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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front face of restored Harry Wilks Study Center at Villa Vergiliana

Would you like to direct a tour or workshop for the Vergilian Society in 2024? 

Vergilian Society tours are designed to appeal to a wide range of travelers interested in the ancient Mediterranean.  Our programs welcome college students, instructors and nonprofessionals.

For 2024, we are particularly interested in tours of the ancient Mediterranean or study programs (such as Latin workshops) that are based at the Villa Vergiliana, a study center in the Bay of Naples, Italy. 

If you have any questions about proposal submissions, please contact the Chair of the Villa Management Committee, John Wonder, at jwwonder@sfsu.edu 

You'll find previous tour details at https://www.vergiliansociety.org/previous-tours/

View full article. | Posted in Organizations on Fri, 02/18/2022 - 11:50am by Helen Cullyer.

Homer in Sicily: An Academic Conference and Tour of Ancient Sites

Exedra Mediterranean Center

October 5-8, 2022 [and post-conference tour October 9-10, 2022]

Homeric Thrinacia – our Sicily – is the legendary home of the Cattle of the Sun, the Cyclops, the Laestrygonians, Aeolus, and close neighbor of Skylla and Charybdis. Samuel Butler, in the nineteenth century, memorably theorized that the Odyssey’s author was a young Sicilian woman, glimpsed in the figure of Nausicaa. Otherwise, surprisingly few scholars have explored Sicily’s association with the Homeric epics, the Odyssey in particular. The goal of this conference is to bring scholars from a variety of disciplines to Siracusa to discuss Homer’s epic vision and to visit the archaeological traces of the mythic places and beings of the Odyssey.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 02/17/2022 - 4:04pm by .

(From Haverford College Communications)

Daniel Gillis, a member of the classics faculty for almost 40 years, died Dec. 3. He was 86. 

Gillis earned his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University before joining the Haverford faculty in September 1966. He was promoted to associate professor of classics in 1968 and full professor in 1976. 

He taught classes on Latin language and literature, Roman social history, and other courses outside the Department of Classics, such as “Fiction of the Holocaust.” He published numerous books including two volumes on German composer and conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler–1965’s Furtwängler Recalled and 1970’s Furtwängler and America– and a collection of largely autobiographical poems, 1979’s Vita. His other books included Collaboration with the Persians (1979), Measure of a Man (1982), and Eros and Death in the Aeneid (1983). In 1992, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities of Scotland in recognition of his establishment of an institute for Scottish Highland Studies in Prince Edward Island.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Thu, 02/17/2022 - 3:49pm by .
The top half of a page from a Greek-English dictionary containing the entry for logos.

The Cambridge Greek Lexicon (CGL) set out to replace the Middle Liddell, a goal whose overwhelming success cannot be in doubt. Indeed, it puts the field of classical studies in the awkward position of having a student dictionary that is on sounder footing than its chief scholarly dictionary, and it seems likely that CGL will be the go-to resource not just for undergraduates but for grad students and scholars when reading classical Greek literature.

Yet the words “classical” and “literature” in the previous sentence carry a good deal of weight. In order for the dictionary to be completed in a reasonable amount of time, and at a size and cost that will be manageable for students, CGL excluded quite a bit of material. Its coverage “extends from Homer to the early second century AD (ending with Plutarch’s Lives)” (CGL 1: vii), but it covers this material selectively, and the focus is clearly on poetry from Homer to the Hellenistic period and on literary prose down to Aristotle. There is very little coverage of Roman-era works, religious works, technical works, and documentary works.

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 02/15/2022 - 10:01am by .

The deadline for the next round of applications for the Ancient World, Modern Communities Initiative (formerly Classics Everywhere) is February 28, 2022.

We invite applications from individuals, organizations, and/or communities to apply to the “Ancient Worlds, Modern Communities” committee for mini-grants of up to $2,000 to support works that engage individuals, groups, and communities in critical discussion of and creative expression related to the ancient Mediterranean, the global reception of Greek and Roman culture, and the history of teaching and scholarship in the field of classical studies. Examples of successful projects include but are not limited to: public lectures; readings; discussion groups; performances; summer, after-school and weekend programs for school-age children; visual arts exhibits and installations; podcasts; and videos.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 02/09/2022 - 6:16pm by .

AIA/SCS Career Development Seminars 

Wednesday Feb 16, 2022 (4pm EST) and Thursday, March, 17, 2022 (4pm EST)

February 16, 4:00-5:00pm Eastern: Laura Surtees on libarianship. Laura is a Research and Instruction Librarian and coordinator of the specialty Rhys Carpenter Library at Bryn Mawr College. You can read Laura's biography and sign up at https://forms.gle/DMd298Rb5UJ2Ax3N9 .

The Career Development Seminar scheduled for Thursday, January 20, from 4:00-5:00pm  Eastern has been rescheduled for Thursday March 17, 4:00-5:00pm Eastern. It will feature Nathalie Roy and Michael Posey, talking about K-12 teaching. You can sign up for this seminar here: https://forms.gle/nJSMwGew5yWUmMAXA .

You can find more information about the AIA/SCS Career Development Seminars here: https://classicalstudies.org/placement/career-development-seminars .

Please email info@classicalstudies.org if you have any questions or concerns.

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View full article. | Posted in General Announcements on Wed, 02/09/2022 - 9:52am by .

We are pleased to announce that Volume III, Issue I of The Haley Classical Journal is now live! 

In this issue of The Haley, explore topics ranging from Roman spolia to re-examinations of grief in the Iliad. You may read the full issue here, as well as our previous issues.

Our submission period for Volume III, Issue II (with publication in June of 2022) is now also open. We will be receiving papers until March 11, 2022. We encourage any students who will be undergraduates next semester to submit their work here, including those who have submitted work to us before!

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 02/08/2022 - 3:16pm by .
A woodcut of a black and white manuscript page with Latin text at the bottom. Above the text is an image of a woman covered in feathers with the wings and feet of a bird, thebreasts and face of a human woman, and long hair. A banner above her reads "FAMA"

In Plautus’s Mercator, the senex Demipho, the archetypal lecherous old man, attempts to justify to his son his purported decision not to purchase the puella Pasicompsa as a maid for their household. While the audience understands Demipho’s dissimulation — he will, as we know, purchase the girl to satiate his lascivious desires — the old man must trot out a believable excuse to the lovelorn adulescens, whose own parallel obsession with Pasicompsa motivates the plot of the play. Rather than appeal to expediency or even to economics, Demipho argues that the presence of the girl in their household would bring shame to the family and harm their reputation:

Because there would be a scandal if a woman of her appearance were to follow the mother of a household; were she to walk through the streets, everybody would stare at her, ogle her, nod to her, wink at her, whistle at her, pinch her, call after her, and be a nuisance. People would serenade mockingly at our door. With their pieces of charcoal the door would be filled with little ditties. And, given what crooked gossipers people are nowadays, they would disapprove of my wife and myself on the grounds that we were keeping a brothel. What on earth is that necessary for?

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 02/07/2022 - 10:22am by .

Several affiliated groups have extended their deadlines in their calls for abstracts for the 2023 Annual Meeting:

American Classical League, Teaching Students to Read Latin: What does that mean?, February 10, 2022

Vergilian Society, Green Vergil: Nature and the Environment in Vergil and the Vergilian Tradition, February 11, 2022

Society for Late Antiquity, Slow and Fast Violence in Late Antiquity, February 15, 2022

View full article. | Posted in General Announcements on Mon, 02/07/2022 - 8:43am by .
ACLS logo

The American Council of Learned Societies Opens 2022 Leading Edge Fellowship Competition for Recent PhDs in the Humanities and Interpretive Social Sciences

Program Partners Early-Career Humanities Scholars with Nonprofit Organizations Advancing Social Justice

Fellowship applications due by 9pm EDT on Monday, March 28, 2022.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 02/02/2022 - 12:06pm by .

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