2015 CAO Spring Meeting

The Conference of Administrative Officers (CAO) held its spring meeting at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel in Philadelphia on May 9, 2015, following the ACLS annual meeting. CAO Executive Committee Chair Nancy Kidd, National Communication Association, led the meeting.

Nancy Kidd began the meeting by welcoming the new CAO members from the Society for Dance History Scholars, the American Society of International Law, and the American Society for Aesthetics to their first ACLS annual meeting.  Stephen Stuempfle, Society for Ethnomusicology, serving as chair of the CAO Nominating Committee, presented the slate of proposed new members for the executive committee. Other nominating committee members were Jack Fitzmier, American Academy of Religion and Lisa Mighetto, American Society for Environmental History. The nominees, who were elected to serve terms ending in spring 2018, were Paul Erickson, American Antiquarian Society and Keith Francis, American Society for Church History. They replace outgoing members Stephen Stuempfle and Kent Williamson. Continuing on the committee are Linda Downs, College Art Association, Craig Klafter, American Society for Legal History, Nancy Kidd, National Communication Association; Timothy Lloyd, American Folklore Society; and Milagros Pererya-Rojas, Latin American Studies Association.  

Nancy Kidd reported on January and May meetings of the ACLS Board of Directors, including the processes behind its consideration of a development campaign to commemorate the ACLS centennial in 2019.  

Tim Lloyd reported on gathering of data for the 2014 census effort and urged societies that have yet to participate to do so. He also reminded the group to submit their 990 forms. Thus far, 55 member societies completed the questionnaire regarding indicators of organizational health. He asked for volunteers for a committee that would review the data and produce a report for the 2016 annual meeting.

The next item for discussion was the possibility of changing the name of the CAO. Steve Wheatley, vice president of ACLS, gave a brief history of the naming of this body. There was discussion among the group of the functional, rhetorical, and representational effects of a name change. Members were asked to send thoughts and suggestions for further discussion at the fall meeting in Montreal.

Ed Liebow, American Anthropological Association led a panel entitled "Diversity: In the Pipeline and within Organizational Structure." Amy Ferrer, American Philosophical Association, gave a presentation on the effort APA to address gender and ethnic diversity in the field. APA has grant programs to help encourage minority scholars to pursue advanced study in the field. A new program funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation brings minority philosophy students together for a seminar, allowing them to discuss issues in the field, professionalization. She spoke of the effectiveness of exposing students, who may be only minority student in their respective departments, to new subfields of philosophy that may not be offered by their universities. The next panelist, Sally Hillsman, American Sociological Association, said that an association must start with asking why exactly and association wants to foster diversity, not merely reflexively stating a preference for membership to mirror American demographics. It is critical to define the benefit of diversity. She outlined professional committees of within ASA tasked with considering diversity, whose finding are written in to the organizations official diversity statement. Subdisciplinary groups within the organization allow scholars to feel like there is home for research on race, ethnicity, and minority issues. Mentoring, she noted, is a key component—ASA has a program that links members of minority group to senior members. She offered to share ASA’s recruitment efforts with the full group.

Jay Malone, History of Science Society, moderated a discussion on the politics of site selection. He opened the session with the pending religious freedom law (with sexual orientation effects) under consideration in the state of Georgia and the concerns among membership that this should affect planning of future meeting in Atlanta. Balancing public humanities, political outreach and association management is a pressing concern for executive directors. It was suggested that a special meeting with CVB representatives be organized to discuss and communicate these issues at a future fall meeting.

Keith Francis, American Society of Church History, took up the next topic, on efforts to affect editorial control over official online fora of associations. He related a recent problem in the American Historical Association’s forum. Most societies allow for free and open discussions but struggle with imposing restrictions or controls if a discussion imperils the host organization. The group discussed the difficulties of moderating or editing posts and determining as an organization what principles should guide this activity.

An “unconference session” was introduced by Steve Wheatley. Members were asked to suggest topics for more in-depth discussion at this meeting and for the fall meeting in Montreal. The following topics were brought to the table: journal publishing, policies and statements on retirement of faculty, graduate student representation on governing bodies, K-12 initiatives, reduced fee memberships and salary scales, strategies to cope with rising conference hotel/AV  prices, encouraging meeting attendance for international members, contact records management, advocacy issues, reorganization of departments at universities and the effects on learned society membership, initiatives attractive to philanthropy, and responsibility of societies to reach out to general public.

Stephen M. Schaefer of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, L.L.P gave a brief presentation on security breaches and the risk and consequences of inaction. He distributed a handout on the topic which is posted on CAO Net. Candace Frede, director of ACLS web & information systems, gave a brief overview of the ACLS's recent facilitated cybersecurity assessment and offered to speak with any CAO members interested in the process. Stephen Schaefer made himself available for questions after the meeting. 

The next leadership seminar for ACLS member society presidents and chief administrative officers will be held on Friday, September 11, 2015, led again by Bruce Lesley, a BoardSource consultant specializing in nonprofit board best practices, with a particular emphasis on the board's role in strategic planning and innovation.

The CAO will next convene in Montreal, Canada, October 29-November 1, 2015.