As we continue to navigate the ever-changing landscape created by the current pandemic and our new normal of meeting on screens, we have started to find ways to make that form of connection work for us during these challenging times.

For example, the executive directors of ACLS Member Societies have inaugurated a weekly informal gathering to share strategies and solutions, commiserate, and celebrate with their colleagues over a quarantini or quarantea. On Monday we hosted a webinar for Member Societies on important fundraising and communications best practices during times of external crisis. About 30 executive directors joined Mary Richter, Director of Philanthropy, Heather Mangrum, Director of Communications, Sandra Bradley, Director of Governance and Society Relations, and ACLS board member Carl Pforzheimer for a discussion on how best to reach and engage members and donors in the current context. Last Friday, Engagement Manager Desiree Barron-Callaci organized a brown bag lunch via Zoom for Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows during which Ashley Bowen F’18 of the Science History Institute led a talk on “Public Philately.” While Zoom will never replace the experience of in person meetings, we are finding these virtual opportunities have proven a wonderful way to stay connected and continue sharing with and learning from members of our community right now.

We are also encouraged by the passing of the historic CARE Act, which will provide much needed relief and assistance to many of our member organizations, as well as our fellows. While there is still much to assess in the 900-page bill and understanding it is not perfect, we are thankful for the progress. Our summary of provisions impacting our community also includes links to helpful resources from the National Humanities Alliance, American Society of Association Executives, and National Council of Nonprofits that will have updates on potential additions to the package, as well as attaining SBA loans for eligible non-profits.

With crisis comes also opportunity for support and change for the better in academia. Our learned society executive directors are issuing persuasive calls for humane consideration in the process of evaluating faculty for tenure, promotion, and re-appointment, on the grounds that faculty who have focused their energies on their students, rapidly switching to remote teaching, have lost time they anticipated spending on research. Fair, equitable treatment of contingent faculty and extended financial support, whenever possible, for graduate students whose dissertation research is delayed are also prominent themes in the societies’ discussions, which ACLS is proud to endorse.

In the coming weeks we will continue to share awards announcements for our fellowship and grants programs. In addition to celebrating the outstanding scholarship projects being taken on by these new fellows, we want to highlight recent accomplishments of past fellows. Please share news about any new books, articles, appointments, or other recent achievements so that we can share them with the rest of the ACLS community.

As I read hopefully about new treatments being tested for COVID-19 and remember the medical staff risking themselves to save others, I turn to Erasmus Darwin, poet of empirical and experimental science.

“The Loves of the Plants,” Canto II 
Erasmus Darwin

So when Contagion with mephitic breath
And withered Famine urged the work of death;
Marseilles’ good Bishop, London’s generous Mayor,
With food and faith, with medicine and prayer,
Raised the weak head and stayed the parting sigh,
Or with new life relumed the swimming eye —
—And now, PHILANTHROPY! thy rays divine
Dart round the globe from Zembla to the Line;
O’er each dark prison plays the cheering light,
Like northern lustres o’er the vault of night.

Wishing you all good health and resilience,

Joy Connolly