantages of the new host is that my office can post updates without creating extra work for Robin although in the process all of us in the Office have learned how much we don't know about HTML coding as we tried to post materials without disrupting the site's design.  Once the annual meeting is over, we're all looking forward to obtaining the appropriate training.  And it's particularly important that we do so because, in my opinion, the biggest problem caused by the financial savings we had to institute is that fewer members got regular information about the Association via the Newsletter than when we knew it appeared in their non-electronic mailboxes. 

Jim O'Donnell has already suggested that this is an opportunity rather than a problem, that rather than waiting to communicate with members every other month, the Newsletter should become a series of postings on our web site as information becomes available with periodic compilations for members who still want to receive a print version.  I'll be talking with the Board about this during the annual meeting. 

Membership. Our total membership declined from 3,170 at this time last year to 3,140. Only half of the decline represents a loss of individual members; the remainder are institutions who have given up subscriptions to TAPA. The loss of institutional subscribers for the print version of TAPA is more than offset by the growing presence of the journal in both Project Muse and JSTOR.  Far more libraries have access to TAPA via Muse than ever held print subscriptions.  The loss of individual members is another matter.  Many of them are senior members of the profession, and the APA suffers more from the loss of their "intellectual capital" than their dues payments.  I think that we often lose members through inadvertence, and one of my goals for the coming year is to increase the number of reminders that my office issues.  The fact that Johns Hopkins Press has had a mechanism for online renewals should help in this regard.

I am very grateful to the 45 departments who continued to participate in the departmental membership program.  At a time when everyone has to institute budget cuts, even the $100 payments from B.A.-granting departments must have been hard to come by.  We rely on the income generated by this program that the NEH will match for both the American Office of l'Année and our TLL Fellowship. 

Interactions with Other Organizations.  I continue to benefit from my participation in the ACLS' Conference of Administrative Officers (CAO) and in the National Humanities Alliance (NHA).  Please see the latter organization's web site (http://www.nhalliance.org/events/2010-am-had/index.shtml) to learn about NHA's Humanities Advocacy Day this coming March.  This is a program designed to inform members of Congress about the NEH and other issues of importance to the humanities.  For the 2010 fiscal year, in part because of NHA efforts, the NEH budget increased by over 8%, but the total funding level (about $167.5 million) is still, adjusted for inflation, well below funding levels in the 1980's and early 1990's.  More work is obviously still needed.

This year Heather Gasda or I attended all of the other Classics meetings that are regularly on our calendar:  CAAS in the Fall, CANE and CAMWS in the Spring, and the ACL Institute in early Summer. In addition, I was invited to the annual meeting of Eta Sigma Phi in March to receive that organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.  Having spent two decades outside of Classics, I was somewhat embarrassed to receive this award, but it was a great pleasure to attend the meeting and meet the enthusiastic students that many of you are teaching.  I am also very grateful to CAAS for giving me an Ovatio.  The length of my "to do" list is as long as it ever was, but it is gratifying to know that what my colleagues and I here in the Philadelphiaoffice have already done is worthy of recognition.

I was also pleased to continue to participate in the important work we're doing with ACL to develop standards for secondary school Latin teachers, an effort that complements our work together a decade ago to develop standards for Latin students.  The task force writing these standards met again at Bryn Mawr Collegethis October to review the many comments received on the first draft earlier in the year and to prepare a final version for approval by our Board and ACL's Executive Committee this January.  We owe a great debt to the leaders of that task force, our outgoing Vice President for Education, Lee Pearcy, and ACL President Sherwin Little, for their hard work on this project.

Our hope is that these standards will influence organizations that assess teacher performance, and that they will serve as guidelines that academic institutions can use to develop teacher-training programs specifically for Latin teachers.  There are many training opportunities for foreign language teachers in general, but the specific needs of Latin teachers are rarely addressed.  The lack of such training opportunities in turn makes it harder for would-be Latin teachers to obtain certification for public schools.  More training opportunities, however, will support the capital campaign's goal of eliminating the current shortage of high school teachers, and capital campaign funds will serve as a further incentive for the development of such courses by providing scholarships for participants and stipends for master teachers and scholars from outside of the host institution.

Amphora.  A cost-saving measure we took this year that I particularly regret is the decision to publish only one issue of Amphora during the current fiscal year.  The issue we normally publish in late Fall will appear in March, and there will be no issue in late Spring.  Again, to receive Amphora in printed form, you must check the appropriate box on your 2010 dues bill. 

Although nonmember subscriptions remain low, discussions I have had, particularly at other Classics meetings, have convinced me that Amphora has an enthusiastic audience, mainly on the web.  Further, it has an important symbolic value in the broad community of Classicists in North America. That community wants to know that the APA cares about the field beyond basic scholarship and its own membership, and Amphorademonstrates our concern.  Individual issues have had useful lives in primary and secondary school classrooms and in "friends of Classics" groups, and I don't think we should lose this opportunity to be a good citizen.  The publication's Editorial Board led by Editor Davina McClain, will meet in Anaheim and will talk about ways both to increase subscriptions and improve our web presence. 

Research and Publications Divisions.  During 2009 Eric Rebillard, Editor of the online version l'Année philologique, completed a planning grant funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to consider ways to improve APh Online's search interface and to link its citations to both ancient texts and modern scholarship.  As a result of this work, the Société Internationale de Bibliographie Classique (SIBC), the oversight body for l'Année, has already commissioned the development of a new interface and of better links to modern scholarship.  These new features should be available early in 2010.  In addition, Mellon has encouraged us to submit a new proposal that will fund the complicated work of creating the links to online versions of ancient texts, and I have been working with Eric on this proposal over the last few months.  Earlier this year I helped him to make a successful application for a planning grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation to explore the possibility of links from l'Annéerecords to images on the Internet. 

Note that all of this activity took place during a year when the final volumes of l'Année digitized by Dee Clayman's Database of Classical Bibliography project were added to APh Online.  This conjunction should remind us that the APA has traditionally been and continues to be an important generator of improvements in the most important bibliography in the field.  Please keep this in mind when you consider the major Gateway Campaign goal of building an endowment for the American Office of l'Année.  Through its oversight of the Office, the APA not only puts most of the work produced by its members into the field's major bibliography, it is in a position to seek funding from foundations like Mellon and Kress and to bring innovative ideas to SIBC.

Every year when I attend the Program Committee's meetings, I get to do a little bit of work but mostly listen to five smart people talk about the present state of Classical Studies. These are usually my favorite days at work, but this year they had competition from the retreats that Roger Bagnall and Jim O'Donnell organized for the Research and Publications Divisions, respectively.  Those were opportunities to listen to a dozen or so smart people talk about the future of Classical Studies.  Roger and Jim will tell you about the results of these retreats in their vice presidential reports, and I look forward to helping them with the work these meetings will generate.

Placement Service. The number of institutions interviewing at the annual meeting is probably the best indicator of the job market at this time of the year because it can be compared to the same number last year.  (In the Spring, near the end of the academic year, I think it makes sense to compare the number of jobs posted from one year to another.) I am sorry but not very surprised to report that the number has declined from 55 to 42 although among the 42 are some searches that were ultimately cancelled last year.  The Service is another area where we are looking at taking advantage of new technologies, but doing so will present a special challenge because it is a joint service with AIA, and only members of one or the other society can register as candidates. (Institutions posting jobs do not need to show membership so that we can make members aware of the largest possible number of opportunities.)  In addition, we continue to think that the actual interview scheduling process has to be done by a human being, not so much to avoid direct conflicts but to keep candidates and institutions from having too many interviews in a row or too close together in too distant places. Much of what Placement Director Renie Plonski does as she develops schedules is to look out for these kinds of conflicts that might not be apparent to a computer program.  However, I think we ought to be able to collect scheduling information from both candidates and institutions once they are registered in a more automated fashion, and I hope we can do so next year.

Finally on this topic, I ask members to keep in mind that the Service does more than post jobs on the web site and schedule interviews.  It is carefully monitored by a joint APA/AIA Committee that serves as a recourse if either candidates or institutions feel that they are being treated unfairly.  To do its job, the Committee needs to have the information Renie gathers when she collects registration forms and reports on the results of job searches.

Annual Meeting.  The meeting in Anaheimwill probably attract around 1,900 paid registrants.  This is a good number in light of cutbacks in travel funds, increases in airfares, and the reduced number of institutions interviewing. Last year in Philadelphia, paid registration was just over 2,450 (the same figure we had in Bostonin 2005), and Chicago(2008) attracted 2,600.  In almost all other years the numbers have ranged from 2,000 to 2,300. 

This year we were able to print the annual meeting Program in time to mail it to the few members who requested it in advance of the meeting.  Of course, we can also mail copies afterwards.  I am particularly looking forward to the Placement Committee's usual session on the first night of the meeting because the Committee has given me the opportunity to make a presentation at the APA meeting for the first time in my 30 years of membership. 

Members need to be aware that one of the major cost savings we have instituted for this year is to offer only minimal food service and no complimentary beverage at the President's Reception.  APA has never had the resources to mount a truly lavish reception, and I think we are better off seeing this event as a place finally to meet friends we haven't managed to see during the meeting rather than a shortcut to dinner. 

Heather Gasda and I are extremely grateful to Maria Pantelia of the Universityof California, Irvinewho chaired the Local Arrangements Committee.  She instituted an innovative web-based scheduling tool for the volunteers who are helping us to manage the meeting, and this is something Heather Gasda hopes to carry forward in subsequent years.

Universityof Pennsylvania.  I am extremely grateful to the University for allowing us to remain in Claudia Cohen Hall for one additional year.  Being surrounded by the faculty and students of the Classical Studies Department keeps us informed of issues in the field we might otherwise miss, and, when we finally do have to leave that building (which I firmly expect to happen this coming Summer), it is quite likely that we will need to pay higher rent.  I continue to make annual presentations about the APA and the state of affairs for Classics in American academia to the entering graduate students and postbaccalaureate students in the Classical Studies Department.  In previous years I was one of the first speakers in the weekly proseminar that the Department offers to its new graduate students; this year, Joe Farrell decided to put me last, and that seems to have been a very good decision.  The resulting discussion was much more substantial.  (I also want to thank Hugh Lee and Judy Hallett for inviting me to give a similar presentation to the graduate students from the Universityof Maryland and Catholic University.) 

Last January I asked the Board to extend my term as Executive Director for three years (from July 2009 to June 2012), and the Board voted that extension.  My previous terms have been five years, but I asked for this shorter term because I hope the Association will conduct a major strategic planning exercise in early 2011 at the end of the capital campaign, and because it is unclear how moving our offices from Cohen Hall will affect our operations and finances.  If the planning exercise recommends a different administrative structure, or if our new location becomes too burdensome, the APA will be able to make the necessary changes.  I think that having the Research and Publications Division retreats this year will make that subsequent strategic planning session more productive.  If we already have a good idea of where we want to go intellectually, it will be easier to identify the structures that can achieve those goals.

Conclusion. I want to conclude by thanking all members, especially those on committees and the Board, for their support of my office's efforts.  I look forward to welcoming many of you to Anaheimlater this week, and I urge you to let me know if you have any questions or suggestions about Association operations.

Adam D. Blistein
Executive Director
January 5, 2010

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