Presidential Letter - Annual Meeting Location (Pt. 1)

In my first presidential letter, right after the annual meeting last January, I wrote about the need to consider not only where we meet, but at what time of year. This letter addresses the first question; I will write separately about the other one.

When I wrote my previous letter, we had already signed contracts for meetings through 2024, and since then we have signed another for 2025; the details are here. So, no immediate change is possible, but we still must move quickly since we have to make decisions that far in advance in order to get the venues we want, when we want them, and at an affordable price. It will soon be time to sign a contract for 2026, no matter where, or on what specific days we want to meet.

With that in mind, I wish I could say there are no other constraints, but in reality there are some powerful ones. Apologies to those who already know all of this, but from talking to quite a few members over recent months, I’ve got the impression that explaining the basic issues might be beneficial.

The first point is very simple, but very important:

SCS members and AIA members agree that they want SCS and AIA to continue holding a Joint Annual Meeting.

I know this seems so obvious that I shouldn’t have to mention it, or spell out the equally obvious corollary that an SCS-only meeting would be just half the size of what we’re used to. Size is crucially important because a meeting of 2,000 is just too big for most cities, but not quite big enough for some others. By and large, the fourteen cities we have visited over the past twenty-three years define the universe of possibilities. Some we’ve visited more than once (Chicago 1997, 2008, 2014; Philadelphia 2002, 2009, 2012; San Diego 1995, 2001, 2007; Boston 2005, 2018; New Orleans 2003, 2015; San Francisco 2004, 2016), others not (Anaheim 2010; Dallas 1999; Montreal  2006; New York 1996; Seattle 2013; San Antonio 2011; Toronto 2017; Washington 1998). What they all have in common are facilities adequate to handle a meeting our size, plus good service by air and rail carriers. Most also offer meeting venues close to a vibrant downtown area affording excellent dining, cultural, and other off-hours attractions.

People often ask about other cities that seem like good prospects, but that do not compare well to those on this list. Atlanta and Orlando are warm-weather cities that have the facilities we require; one is a major air travel hub, and the other is not hard to get to. The main reason we haven’t gone to either place is that members, when polled about annual meeting venues, have not ranked them very high. Maybe in light of recent experiences that will change; and in any case, what we say we want to do and what we actually do are sometimes very different things (see further below). People also ask about cities they especially like, but that could never accommodate a meeting the size of ours. Take Santa Barbara, a city where I once lived and now visit as often as I can; but getting 2,000 of us into town within 24 to 36 hours, and then out again within 12 to 18, would be physically impossible; and even if we did get in, I can’t imagine where we would sleep, or meet, or eat, and what it would all cost.

Another complication is that some states have passed laws that discriminate against some of our members. The main category of such laws targets the LGBT community. There are eight states that have passed such laws, but Texas is the only one  which has cities capable of hosting our annual meeting. For ethical reasons, we will not be going back there while these laws are on the books. In practical terms, it is also the case that employees of the state of California — including those affiliated with public universities — cannot get reimbursed for their travel to those states. In these cases, ethics and practical considerations align, but it is worth remembering that factors outside our control can play a role in where we can hold the meeting.

I’m always glad when people ask me about such things, because I’m grateful for the opportunity to explain — even though I wish this weren’t the case — that there really are only a few places that can accommodate our meeting. In fact, it was the experience of fielding such questions that gave me the idea of writing this letter.

What else goes into selecting a site? By custom, we try to mix it up by moving from East to Midwest to West from year to year, including Canada in the rotation about once every ten years. Apart from that, it’s basically a matter of getting the best deal on rooms and meeting space for our attendees. (Here it’s worth remembering that we could certainly get better rates if we were smaller and could go to different cities. But we are in a bracket that puts us in competition with the corporate sector for the facilities that we need. That is another factor that will come up in my next letter about where we meet, because we can do better if we meet when the corporate world is less interested in doing so. But I’ll save that for later.)

Finally, there is the matter of actual attendance. Here are the paid registration figures, from best to worst, for 1998–2018:

2012 Philadelphia 2,833
2008 Chicago 2,566
2014 Chicago 2,477
2016 San Francisco 2,476
2005 Boston 2,471
2009 Philadelphia 2,464
2015 New Orleans 2,408
2007 San Diego 2,271
1998 Washington 2,264
2017 Toronto 2,188
2013 Seattle 2,159
2018 Boston 2,094
2004 San Francisco 2,094
2006 Montreal 2,049
2002 Philadelphia 2,031
2011 San Antonio 1,974
2003 New Orleans 1,945
2010 Anaheim 1,905
2001 San Diego 1,882
1999 Dallas 1,407
Twenty Year Average 2,198

Now, SCS is in the business of breaking even, not making money. So, too, with the annual meeting our goal is not to lose money. The break-even point is a total paid registration somewhere between about 2,000 and 2,200. (The actual break-even point fluctuates because some cities are just more expensive than others.) As the chart shows, we have usually been within or very near that range. When we’ve been over it, that has meant a good year for the Society in financial terms; but when we’re below it, it has meant a very difficult year. So, we do have to hold the meeting in places that will attract members.

A complication: It turns out, as I mentioned above, that there is some tension between where we say we want to go and where we actually show up. San Diego, where we will be meeting next January, always polls well, but our last two meetings there drew an average of just over 2,000 — on target for breaking even, but offering no cushion in case of an off year. Chicago, on the other hand, a name that sets people to grumbling — understandably after 2014 — has averaged over 2,300 attendees, a number that gives us some flexibility regarding sites we choose in other years. But also, quite apart from financial viability, my (admittedly subjective) experience has always been that a well-attended meeting is a more successful one from every point of view: there are more people going to paper sessions and participating in discussions, meeting old friends, making new ones, and so forth. So, to state the obvious once again, it’s going to continue to be important to meet in cities that will attract attendees, and there just aren’t that many of those.

I’ll close on that note and give you some time to digest this before I write about the related, and more difficult problem of whether we should meet at a different time of year.

- Joe Farrell

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ἀγών agōn: struggle, contest, trial, conflict, challenge, strife

with a pre-conference seminar on Empedocles’ Poem on nature and an Empedocles-themed post-conference tour

Sicily Center for International Education
Syracuse, Sicily, 12-15 June , 2019

The cultural and intellectual legacy of Western Greece—the coastal areas of Southern Italy and Sicily settled by Hellenes in the 8th and 7th centuries BCE—is sometimes overlooked in academia.  Yet evidence suggests that poets, playwrights, philosophers, and other maverick intellectuals found fertile ground here for the growth of their ideas and the harvesting of their work.  The goal of the Fonte Aretusa organization is to revive the distinctive spirit of Western Greece by exploring it from a variety of disciplinary perspectives including art history, archaeology, classics, drama, epigraphy, history, philosophy and religion.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 06/18/2018 - 9:54am by Erik Shell.
Façade of the Celsus library, in Ephesus, near Selçuk, west Turkey. Benh Lieu Song (Image via Wikimedia under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 License).

SCS’s Executive Director reflects on the experiences, challenges, and future of independent scholarship in our ongoing series on the subject.

All of our Independent Scholar blogposts have drawn on personal experiences, and mine is also personal.  Your posts have certainly helped me think more deeply and creatively about how the national classical society can support independent scholarship. My response falls into two parts: a celebration of the scholarly work that independent scholars are all currently doing in different ways, and some constructive responses to the challenges that independent scholars face.  


Now to address some challenges:

1. Access to Scholarly Resources

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 06/14/2018 - 4:46pm by Helen Cullyer.

Plato's Alcibiades I

20-22 Sept. 2018, Cambridge (UK)
Abstract submission deadline: 15 July 2018

Although the Platonic dialogue Alcibiades I was highly regarded in late antiquity and occupied a prominent place within the Neoplatonist curriculum, the dialogue has suffered from relative neglect both within classical and philosophical scholarship ever since Schleiermacher denounced it as spurious at the beginning of the 19th century. This conference will be dedicated wholly to the Alcibiades I, bringing together scholars who have been central in rekindling recent interest in the dialogue while also welcoming contributions from new researchers on the dialogue, including early career researchers and graduate students. Questions that might be addressed include, but are not limited to, questions about self-hood and self-knowledge, the soul-body relationship, politics and political influence, love, the role of the divine within the dialogue, as well as questions about authenticity and the place of the Alcibiades I within – or outside of – the Platonic corpus.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 06/13/2018 - 2:08pm by Erik Shell.
Gravestone of a woman with her attendant (100 BCE). Getty Villa (Image via Wikimedia under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 License).

Hackathons, events where software developers gather together to create in community a usable piece of computer programming in a short frame of time, are common occurrences in tech circles. One hosted this past February by the College of the Holy Cross, however, was the first time I’d seen this type of group work applied to translating ancient manuscripts.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 06/06/2018 - 4:38pm by Liz Penland.
Death of Socrates

The Association of American Colleges & Universities and the American Association of University Professors have recently signed on to a statement condemning the multi-front attack on the Humanities and a Liberal Arts education. 

"The disciplines of the liberal arts—and the overall benefit of a liberal education--are exemplary in this regard, for they foster intellectual curiosity about questions that will never be definitively settled..."

You can read the full statement here: https://www.aacu.org/about/statements/2018/joint-statement-value-liberal...

---

(Photo: "The Death of Socrates" by Jacques-Louis David, public domain)

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Fri, 06/01/2018 - 10:50am by Erik Shell.
Trajan’s Column: detail of frieze reliefs (image via Flickr by MCAD under a CC BY 2.0)

In her monthly SCS column, Dr. Cate Bonesho provides a photo essay recounting her trip inside of Trajan's Column and underneath the oculus of the Pantheon during Pentecost. 

Living in Rome has its perks. In addition to the amazing food and constant museum visits, there are a couple opportunities that are impossible to pass up. This past week in Rome, I took part in two of these events and, in the process, was able to cross two items off of my bucket list: climbing Trajan’s Column and watching the rose petals drop from the oculus of the Pantheon on Pentecost.






















The Imperial Fora from the Viewing Platform of Trajan’s Column. Image by Catherine Bonesho, unpublished.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 06/01/2018 - 5:56am by Catherine Bonesho.

CALL FOR PAPERS

Migrants and Refugees In the Law: Historic Evolution, Current Situation and Unsolved Questions

Murcia, Spain. December 12-14, 2018

International Chair Innocent III calls on all interested researchers to submit papers related to the human mobility and the reception of refugees according to History of Law, Canon Law, Roman Law, Comparative Law, Philosophy, Theology, History, Sociology, Historiography and any other discipline related to the main theme, as stated in the following:

SESSIONS

December 12: session 1. THE MIGRATION IN THE ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL HISTORY. Historical approach to human mobility.

December 13: session 2. NATION, STATE, REVOLUTION. The situation of the migrants and the refugees from the origin of the modern State.

December 14: session 3. BETWEEN EMERGENCY AND ORDINARINESS: Proposals for the enhancement of a constant phenomenon in the contemporary age.

PROPOSALS

Title, academic affiliation, short CV and Abstract - 200 words - (EN, IT, ES, DE, FR), via mail: catedrainocencio@gmail.com

DEADLINE

September 15, 2018. The Scientific Committee will respond to the proposal before September 30, 2018.

PUBLICATION

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 05/31/2018 - 9:26am by Erik Shell.
Some of the blacksmith buildings for the video game 0 A.D (Image via Wikimedia under a CC BY-SA 3.0 by Wildfire Games).

A Day in the Life of A Classicist is a monthly column on the SCS blog, celebrating the working lives of classicists. In this month’s edition, we speak with Hamish Cameron, who is a digital humanist, game designer, and lecturer in Classical and Medieval Studies at Bates College.

I’m an ancient historian who specializes in the Roman Near East, ancient geography, and borderland theory. I am beginning to branch into the reception of the classical world in contemporary pop-culture, especially games and movies.

As well as an academic, I’m a practicing analog game designer. Most of my hobbies are related to games in some way, so I’m always learning about how different games work and how different people encounter them. The close relationship between game design and classroom pedagogy means that thinking about games also bleeds into the classroom. As a game designer, everything I encounter, view and experience, becomes fodder for a game, and in many ways, also becomes fodder for pedagogy.

Hamish Cameron

Prof. Cameron at work at his desk at Bates College. 

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 05/28/2018 - 6:05am by Ayelet Haimson Lushkov.
Call for Papers
October 13, 2018.
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

Second University of Florida Classics Graduate Student Symposium

NATURA/φύσις vs. ARS/τέχνη: Artificial vs. Natural, in the Ancient World and Beyond

The development of ancient civilizations, reflected today in their literary, artistic, and architectural artifacts, was made possible by several scientific and technological advances. Aimed at improving the human condition, and enhanced by the philosophical observation of the natural world, ancient technologies gradually allowed for human habitation and expansion, and opened new avenues to artistic creation. Whether in the form of grand irrigation systems, harbors and ships, road systems, or city walls, ancient societies dynamically manifested their will to control the natural environment. Viewed, in contrast, as a domain of the divine, nature held an ambiguous position in the imagination of ancient peoples: it could be both hostile and propitious. In the realms of artistic and scientific invention, human creations are in constant dialogue with nature, trying either to imitate it, with varying levels of success, or to surpass it in perfection.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 05/24/2018 - 12:54pm by Erik Shell.

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