Photo collage from the 2024 ACLS Annual Meeting: ACLS President Joy Connolly; Bonnie Thornton Dill and Nancy Cantor laugh on stage; a group of scholars chats; Ania Loomba delivers the Haskins Lecture at a podium
Photos of the 2024 ACLS Annual Meeting


Student protests, rapid administrative responses, and Congressional inquiries—all under the glare of 24/7 media coverage—have made this a difficult and, for many, a painful year on American campuses.

The 2024 ACLS Annual Meeting, which took place in Baltimore May 2 and 3, provided a chance for individuals from different corners of higher education to connect over these and other issues and to take inspiration from the scholars and administrators who shared their ambition and achievements with us. Each year, this meeting brings together the ACLS Board of Directors, delegates and executive directors from our member societies, funders, and an array of scholars, including Research University Consortium representatives, past and present fellows, and participants in ACLS initiatives.

This year’s meeting featured several university leaders speaking candidly about current events on campus and academic leadership more generally: Ron Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University; Bonnie Thornton Dill, until recently Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland, College Park; and Nancy Cantor, outgoing chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark and incoming president of Hunter College, CUNY.

As is our habit, we also sought to foster cross-generational and cross-institutional discussion of how to strengthen academic infrastructure, without which humanistic inquiry is impossible. Panels included robust discussions on graduate education reform, public scholarship, humanists in administrative leadership, and collaborations between the humanities and the sciences, notably bioethics and environmental studies.  

Ania Loomba, the Catherine Bryson Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, delivered an extraordinary Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture. She left us with a nuanced understanding of how her experiences informed her development as a thinker about empire and race, along with memorable images of herself as a child popping into the offices of the African National Congress, just down the hall from her childhood apartment in Delhi, and as a faculty member building alliances with feminist scholars in the United States. 

I believe together we can tell a powerful story about what we do, a story that is plural but unified. We can determine how to tell this story persuasively to people who are not already poised to believe it.

Another highlight was the announcement of the first ever ACLS Open Access Book Prize and Arcadia Open Access Publishing Award winners. Generously sponsored by Arcadia, these are the largest prizes for open access titles available today. We were honored and grateful to host author Simon P. Newman and Emma Gallon of University of London Press, history category winners for Freedom Seekers: Escaping from Slavery in Restoration London, and co-authors Paige Raibmon and Darcy Cullen of University of British Columbia Press representing the multimodal category winner As I Remember It: Teachings from the Life of a Sliammon Elder on this momentous occasion. Stay tuned: prizes will be awarded in additional categories next year.

The discussions at these events as well as the conversations they prompted over coffee breaks, meals, and shared train and plane rides home, offered us a sense of hope for the future.

My own Report to the Council ended with questions for the ACLS community to consider over the coming months:  What can our unique community of learned societies and member institutions do together? What can we do together that we cannot do alone?

I believe together we can tell a powerful story about what we do, a story that is plural but unified. We can determine how to tell this story persuasively to people who are not already poised to believe it. We can engage in advocacy for our fields and for effective ways to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion now under attack in many states. We can explore how to work together to fight for funding and decent pay for decent posts. We can focus our energies on the question of how to foster debate among people who disagree, concentrating on the tough question of how to engage people who feel excluded from the conversation in the first place. We can support leadership with strong academic values that invests in the relationships that bolster humanistic inquiry. We can publicize our activities and gatherings as sites that define and model disagreement. We can advocate, not only with open letters and statements, but through the relationships we build with scholars at all levels, with administrators, and with people outside the academy.

Our own community is diverse: we represent different areas of study, different priorities, different views as to the political roles or responsibilities of scholars. I’m confident that we will find common ground on which we can work together, to help one another along the long road of supporting scholars and the conditions for teaching and learning – starting with freedom from fear and intimidation.

Through the end of the year, we will wind up our current strategic plan and design a new one that will guide our work for the next five years, in consultation with many individuals and groups. Please stay tuned for further developments.

In the meantime, thanks to my colleagues for their hard work on the meeting, and thank you, as always, for your interest and support.



Why I am Not a Painter
By Frank O’Hara

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.