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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Roman Forum

This course in Italy will focus on creating antiracist curricula in the Latin classroom and will take place from July 18th - July 29th in Rome and the Bay of Naples. The course includes visits to many of the major sites in Rome and the Bay of Naples in afternoons or on full-day excursions. The Vergilian Society has scholarships available and the deadline to apply has been extended to April 11th. These scholarships often cover the entire tour apart from the flight.

This tour is intended as a collaborative experience where extensive resources will be shared, everyone's voice is welcome, and participants work as a group to envision a better model for the field at the PK-12 level.

More details can be found here: https://www.vergiliansociety.org/diversifying-the-latin.../

View full article. | Posted in Summer Programs on Thu, 03/24/2022 - 11:33am by Helen Cullyer.
Fortunatae Journal Cover in yellow

Fortunatae, Revista Canaria de Filología, Cultura y Humanidades Clásicas, is edited by the Classical Studies Section of the Classical, French, Arabic and Romance Philology Department at Universidad de La Laguna (Tenerife, Spain).

Since its origins in 1991, the Journal publishes original, new research papers, notes and reviews, written by National and International contributors. Its scope is ample, focusing on diverse literary manifestations, new perspectives, subjects and theories originated in the field of classical studies and its continuity in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Past issues of Fortunatae edited up to date show a periodical and prestigious publishing line, not only by the quality and originality of some of its contributions, but also by the bibliographical repertoire followed in the field of research to which it pertains. Published twice-a-year since 2019, Fortunatae accepts papers, being June and December the publication dates respectively.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 03/24/2022 - 8:21am by Helen Cullyer.
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I have always enjoyed Latin class because it felt like a puzzle, much like math. Find the verb, find the noun that matches with the right case, number, and gender, then piece it all together. I had never connected with the language beyond its algebraic nature until my teacher gave me the opportunity to take ownership over the material — with a self-directed research assignment to be presented at a colloquium. Completing this project during a period of remote learning, I felt inspired by the ability to have greater independence and take control of my own learning. On top of all that, we would be presenting our work to the entire school and the wider community at the end of the year.

But first, I needed to choose what I wanted to study.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 03/21/2022 - 10:31am by .
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Research ideas often develop out of chance encounters or unplanned circumstances. My dissertation project was born just like that: when the intersection between an author that I was falling in love with and a pressing question that emerged from a completely unrelated event started bugging my young researcher’s mind.

I completed my M.A. by producing a translation, with commentary, of the letters of Libanius of Antioch to Datianus. A Greek sophist under the Roman empire, Libanius held the chair of rhetoric in Antioch for the greater part of the second half of the 4th century CE. His immense production, often mined for its wealth of historical information, has been the object of a resurgence of interest in the past few decades. I started working on his epistolary corpus only a few years after the publication of a precious volume that collected the state of the art in Libanian scholarship. A teacher myself and forced to maintain long-distance relationships with friends and family in my home country, I felt in familiar territory making the acquaintance of this ancient teacher, who gracefully preserved copies of some 1500 letters he sent to friends, students’ parents, bureaucrats, politicians, governors, and emperors of his time. 

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 03/18/2022 - 10:24am by .

Seneca 2022 --- SPECIAL/FINAL CALL FOR PAPERS 

Deadline for proposals: March 30, 2022

The Centre for Classical Studies of the School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon is organizing an International Conference on Seneca to promote and encourage a critical reflection on the permanence of themes, values, perspectives and representations of Seneca’s works in Western literature and culture. 

The Conference will take place between 17-20 October 2022, and, through the interdisciplinary debate of the contribution given by the experiences of researchers from different fields of study, it aims to:

- determine how Seneca became one of the most prominent figures in Western culture;

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 03/17/2022 - 10:14am by .

(From the Classics Department at Emory University)

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Wed, 03/16/2022 - 3:10pm by .
Women Latinists, Summer Course

Join us for two weeks in Florence on this unique learning experience that brings language to life in the real spaces where women wrote Latin. Includes 6 hours daily content, site visits, immersive learning, text-based activities and optional cultural programming every evening.*

When: July 17 - 31, 2022. 

Where: Florence, Italy.

View full article. | Posted in Summer Programs on Wed, 03/16/2022 - 2:59pm by .

The Classical Association of the Atlantic States (CAAS) has extended its Call for Proposals for the 2022 Fall Annual Meeting submission deadline to Monday, March 28, 2022.

You can read more about the Annual Meeting here: https://caas-cw.org/2021/12/17/call-for-papers-caas-2022-fall-annual-meeting/ .

The full CFP can be downloaded here: CAAS 2022 CFP.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 03/15/2022 - 4:36pm by .
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Because it’s spirits, we ain’t even really rappin’
We just letting our dead homies tell stories for us.

Tupac Shakur, saying these words to journalist Mats Nileskär in 1994, articulated the centrality of community and collective history to hip hop and offered his response to the vexed question of the wellspring of poetic inspiration. Nearly two decades after Tupac’s murder, Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar gave new life to those words in his track “Mortal Man,” recasting Nileskär’s interview and intersplicing Tupac’s voice with his own, so that it is Lamar who seems to be in dialogue with Tupac. The result is an impossible conversation between the living and the dead: impossible because Tupac died when Lamar was just nine years old. But in highlighting and embodying Tupac’s perception that rap gives voice to the stories of one’s dead comrades, Lamar’s “sampling” of the conversation centers Tupac’s vision and acknowledges the debt Lamar owes to his predecessors, cementing the connection between them.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 03/14/2022 - 10:37am by .
Four women in white tunics sit and lie in a landscape of ferns. Some play instruments.

If you attended the 2022 Annual Meeting earlier this year — and if you woke up bright and early on Saturday morning! — you may have been lucky enough to tune in to the very first panel sponsored by the Ancient Worlds, Modern Communities Initiative (AnWoMoCo). Recent recipients of a microgrant from this program gathered from all over America, Canada, and even Ghana to present seven exciting public-facing projects that aim to bring Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies out of the ivory tower. The goal is to reach audiences, organizations, and people who might otherwise never have the opportunity to engage with the history, literature, language, archaeology, culture, texts, and individuals of the ancient Mediterranean world.

Ten presenters shared their projects, which ranged from primary school curricula, prison programming, visual and performing arts, and digital initiatives. I was beyond inspired by all of the incredible people who presented that day, so I jumped at the chance to summarize their contributions here for those who missed it.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 03/11/2022 - 10:09am by .

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