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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The new Classics Everywhere initiative, launched by the SCS in 2019, supports projects that seek to engage communities all over the US and Canada with the worlds of Greek and Roman antiquity in new and meaningful ways. As part of this initiative the SCS has been funding a variety of projects ranging from teaching Latin in a prison to collaborations with artists in theater, music, and dance. In this post we focus on a variety of programs directed to children: summer camps, classics days, after-school programs, and the creation of children-oriented animated videos.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 11/29/2019 - 1:52am by .

Registration for the Career Networking event at the 2020 Annual Meeting is now open. Graduate students and contingent faculty interested in careers outside of academia are encouraged to attend.  There is no extra charge for this event but space is limited.

Registered attendees of the 2020 meeting can sign up for this event by filling out this form. Sign up will be open until December 6th or close sooner if the event reaches capacity before that date. 

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(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 11/27/2019 - 12:39pm by Erik Shell.
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0
Juliette Deschamps
The Tragedy of Dido
 
US Premiere
Friday, December 6, 2019, 7:30pm
 
Featuring acclaimed actor Gale Harold

Post-performance Q&A with Juliette Deschamps

Mixing captivating video projection, live jazz music, and powerful storytelling, The Tragedy of Dido created by French videographer Juliette Deschamps paints an extraordinary portrait of Queen Dido, the legendary founder of Carthage.

Part of A Weekend Celebration of Tunisia, the sensory and aesthetic performance will feature narration and music inspired by North African melodies performed by pianist Paul Lay. The performance will be introduced by Professor Judith P. Hallett and narrated in English by acclaimed actor Gale Harold (Falling for Grace, Queer as Folk, Grey’s Anatomy).

View full article. | Posted in Performances on Wed, 11/27/2019 - 10:44am by Erik Shell.

CfP: “Class before Capitalism?: Social Structure and the Ancient World” (Deadline: January 1, 2020)

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Keynote speaker: Johanna Hanink (Brown University)

The graduate students at Harvard University’s department of the Classics invite abstract submissions for the upcoming graduate student conference, “Class before Capitalism?: Social Structure and the Ancient World”.

Socio-economic status and the intergenerational structures which maintain it have been a persistent source of tension across the world and across history. In the influential tradition of thought following Karl Marx, class has been seen as a fundamental agent of socio-political change and an inescapable force that conditions the production of literature, art, and other cultural materials. The application of ideas formed in a post-industrial, capitalist age to pre-modern societies presents some significant methodological challenges, however, and has been the source of an intense scholarly debate which continues to this day. 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 11/27/2019 - 10:38am by Erik Shell.

Recogito is a software platform that facilitates annotation of text and images. Through both automatic annotation and manual annotation by users, the software links uploaded files to geographic data and facilitates the sharing and downloading of this data in various formats. The software is freely available for download through GitHub, and a version is also hosted online. In the online version, users have a private workspace as well as the ability to share documents among a group or publicly. Recogito was developed from 2013 to 2018 as part of the Pelagios network, a much wider project dedicated to creating gazetteers and tools for annotation, visualization, pedagogy, collaboration, and registering linked data.

ANNOTATION

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 11/21/2019 - 7:03pm by Kilian Mallon.
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0

CAMP Press Release

The SCS’ Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance (CAMP) would like to announce a change in its staged reading for the 2020 meeting in Washington D.C.  Instead of Robert Montgomery Bird’s “the Gladiator,” the committee will instead present Joseph Addison’s “Cato.”  Both plays provoke interesting discussion on the connections between American history and Classical Rome.  “Cato,” which dramatizes the stoic and patriotic Cato’s last stand against a tyrannical Julius Caesar, was quoted and alluded to by the leaders of the American Revolution, and staged by George Washington for his troops at Valley Forge in defiance of a congressional ban on plays.

Both plays and their authors are also rooted in the ideologies of their own times, ideologies which include some racist and colonialist viewpoints.  That these viewpoints have been connected with Classics as an academic field is an important element of both the history of and the contemporary challenges of our discipline.  CAMP believes that by working with and presenting such material, even when (and in fact especially when) it is problematic, we can simultaneously acknowledge the field’s entanglement with historical wrongs, and have fruitful discussions about how we can productively move forward.

View full article. | Posted in Performances on Wed, 11/20/2019 - 8:17am by Erik Shell.

Vergilian Society Call for Proposals to direct June 2021 Symposium in Italy

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 11/19/2019 - 8:54am by Erik Shell.

Today we wish to introduce a new project: Women in Classics: Conversations. This venture consists of a series of interviews with female professors of Classics, many of whom were the first hired or the first to receive tenure at their institutions in the 1970’s and 1980’s. These academic women blazed a new trail as teachers and scholars at a time when university positions in many fields were overwhelmingly held by men. They did so in a discipline that has been described as “one of the most conservative, hierarchical, and patriarchal of academic fields.” Their experiences, as presented in these interviews, provide colorful, candid snapshots of a critical moment in the history of the discipline.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 11/15/2019 - 6:19am by Claire Catenaccio.

Information and an RSVP form for our Career Networking Event at this year's annual meeting are now available.

You can read about this event and sign up here:

https://classicalstudies.org/annual-meeting/2020/151/2020-annual-meeting-career-networking-event

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(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 11/12/2019 - 11:29am by Erik Shell.

What is the interplay between Classics and literary translation? What are the preparatory actions for launching a new journal that will address problems and lacunae within the field? Adrienne K.H. Rose explores the challenges of beginning a translation journal which will address the philosophies, difficulties, and necessity for diversity within the area of classical translation.

Early Latin translators, including Cicero (De optimo genere oratorum iv. 13-v.14), Horace (Ars poetica II.128-44), Quintilian (Institutio Oratoria X.xi 1-11; X.v.1-5), and Jerome (Chronicle 1-2) distinguish between the act of word for word––or literal translation––and literary translation. The latter type of translation prioritizes senses, aesthetics, and rhetorical verve. However, language pedagogy in Classics departments emphasize the first type of translation, word for word, and often stop short of encouraging more literary pursuits. In fact, creative translations that deviate from translationese (a kind of literal, affected translation style from which the reader may deduce the exact parsing of the original word) is actively discouraged.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 11/08/2019 - 6:29am by Adrienne K.H. Rose.

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