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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150th Logo

As part of the organization's Sesquicentennial celebrations, SCS has developed a short history of its book publications. You can read that history here and download a full list of books published by SCS, formerly the American Philological Association.

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Mon, 12/10/2018 - 11:35am by Helen Cullyer.

TEACHING ROME AT HOME

May 2-4, 2019, College Park, Maryland

The Department of Classics at the University of Maryland, College Park, invites proposals from university and K-12 teachers and graduate students for papers and workshops on the ways in which Latin and ancient Roman civilization are now being taught to and connected with a contemporary American audience, with special emphasis on issues of contemporary urgency such as the legacies of gender and social inequality and of slavery. 

The "Classics" were etymologically and institutionally synonymous with attending "class" in the United States from the colonial period up until the end of the nineteenth century.  Americans studied Roman history and literature in school and thus Rome seemed already to be their “home,” especially since the Romans deposed kings who once ruled them just as revolutionary Americans set out to do with the British King. Over its second century, however, America gradually confronted its idealization of a Roman past and began to explore, in discussions of women's rights, of sexual identity, of multiculturalism, and of the fall of Rome, the ways in which the realities of antiquity might speak to us.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 12/10/2018 - 9:47am by Erik Shell.










Prof. Laura Gawlinski takes a look at the newly renovated Epigraphic Museum in Athens and notes the ways in which museums are working to make their holdings more accessible for students, teachers, and the public. 


Renovated Room 11. Molly Richardson (ASCSA/ SEG) introduces the EM to members of the Regular Program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. 

Many readers of the SCS blog have had the pleasure of carrying out research at the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. If you haven’t visited in a while, it is well worth stopping by to see the results of the recent renovations of its two main exhibition rooms, celebrated in a grand opening ceremony on May 25, 2017. 

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 12/10/2018 - 7:27am by Laura Gawlinski.

Classical reception comes in many forms—including beer. Just ask Colin MacCormack, a Classics graduate student at the University of Texas-Austin. For the past few years, he has been brewing his own beer with classically inspired names and labels that he makes himself. He often serves these brews at annual lectures or at department functions.

I can attest firsthand to the fact that MacCormack’s beer is delicious, but what stuck with me longer than either his hoppy Rye Pale Ale or his Ale Caesar! Honey-Sage IPA was the time he put into his beer labels. It got me thinking not only about the way that the ancient world is reshaped in popular culture, but what role Classicists can and should have in shaping that reformulation.


Figure 1: At the Classics Department at UT-Austin's annual William J. Battle Lecture, graduate student Colin MacCormack brews and labels beer for the annual lecturer. In 2017, there was a rye pale ale and a Belgian style quadrupel (Image taken by Sarah E. Bond right before she drank both of these beers).

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 12/07/2018 - 7:01am by Sarah Bond.

Philip Levine

September 8, 1922 - November 25, 2018

Dr. Philip Levine died at age 96 on Sunday, November 25, 2018. Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, he moved to Beverly Hills in 1961 where he resided for the rest of his life. He leaves behind two sons, Jared and Dr. Harlan, who were his biggest source of pride, and four grandchildren, Zoe, Zachary, Hannah and Zane, who were a source of joy later in life.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Tue, 12/04/2018 - 9:29am by Erik Shell.

(Written by Ralph Rosen and Joe Farrell, with assistance from Karen Faulkner and James O’Donnell)

Wesley D. Smith, Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, died at his home in Philadelphia on June 23, 2018. He was 88 years old.

Wesley was born in the copper-mining town of Ely, Nevada on March 26, 1930. His family moved to Seattle, where he attended public schools and the University of Washington, where he earned a BA in Classics in 1951. He went on to graduate work at Harvard University, earning his MA in 1953 and his PhD in 1955. That same year, he began teaching in the Classics Department at Princeton University, but was immediately drafted into the U.S. Navy upon the expiration of his student visa. Between 1956  and 1958, his duties included organizing and running high school classes for naval recruits in Virginia. In later life, Wesley liked to say that he ran the first racially integrated school in that state. He returned to Princeton in 1957, and then in 1961 moved to Penn, where he remained, rising through the cursus honorum from assistant professor to associate professor to professor, until his retirement in 1996. 

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Tue, 12/04/2018 - 9:15am by Erik Shell.
This year, thirteen intrepid classicists ventured into uncharted territory: they wrote business cases for the "Becoming a Leader" series of Ancient Leadership case studies for the online SAGE Business Cases (SBC). Following on their successful experiment, I would like to invite you to submit case proposals for "Emotional Intelligence and Leadership", the next series of Ancient Leadership cases for SBC.
 
View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 12/04/2018 - 8:42am by Erik Shell.

Introduction

This year the SCS Is proud to announce two winners of our annual Outreach Prize.

Please join us in congratulating the University of Cincinnati and Dr. Sarah Bond for their unparalleled efforts.

Winners

The Classics Outreach Program of the University of Cincinnati

The Outreach Prize Committee is very happy to award the 2018 SCS Outreach Prize to the University of Cincinnati’s Classics Outreach Program.

For a decade now, the Classics Outreach Program has been taking the “Classics for All” mission to heart. In close consultation with faculty members who serve as mentors, Cincinnati Classics graduate students have been meeting with a wide variety of local audiences and sharing with them the wonders of ancient Greece, Rome, and the Ancient Mediterranean more broadly.

Driven by their love of teaching and passion for the material, the members of the Outreach Program have devoted their time and energy to bringing the classical world in all its complexity to many who would not otherwise have such a chance to explore them: students in elementary, middle, and high schools (private and public; suburban and inner-city); community and youth centers; and the elderly in retirement communities and nursing homes. UC’s Outreach Program has thus helped cultivate interest in classical culture amongst a broad range of constituents.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 12/03/2018 - 2:49pm by Erik Shell.

Call for Papers: Symposium Campanum 2019

Reading the City: Inscriptions of the Bay of Naples

October 23-27, 2019

Directors: Jacqueline DiBiasie-Sammons (University of Mississippi) and Holly M. Sypniewski (Millsaps College)

The Vergilian Society invites proposals for papers for the 2019 Symposium Campanum at the Villa Vergiliana in Cuma, Italy.

This symposium investigates the role of inscribed materials in the cities, towns, and villas of Campania. Unlike the nearly bare walls of today’s ruins, the written word had a vibrant presence in antiquity. From the large, stone inscriptions on buildings and monuments, to the small, nearly invisible graffiti in private homes, writing was ubiquitous. The goal of the symposium is to investigate the role of inscriptions in the Bay of Naples. How did everyday people interact with the writing on their walls, tombs, statues, and buildings? Does the presence and quantity of writing inform our understanding of ancient literacy? What is the potential and limitations of inscriptions to illuminate aspects of Roman society, or their limitations?

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 12/03/2018 - 11:56am by Erik Shell.

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to draw your attention to the following announcement from the Association of Ancient Historians (AAH):

The deadline for the receipt of paper proposals for the AAH Annual Meeting in April 2019 at Emory University in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, has been extended until Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 at 11:59 p.m.

The theme this year is “Connections and Receptions in the Ancient Mediterranean World.” Please submit a 300-word abstract and short bibliography of 3-5 sources reflecting the state of the question (bibliography not required for Presidential panel) to ancientmed@emory.edu.

All of our sessions will be held in the new Rita Anne Rollins building in the Candler School of Theology on the Emory campus. The meeting room includes smart technology for presentations. Hotel accommodation can be reserved at the Emory Conference Center Hotel (https://www.emoryconferencecenter.com/) on the edge of campus.

Papers are welcome on the following topics:

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 12/03/2018 - 10:55am by Erik Shell.

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TEACHING ROME AT HOME May 2-4, 2019, College Park, Maryland
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(Written by Ralph Rosen and Joe Farrell, with assistance from Karen Faulk
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