Over the summer, the SCS Board of Directors has had several discussions about the 2023 Annual Meeting in New Orleans. These deliberations echoed all the concerns that the Board has heard from members via two annual meeting surveys, email correspondence, and social media. We realize many will opt to participate virtually because of financial constraints, health concerns, and potential travel disruptions. We further share the outrage of many members about the assaults on reproductive justice, and racial and gender equity, in Louisiana and other states. The Board has also had to confront the reality of our contractual obligations to the annual meeting hotel that were put in place several years ago.
A hybrid conference does not solve these problems, but it does provide choice. Some of us will be participating in our hybrid annual conference in person, while others will virtually. We realize that not everyone feels that a hybrid event will be a satisfying experience, but we ask patience and understanding as we experiment with new formats and modes of meeting, particularly in the difficult circumstances of the upcoming conference.
We commit to do the following: (a) ensure that we have robust public health protocols in place, the details of which will be announced in November; (b) provide information to attendees on reproductive healthcare in New Orleans; (c) engage in advocacy on racial, reproductive and LGBTQIA+ justice, which affects all members of our community; and (d) issue communications that respect everyone's decisions regarding their mode of participation and desire to participate, or not, in the meeting.
Owing to the terms of our contract with the New Orleans Hyatt, projections about attendance, and the costs of equipment and technology for the hybrid meeting, registration rates are rising to cover conference costs. Recognizing that virtual attendees do not incur additional costs for travel and accommodations, and that virtual attendance itself costs much less than in-person attendance, AIA and SCS have made the difficult decision to increase virtual attendance rates more than in-person rates. We will also provide increased participation funding for students and contingent faculty attending in-person and virtually. To ensure that we can offer this support, we will be fundraising this fall; we will shortly circulate information on how members can contribute to this fundraising effort as and when they are able.
Finally, SCS will not be signing any future meeting contracts with hotels, beyond those to which it is already committed, until the organization has rethought the nature of the annual meeting and developed a policy for site selection that takes into account the safety of attendees, the principles in our Statement on Professional Ethics, and issues of access and equity for participants. AIA and SCS already have contracts in place with hotels for the annual meeting in Chicago in 2024 and Philadelphia in 2025. The organizations have also committed to sign a contract with the San Francisco Hilton for 2026 or beyond, as part of negotiations after the cancellation of the 2022 in-person meeting. We will be in touch later with more information about the process we are developing to rethink the annual meeting and about how members can contribute to the process.
Approved by the SCS Board of Directors