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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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 .
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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 .

Announcing SOURCES IN EARLY POETICS, a new book series published by Brill

Online launch and roundtable: 16 March 2022 (1:30 PM – 3:00PM EDT)

View full article. | Posted in General Announcements on Wed, 02/02/2022 - 11:12am by .

The Department of the Classics at Harvard announces the following opportunities and initiatives designed to advance our community’s goals of diversity and inclusion:

Harvard Classics Scholars-in-Training Summer Program (for high school students (Remote) or undergraduates (In Person) Application deadline is Friday, February 25, 2022 by 11:59 p.m. EST.

View full article. | Posted in Summer Programs on Wed, 02/02/2022 - 10:55am by .

Final Reminder: Revised 9/23/21 with updated submission deadline of Friday, February 18, 2022.

As previously announced, Patrice Rankine and Sasha-Mae Eccleston will serve as guest editors of a future issue of TAPA with the theme of race, racism, and Classics (issue 153:1, to appear April 2023). Their detailed call for papers, along with submission instructions, follows.

Covid-19 and the global Movement 4 Black Lives have highlighted the extent to which racism is a public health emergency whose reach extends across the Black Atlantic and far beyond. In light of these deeply imbricated developments, this volume becomes even more timely.

Race and Racism: Beyond the Spectacular

"…the “cultural logic” of lynching enables it to emerge and persist throughout the modern era because its violence “fit” within the broader, national cultural developments. This synchronicity captures why I refer to lynching as “spectacular”: the violence made certain cultural developments and tensions visible for Americans to confront."

       Jacqueline Goldsby, A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 01/31/2022 - 1:37pm by .
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Please join us on Monday, February 14, 2022, at 4:00-5:30pm EST, for a career webinar for PhDs and graduate students on K-12 teaching (registration required).

ACLS will offer a virtual presentation for PhDs and graduate students to learn about teaching roles in K-12 schools during a Q&A with people representing K-12 independent and public schools.

We hope this will prepare anyone interested in applying to K-12 independent and public schools for Fall 2022 teaching roles, which are advertised primarily in winter. Teaching at public schools is a less immediate option because of certification and degree requirements which vary by state, so most of our panelists teach in independent schools, which don’t require certification.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Fri, 01/28/2022 - 9:33am by .

In 2022 the Society for Classical Studies (SCS) will again award the David D. and Rosemary H. Coffin Fellowship for study and travel in classical lands.

The Fellowship is intended to recognize secondary-school teachers of Greek or Latin who are as dedicated to their students as the Coffins themselves by giving them the opportunity to enrich their teaching and their lives through direct acquaintance with the classical world.  It will support study in classical lands (not limited to Greece and Italy); the recipient may use it to attend an educational program in (e.g. American Academy, American School) or to undertake an individual plan of study or research. It may be used either for summer study or during a sabbatical leave, and it may be used to supplement other awards or prizes.

You can read more about this fellowship here: Coffin Fellowship Flyer or for full details and instructions please visit the David D. and Rosemary H. Coffin Fellowship page. Materials must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Thursday, February 17, 2022.

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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 01/27/2022 - 8:16am by Helen Cullyer.

Digital Ancient Rome

An NEH Summer Seminar for K-12 educators

Digital Ancient Rome is an NEH Summer Seminar for K-12 educators that will give teachers an opportunity to learn about important examples of Roman art, architecture, and archaeology through a broad range of digital resources. One of the most exciting things for students who study ancient Rome is that so many physical aspects of its civilization survive to this day. It is not just an ancient history that we know through texts. The surviving material remains—small artifacts, sculpture, paintings, mosaics, public monuments, neighborhoods, and whole cities—tell a variety of stories about the ancient world, and they bring history to life in a way that students find compelling.  

Dates: July 18-29, 2022

Place: Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 01/26/2022 - 8:40pm by Helen Cullyer.

Congratulations to our 2021 award winners again! You can view the full award citations by clicking on the links below:

Deborah Beck

Richard Ellis

Wilfred Major

Brett Rogers 

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Tue, 01/25/2022 - 2:11pm by Helen Cullyer.

Congratulations again to our 2021 winners! You can read the full award citations for each prize winner by clicking on the names below:

Jessie Craft

Mathew Olkovikas

Margaret Somerville


View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Tue, 01/25/2022 - 1:48pm by Helen Cullyer.

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