The ACLS Conference of Administrative Officers (CAO) held its 2014 fall meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, on October 30-November 2, hosted by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. This year’s conference had an overarching theme, “How Can Learned Societies Impact the Landscape in Which Their Members Work?” The meeting schedule is available here.
The meeting began on Friday morning, October 31, at the Honolulu Convention Center, with opening remarks by ACLS President Pauline and CAO Executive Committee Chair Nancy Kidd, National Communication Association. Stephen Kidd, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, provided an update on NHA advocacy efforts.
There were three sessions devoted to the conference theme. The first session, “Learned Societies and Evolving Definitions of Scholarship,” moderated by Stephen Stuempfle Society for Ethnomusicology, began with presentations from three panelists: James Grossman, American Historical Association; Jean-Marc Mangin, Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences; and Peter Arnade, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Hawaii, Manoa. New technology, new opportunities for public engagement, and new emphases on collaborative work all grate against evaluative paradigms focusing on books and articles, they noted. The primary questions that emerged from the discussion are what constitutes scholarship and are there some forms of scholarship that should be considered worthy with respect to tenure and promotion, such as advocacy efforts, documentaries, and digital mapping projects. Panelists agreed that the ways in which traditional scholarship is being evaluated may need to be rethought. One role for learned societies could be providing legitimacy for a broader range of options that could be “counted” depending on institution-specific considerations.
The next session was a report from Craig Klafter on the data gathered from the 2013 census. An analysis performed by an outside consultant, Stephanie Kauv in partnership with Klafter, indicated that while there was some good benchmarking; there also were gaps in the survey that could be addressed in the 2014 effort. Outsourcing the information obtained by the 990 could make the census easier to fill out for the executive directors and their staff. The CAO was advised to have their 990s sent to staff at ACLS. A digest will be prepared with interpretive hypotheses and case studies for the May 2015 ACLS Annual Meeting.
The second theme-related session “Learned Societies and Teaching and Learning” moderated by Edward Liebow, American Anthropological Association, began with a presentation from David Marshall, Associate Director, Tuning USA. Marshall articulated key ways in which learned societies might influence teaching and learning. Reflective work about teaching and learning is often undervalued in the academy, he said. The CAO may want to consider seriously some work related to what counts for tenure and promotion. ACLS and/or its constituent organizations can encourage collaborative reflection about teaching and learning.
Learned societies may be able to provide support by preparing future faculty to engage in discipline-specific assessment. Current interest in humanistic teaching and the impact it has on higher education may offer opportunities to ACLS and its constituent societies to help a variety of stakeholders better understand the value to its students.
The next session “Learned Societies and Public Controversies,” was moderated by Michael Paschal, Association for Asian Studies. This session reviewed the protocols though which different societies decide which issues fall within a society’s mandate and how public positions are adopted. Nine societies submitted their procedures for adopting public statements. There were also nine examples of public statements released by ACLS member societies on the Stephen Salaita case and the academic boycott/Divestment movement. Under discussion were the differentiation between professional and political issues. Individual members will continue to bring a wide variety of topics to their societies for consideration. The most important action an executive director can take is to make sure solid policies are in place that can guide the leadership in evaluating such requests. The sample policies in the meeting materials can be used as models.
Jay Malone of the History of Science Society moderated an informal, wide-ranging Q&A session that allowed the group to share current issues and concerns. Among the topics discussed were: SWETS bankruptcy, hotel contract relocation clauses, Ebola and annual meeting attendance, cancellation insurance, state tax exemptions.
On Saturday the third theme-related session “Learned Societies and Employment Outcomes of Doctoral Education,” was moderated by Linda Downs, College Art Association. The panelists were Rosemary G. Feal, Modern Language Association, and Karen Shanton, a Policy Analyst at Demos. The session explored the ways in which PhD career paths are, by necessity, changing. Rosemary Feal gave an overview of MLA’s work in this area and role of the scholarly society in expanding the career horizons of PhDs. Karen Shanton, a former ACLS Public Fellow, spoke of the challenges she faced when making the move from academia to a non-academic position and ways in which she thought learned societies could help students with such transitions. Societies could offer mentorship programs- heightening the profile of people who get jobs outside the academy, as well providing formal opportunities for organizations that would be willing to hire PhDs to connect with students who are interested.
In the final session, entitled “On the Horizon,” Steve Wheatley, ACLS, and Linda Downs, College Art Association, informed the group of new initiatives. Wheatley announced the partnership between ACLS and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to assist in the administration of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program. This effort extends ACLS’s support for scholarly careers into the undergraduate domain. He then spoke of the Ithaka S+R US Faculty survey, which will field its next cycle in 2015. Ithaka S+R will invite learned societies to review disciplinary analysis of finding in their respective fields.
Nancy Kidd closed the meeting with a discussion on the future of the CAO and asked the group to consider where and how the group will focus their energies in the coming year.
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 the Hawaii Convention and Visitors Bureau, the group enjoyed accommodations at the Sheraton Waikiki and the Royal Hawaiian, receptions and meals at other select hotels (The Waikiki Marriott), and visits to local attractions such as Pearl Harbor Museum/Battleship Missouri and Diamond Head National Park.
The CAO will next convene on May 9, 2015, in Philadelphia, following the ACLS annual meeting.