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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Forum Romanum

The Society for Classical Studies (SCS) is delighted to announce the first annual nomination period for our Forum Prize.

The Forum Prize - presented by the the SCS Committee on Public Information and Media Relations - recognizes outstanding contributions to public engagement made by non-academic works about the ancient Greek and Roman world. It empowers the SCS to build bridges with a broader public by rewarding the best public-facing essays, books, poems, articles, podcasts, films, and art produced each year by someone (either a classicist or a non-classicist) working primarily outside of the academy.

Image by Andreas Tille - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41103

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Tue, 08/14/2018 - 9:06am by Helen Cullyer.
San Diego Reflecting Pond

SCS is now accepting applications for travel stipends for the 2019 Annual Meeting in San Diego. Click here for more information and to apply.



Image by Rufustelestrat, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 08/13/2018 - 10:58am by Helen Cullyer.
Roman Era Mummy Portraits from the Getty, Met, Wikimedia.

Princeton University’s Department of Classics has launched a new pre-doctoral fellowship for promising young Classicists who would contribute to the diversity of the University. Premised on a recognition that access to Classics is not equitable, the fellowship provides both preparation for and admission to Princeton’s Ph.D. program. I reached out to Professors Michael Flower and Dan-el Padilla Peralta to learn more about the concerns and conversations that gave birth to this fellowship. Below is our exchange, lightly edited for clarity.

Park: This fellowship is, as far as I know, unique. From what I can gather, it essentially offers financial support for post-baccalaureate study along with admission to Princeton’s Ph.D. program upon completion of the post-bacc. It seems to me unusual to fund a post-bacc—can you tell me how the idea for this level of support came about? Were there other fellowships that inspired Princeton’s?

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 08/13/2018 - 7:38am by Arum Park.
Vergilius Romanus. Shepherd with flocks (Georgics, Book III). First half of the 5th c., 22 x 22.5 cm. Vatican Apostolic Library. Vat. Lat. 3867. F ° 44v. Image via Wikipedia by Public Domain.

In our fourth post from the SCS’ Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance (CAMP), high school Latin teacher Patrick Hogan explores how to bring Vergil to life through dramatic performance. 

Teachers of Greek and Latin, no matter how experienced, are always looking for new ways to bring ancient language to life for their students, whether through basic oral conversation, reading passages of prose or poetry aloud, or translation from modern English into Latin or Greek. In my opinion, teachers should make more frequent use of a fourth option, i.e., public, staged readings of poetry. I have found success in performances of Vergil’s Eclogues at the private high school where I teach.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 08/09/2018 - 8:56am by Patrick Paul Hogan.
NEH Logo

August, 2018

Below is a list of the most recent NEH grantees and their Classically-themed projects. The NEH helps fund a number of SCS initiatives, and their support affects the field of Classics at a national and local level.

Grantees

  • Amir Zeldes (Georgetown University) - "A Linked Digital Environment for Coptic Studies"
    • Digital Humanities Advancement Grants
  • Robert Kanigel (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) - "American Scholar Milman Parry (1902-1935) and the Study of Oral Tradition in Classical Literature"
    • Public Scholar Program
  • Christopher Ratte (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) - "Notion Archaeological Research Project: The Biography of an Ancient Greek Urban Community"
    • Collaborative Research
  • Thomas Madden (St. Louis University) - "The Fall of Republics: A History"
    • Public Scholar Program
  • James Romm (Bard College) - "The Sacred Band of Thebes and the Last Days of Greek Freedom (379-338 B.C.)"
    • Public Scholar Program
  • Tyler Jo Smith (University of Virginia) - "Linked Open Greek Pottery"
    • Digital Humanities Advancement Grants

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View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Wed, 08/08/2018 - 10:05am by Erik Shell.

SAGP at Central and Pacific Divisions of the American Philosophical Association 2019

The Deadline for submission of papers for the SAGP panels at the Central and Pacific Division meetings of the APA is coming up soon: SEPTEMBER 1. Papers on any topic in Ancient Greek Philosophy, from the 6th century BCE to the 6th century CE, may be considered.

The 2019 Central Division Meeting will be 2/20/19 – 2/23/19 in Denver (Westin Downtown).

The 2019 Pacific Division Meeting will be 4/17/19 - 4/20/19 in Vancouver (Westin Bayshore).

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 08/07/2018 - 11:02am by Erik Shell.
54th International Congress on Medieval Studies 2019
Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 9-12, 2019 
 
Bridging the Gap: Classicists and Medievalists in Continuous Dialogue
sponsored by the Classical Association for the Midwest and South. Organizer: Anise K. Strong

We are calling for papers that address ways in which medieval society, texts, and material culture perpetuate and adapt earlier traditions and practices from the ancient world. While papers concerning the reception of literary texts are welcome, we are particularly interested in papers that seek to make connections between ancient and medieval religious practices, local customs and traditions, artistic styles or types of media, persistent urban centers, enduring clans or families, social attitudes towards oppressed groups or minorities, or deliberate political and social echoes of earlier classical forms of government. We define “ancient” and “medieval” broadly in this context. Papers about the influence of Zoroastrianism on medieval writings about magic would be as enthusiastically greeted as papers about the use of ancient Greek political terms to describe Scandinavian Things. 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 08/06/2018 - 10:47am by Erik Shell.
Vincenzo Camuccini. The Assassination of Julius Caesar, between 1804 and 1805. Oil on canvas. Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea.

Historical fiction based in the ancient world has long been a fruitful way to encourage the interest of non-specialists in the ancient world. These novels can also be used profitably to improve classroom pedagogy. I regularly assign a work of historical fiction in my online Intro to Ancient Rome course.  This summer, I opted for Steven Saylor’s most recent addition to his Gordianus series, The Throne of Caesar. My students in the summer are nearly all STEM majors who are looking to complete a core requirement, often while simultaneously working full-time. I need to select novels that are readable, follow Roman history accurately, and add dimension to the world and characters that they are studying. Ideally, the novel will also encourage the students to think about some aspect of Roman history from a new perspective.  For instance, Saylor’s Catalina’s Riddle tells the story of the Catilinarian conspiracy from the perspective of Catiline rather than Cicero and reminds students to pay close attention to Cicero’s presentation of the events. Robert Harris’s Imperium invites the reader into Cicero’s life at the very start of his career, to learn how Cicero became Cicero.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 08/02/2018 - 4:10pm by Jen Ebbeler.

From the ACLS (www.acls.org):

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) has posted Fellowship application guidelines and deadlines for the 2018-2019 application cycle.  Those relevant to Classicists include:

See the announcement and full fellowships list here.

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(Photo: "library" by Viva Vivanista, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Tue, 07/31/2018 - 11:21am by Erik Shell.
Fairfield University's Classical Studies Program is proud to invite you to a colloquium presenting original research in memory of our departed colleague, Professor Vincent J. Rosivach.
 
When: Saturday, October 13, 2018, 9 AM to 5 PM.
Where: Diffley Board Room, Bellarmine Hall, Fairfield University.
What: Guest speakers, a light breakfast, lunch, and a wine reception.
 
Confirmed Speakers:
 
Sean Gleason (If only Romans could write like Greeks: Some linguistic humor in Sallust's Catilina 8)
Judith Hallett  (Vilicus and Vilica in De Agri Cultura: the elder Cato's script for a farming couple)
David Konstan (Jesus’ Sense of Sin) 
R. James Long  (Why Fishacre? an apologia for a critical edition)
Mary Jean McNamara  (Achilles: The Internal Vision and Isolation of the Greek Hero in the Iliad)
Ann Raia (In Memoriam: Women Transcending Death in Ancient Rome)
Jennifer Roberts (Vincent Rosivach and Citizenship)
Marice Rose (From Polychrome to Monochrome: The Reception of Ancient Art by Contemporary Artists)
Katherine Schwab (Polychromy and the Parthenon Metopes)
Becky Sinos (Greek Mothers and Daughters and the Blessed Afterlife)
View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 07/31/2018 - 8:09am by Erik Shell.

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