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

Categories

Follow SCS News for information about the SCS and all things classical.

Use this field to search SCS News
Select a category from this list to limit the content on this page.
A painting of Rome featuring a crowd of men fighting on a hill. Behind them is an obelisk, a column, and a toppled white marble statue of a nude man.

At 2:00 pm on January 6th, 2021, a mob made its way up the steps of the U.S. Capitol following a morning of brinkmanship, speeches, and speculation. I sat in my office at home, logged into a Zoom session, watching Twitter and a streaming news channel on one screen, all while pretending to be engaged with the beginning of an SCS Panel, “The Powers and Perils of Solitude in Greek Literature.”

At 2:20 or so, I was slated to begin a talk entitled “Being Human, Being Alone” as the Capitol was evacuated and our legislators were put under protection. At 2:24 pm, President Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 01/06/2022 - 10:00am by .
A monochromatic stone statue of a man with short hair wrapped in a toga and sitting in a large chair. His right arm is leaning on the back of the chair, and his left hand holds a writing tablet on his lap. The base of the statue reads "SALLVSTIVS"

What do you read for an insurrection? Classics offers plenty of material for revolutionary bibliophiles: compilations for the budding revolutionary, handbooks for coups both successful and failed. The Capitol rioters certainly had their Classics before their eyes, as Curtis Dozier outlined shortly after the event: Caesar and XenophonVergil and Herodotus.

But in January 2021, I was reading Sallust—and an apt choice it was, too. Not because of what Sallust writes — Catiline’s attempt to overthrow the government or Marius’ attempt to change Roman institutions — but because of what he passes over. He was there at the swelling of the atmosphere that led to the burning of the Senate house on January 19th (what is it about Januaries?), 52 bce, during the funeral of Publius Clodius.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 01/05/2022 - 11:20am by .
New WCC logo reading WCC 50th, 1972-2022. Beige font on a dusty pink background.

The year was 1971. In the lobby of a hotel in Cincinnati, OH, a small group of early career faculty and graduate students, mostly women, met and decided to form a caucus. Frustrated by the lack of transparency, mentors, and opportunities in Classics both for women in the field and for those who studied women in antiquity, they wanted something different, both for themselves and for future generations. At the next year’s Annual Meeting of the American Philological Association (APA) in Philadelphia, PA, they made it official. The Women’s Classical Caucus (WCC) was born.

By phone, mail, and intermittent gatherings at regional conferences and the APA (now SCS), the founders and early members of this young caucus stayed connected and encouraged each other in its early decades to publish feminist scholarship and introduce to their departments new, revolutionary courses on “women in antiquity,” which received almost immediate backlash.

Fast forward 50 years, and it’s hard to imagine a time when women and feminist scholars were not a strong presence in the profession, whether publishing scholarship through the lens of feminist theory, teaching about ancient women at both the K-12 and university levels, or taking on leadership roles both in the SCS and in their local institutions.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 01/03/2022 - 10:14am by .

Every year at the annual meeting we hold the Career Networking event, a meeting that gives academics access to former classicists, historians, and archeologists who have made career shifts into new fields. They speak candidly about their transition, and are there to offer advice to anyone looking to change career paths. This year we have more networkers than in any year previous, with a broad range of fields and experiences represented.

We will hold our annual Career Networking event at this year's virtual AIA/SCS Annual Meeting on Saturday, January 8th, from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

Please block off time to attend this extraordinarily helpful event. It'll be accessible through the digital meeting platform.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 01/03/2022 - 9:01am by Erik Shell.

The AIA and SCS have made the difficult decision to switch our upcoming 2022 Annual Meeting to a virtual only event.  We had high hopes to once again have an in-person component to our meeting, but the rapid rise in Covid cases due to the Delta and Omicron variants have made that impossible to do safely.  While we are eager to see everyone in-person again, the overall health and safety of our attendees, staff, and hotel and meeting personnel take precedence. 

Since we were already planning to hold our meeting in a hybrid format the transition to a virtual only meeting will not be difficult.  We are using the same platform as last year and all sessions will be available through the virtual meeting platform.  Details on how to access it will be emailed out to all attendees next Monday (January 3).

If you had been planning to attend in person, please contact the Hilton to cancel your reservation.  We will be reaching out to all in-person registrants following the meeting regarding refunds for the difference in registration rates. 

We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy and look forward to seeing you online during our virtual meeting. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 12/29/2021 - 2:17pm by Helen Cullyer.

SCS is pleased to announce the following winners of the 2021 excellence in teaching awards. Please join us in congratulating the winners!

Excellence in Teaching at the K-12 Level

Jessie Craft (Reagan High School, WSFCS school district)

Mathew Olkovikas (Pinkerton Academy)

Margaret Somerville (Friends' Central School)

Excellence in Teaching at the College and University Level

Deborah Beck (University of Texas at Austin)

Richard Ellis (University of California, Los Angeles)

Wilfred Major (Louisiana State University)

Brett Rogers (University of Puget Sound)

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 12/27/2021 - 9:09am by Helen Cullyer.
Oil painting of a white man sitting in a large chair facing left with a dissatisfied expression. He wears a white toga with red drapery over his left arm, a crown, a gold cuff bracelet, and short curly hair. A tiger sits between his legs.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that humor ages poorly. Jokes tend to be topical, and to be based on the social expectations of a particular group at a particular moment. The deterioration of humor over time is often a matter of changing contexts as well as changing tastes: ideas that once made a coherent joke cease to fit together.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 12/27/2021 - 8:34am by .

Call for Papers

Exemplary Representation(s) of the Past:

New Readings of Valerius Maximus’ Facta et dicta memorabilia

The last thirty years have seen an increase in interest in Valerius Maximus and his Facta et dicta memorabilia. Willing to consider Valerius’ collection of historical exempla as a piece of literature in its own right, scholars have started to scrutinise its moral, social, and intellectual significance at the time of the early Roman Empire and beyond.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 12/23/2021 - 9:24am by Erik Shell.

Since issues pertaining to social media continue to arise, the Society for Classical Studies wishes as a supplement to its earlier statement to caution its members and the members of its various affiliated organizations that they should take great care before making allegations on matters of fact about members of the scholarly community or repeating such assertions in their own media posts. Strong criticism is protected by academic freedom, but falsehood is not. Repeating false information or false rumors, or encouraging false inferences about another person, or about scientific or other factual matters, could hurt the public image and long-term health of our Society and our discipline, and could cause harm—both reputational harm and legal liability—to the original poster and to others. The SCS Statement of Professional Ethics prohibits harassment and intimidation, which can take place on social media, and the Committee on Professional Ethics may review complaints about such harassment.

View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Tue, 12/21/2021 - 9:13am by Helen Cullyer.
A white woman wearing rectangular glasses, a black mask, and a purple t-shirt holds a white flag. Behind her, a person in a black jacket with a fur-trimmed hood holds a sign. They are outdoors on the sidewalk, and the sky is cloudy.

Our sixth interview in the Contingent Faculty Series is a virtual conversation between Dr. Joshua Nudell and Dr. Aven McMaster.

Joshua Nudell: There is no easy way into this conversation, but, until recently, you were tenured at a university that went through bankruptcy and now you are a contingent faculty member. Without dwelling on the events at Laurentian, how has this transition informed your view of contingency in particular and academia in general?

Aven McMaster: Don’t worry, I’m used to talking about all this! In fact, it’s a reminder of how entwined we tend to be with our jobs.

Before all this happened, I’d already been grappling with the problems of contingency, since my partner has been a sessional lecturer (Canadian term for “adjunct”) for years now. But obviously it has made this issue even more personal. Losing the only job I’ve trained for, after 15 years of full-time employment, certainly has made me doubt a lot of what I thought was stable or certain in this world.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 12/20/2021 - 9:21am by .

Pages

© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy