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Program—Fall 2012

As in the past, during spring 2012 the Program Committee worked with the usual assortment of APA divisions and committees, affiliated groups, and independent organizers to collect and vet proposals for both entire sessions and individual papers. Again as in the past, the committee met twice in Philadelphia to discuss these proposals, once on April 14 to discuss entire panels and once on June 29–30 to discuss individual abstracts.

At the April 14 meeting the Committee evaluated proposals for 8 at-large panels, 7 committee panels, 4 seminars, 4 workshops, and 3 roundtable discussions for the Seattle meeting in 2013 as well as 5 proposals for organizer-refereed panels for the Chicago meeting in 2014.  The Committee approved all the proposed seminars, workshops, and roundtable discussions, 4 of the 8 proposals for at-large panels, and 3 of the 5 proposals for organizer-refereed panels.  It accepted 6 of the 7 proposals from other APA committees, requesting resubmission of 1.  (That panel was subsequently accepted.)  The Committee also approved charters for 2 existing and 1 new affiliated group (Category II) and reviewed reports on 4 organizer-refereed panels and 17 panels organized by affiliated groups for 2013.  All of these were accepted for the Program.

Here I would note that, as has long been the case, the rate of acceptance for all forms of panel submission remains relatively high. I would encourage members to remember this fact when considering whether to submit individual abstracts for the next annual meeting. If history is any guide, they might have a much better chance obtaining a place on the program if they can identify a few colleagues, particularly those who may be considering individual abstract proposals in related areas, with whom they could work to shape all of their ideas into a single panel proposal. Here I would stress that there is no policy in place that favors panels over individual abstracts; but the higher acceptance rate enjoyed by panel proposals of all sorts, whatever the reason for it may be, seems worth bearing in mind.

One difference in the submission process this year involved the system that we use to classify individual abstracts. As we have explained in the past, the committee uses this system simply to organize the task of reading 400+ abstracts. However, some members have wondered whether the existence of fixed categories such as “Greek epic” and “Roman history” has a dampening effect on the character and quality of abstracts that we receive, by seeming to prescribe and even to limit the areas that the committee is prepared to consider. With regard to history in particular, many members feel that the categories “Greek history” and “Roman history” are both too broad in themselves, that they still do not do justice to the range of historical research in which our members are engaged, and that there is some prejudice involved in the fact that these categories are so significantly outnumbered by categories representing different literary genres. To begin addressing these issues, the committee made two changes. First, we doubled the number of categories on our list from twenty-six to fifty-two, introducing a number of categories such as “Hellenistic Greek poetry” and “Roman Republican history.” In addition, we offered submitters the possibility of describing their abstracts more flexibly according to one or more categories, such as language, culture, date, genre, methodology, and so on. This second categorization was not required, but for those who found the fixed list of categories too confining, it did offer the opportunity to describe one’s abstract as dealing with (e.g.) “Greek philosophy in the Second Sophistic,” “Comparative studies in Greek and Roman gender and sexuality,” and so on. The results of this first effort were a bit equivocal. For instance, only a minority of those who submitted abstracts elected to use the new system; and of those who did, virtually no one described his or her submission in a way that could not be adequately captured by the older system. However, it has been suggested that the system was not adequately explained to the membership, so we will try it again this year and will do more to make sure that everyone understands the purpose of the more flexible system of categorization.

This year the committee was assisted in vetting individual abstracts by several at-large members of the APA board. We are extremely grateful for their advice, which made our work much more efficient. The number of submissions for the Seattle meeting was down slightly from the previous one in Philadelphia, which was a record, but was still well over 400, as has been normal for several years. We accepted 31% of the abstracts that were submitted, which is very close to the historical average. Full details about demographics and so forth are appended to this report.

The committee continued the practice it began last year of asking presiders to take an active role in working with the presenters assigned to their sessions, both by offering feedback on abstracts and, if possible, early drafts of papers in advance of the annual meeting, and during the meeting itself by acting as commentator or even respondent, to the extent that this was appropriate. We also continued the practice of inviting contributions to fill out panels that contained only three papers, because experience suggests that such panels tend to attract less attention than those with four or five papers. New this year was an extension of the time allotted for individual papers from fifteen to twenty minutes. These measures seem to have been appreciated by participants, and the Committee would be happy to receive suggestions for further improvements to the program.

About the annual meeting itself, there is not much to add. The Committee took advantage of an open slot on the first night of the meeting to hold an information session entitled “Pathways to the Program.” The session was reasonably well attended, and it took the form of a discussion; that is to say, information flowed in both directions, and I myself came away with a number of concrete suggestions for improvement, or in other cases a heightened awareness of issues that are on the minds of at least some members, and I plan to make these a topic for discussion among Committee members over the spring. The vast majority of paper sessions ran smoothly. There were, as usual, a few last-minute problems, mainly of a technical nature, and we will, as usual, work to minimize these.

I would like to close by thanking my Program Committee colleagues, Chris Faraone, Kirk Freudenburg, Maud Gleason, and Corinne Pache, for their efforts. Special thanks to Maud as she completes her term on the Committee: I know that the other Committee members would eagerly join me in saying that she has been an exemplary colleague in every way, and that we will miss her. At the same time, they will eagerly join me in welcoming Emma Dench, who begins her three-year term this spring. Thanks as well to Peter Bing, Sara Forsdyke, Kathryn Morgan, Matt Roller, and Ann Vasaly for their advice and cooperation in the early stages of the vetting process. And, as always, thanks to Heather Gasda and to Adam for providing the effective support that permits the committee members to do their work in a focused and efficient way.

Joseph Farrell
Vice President for Program


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