2011 CAO Fall Meeting

The ACLS Conference of Administrative Officers (CAO) held its 2011 fall meeting in Minneapolis on November 10-13. The meeting was hosted by Meet Minneapolis, representatives of which welcomed the group at a reception and dinner at the Minnesota History Center on Thursday evening.

The meeting began on Friday, November 11, at the Minneapolis Hyatt Regency Hotel, with opening remarks by William E. Davis,  executive director of the American Anthropological Association and chair of the CAO Executive Committee, and by ACLS President Pauline Yu. Yu commented on the recent volatility in both finance and politics but was pleased to report that the work of ACLS, of its member societies, and of higher education and research in general moves in just the opposite direction. She assured the CAO that ACLS will continue to partner with other institutions—universities, colleges, societies, and foundations—to support the individual scholars who bear the burden of creating and transmitting humanistic knowledge and the trans-institutional networks that connect them, known as learned societies. She made special note of ACLS’s New Faculty Fellows program, now in its second year, and the Public Fellows program, a new effort to offer recent humanities Ph.D.s opportunities to develop careers in government and non-profit organizations. She spoke of the challenges there will be in meeting the intellectual demands of the world, especially considering the accelerated pace of globalized commerce, migration and communication. This environment, she noted, increases the range of cultural particularities and the scope of creative expression. She predicted that we will have to grapple with difficult questions concerning the distribution of scare resources, a task that will require ethical judgments based on shared and communicable values. The need for what the humanities provide will be great. It will be our challenge, she said, to make sure that our organizations can help scholars and researchers take on these intellectual yet starkly practical challenges.

Following the opening remarks, Amy Newhall of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) moderated the first of two “What’s on Your Mind?” sessions. These sessions are modeled on the fast Q-and-A format of older “grab bag” and “Fred Friendly” sessions, allowing participants to share their individual concerns and experiences. Friday morning’s session focused on society management and operations. It was scheduled at the start of the meeting so that participants could raise issues and questions they could later discuss in plenary sessions or one-on-one throughout the meeting.

Stephen Stuempfle of the Society for Ethnomusicology moderated the next session on “The Internationalization of Membership: Expanding Our Global Reach.” Panelists David Barclay of the German Studies Association, Don Harreld of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference, and Amy Newhall of MESA described their efforts to attract and retain an international membership.

At the CAO business meeting, Davis noted the dates for future fall CAO meetings: November 1-4, 2012 in Nashville, TN, and November 14-17, 2013 in Louisville, KY. The group also meets each spring following the ACLS Annual Meeting. The 2012 Annual Meeting will be held in Philadelphia and include a session focused on the humanities and economics. (The CAO Executive Committee had discussed these meetings in greater detail earlier.) Candace Frede gave a brief report from the CAO Subcommittee on IT Services. She reviewed the work that had been undertaken in the previous year and suggested that the next step for group solutions may be found in already-established systems. Information on vendors and software used by societies will be available on the group's extranet in the interest of identifying user groups.

Immediately following lunch at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Jack Fitzmier of the American Academy of Religion demonstrated a beta version of AAR's “Biosphere." Biosphere is based on the Sakai Foundation’s “Open Academic Environment” software tool. It is designed to facilitate web-based collaboration among learned society members and, perhaps, to facilitate similar collaboration across multiple learned societies. Societies interested in participating were asked to contact Fitzmier. Jim Grossman of the American Historical Association then discussed AHA’s plans for developing digital capacities to carry out the society’s roles of building communities and projecting scholarly authority.

The next session, “Strategies for Integrating Member Communication” moderated by Michael Paschal of the Association of Asian Studies, focused on the benefits of membership in scholarly societies. The panel was composed of Adam Blistein, American Philological Association; Peter Herdrich, Archaeological Institute of America; and Byron Wells, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Topics discussed by the group included networking possibilities, the state of printed publications and subscriptions, and the integration of various digital media and communications.

Friday’s last session was an optional meeting on the state of learned societies’ archives. Attendees, led by Peter Herdrich of the Archaeological Institute of America and Andy Vaughn of the American Schools of Oriental Research, reviewed the current state of ACLS member societies’ archives. Those present put forward a list of topics common to all societal archival efforts. Work will continue to develop a regularized approach to archiving helpful to all societies.

After breakfast at the Mill City Museum and a city tour, the CAO reconvened on Saturday morning at the Hilton Minneapolis for the second “What’s on Your Mind?” session, this one entitled “Imagining Learned Societies in 2025." In her introductory remarks, Rona Sheramy of the Association for Jewish Studies provided a framework for consideration of the topic. Breakout sessions organized by size then met to discuss the important trends shaping the environment of, and perhaps determining the survival of, learned societies.

In the afternoon, ACLS Vice President Steven C.Wheatley moderated a session on “Academic Credentialing: Learned Society Policies on Promotion, Tenure, and Allocating Credit for Scholarship.” The panel included John Dichtl, National Council on Public History (NCPH); Bill Davis, American Anthropological Association (AAA); and James Parente, dean, University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts. Dichtl and Davis spoke of the processes their respective societies had undertaken to establish policies on tenure and promotion practices that look beyond the traditional focus on print publications. More information from NCPH is available on its website at <ncph.org/cms/education/graduate-and-undergraduate/> and in the report "Tenure, Promotion, and the Publicly Engaged Historian." AAA’s statements are available on its website at <www.aaanet.org/profdev/Academic-Tenure-and-Promotion.cfm>. Dean Parente offered a university administrator's view on the expectations of tenure committees and the special challenges in the current economic environment. He expressed the hope that society policies on tenure would encourage scholars to engage with new methods, such as digital projects, and broader audiences. The meeting concluded with a report from Davis on a survey conducted by the CAO Task Force on Labor/Management Disputes on labor relations guidelines and hotel contract language.

Fall meetings of the CAO are held in cities of interest as possible convention sites and are hosted by each city's convention bureau. Thanks to Meet Minneapolis, the group enjoyed a visit to the Mill City Museum and receptions and meals at select locations, including the Minneapolis Hilton, the Minneapolis Convention Center, and the Dakota Jazz Club.

The CAO will next convene on May 12, 2012, in Philadelphia, PA, following the ACLS Annual Meeting.