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ANNUAL REPORT OF THE WOMEN’S COMMITTEE
The charge of the Women’s Committee is four-fold: 1) to facilitate partnerships between women from both academic and community settings; 2) to foster networking opportunities for women academics and students; 3) to collaborate with other ASA committees and task forces, such as the Minority Scholars’ Committee, Task Force on Ethnic Studies, Committee on Secondary Schools, Students’ Committee, and Queer Caucus, on issues of common concern; and 4) to facilitate greater visibility and acknowledgement of international scholars and scholarship on global issues.
Since the beginning of the 2004 calendar year, the Women’s Committee has had four proposed sessions accepted for the upcoming November 2004 convention in Atlanta, Georgia. With the Minority Scholars’ Committee, Students’ Committee, and Committee on Ethnic Studies, the Women’s Committee is co-sponsoring Breakfast with Champions—“Lifting as We Climb”: Mentors and Mentees. Organized by committee members Rachel Adams and Leslie Fishbein, and chaired by Laura Barraclough of the University of Southern California, this panel consists of three distinguished senior faculty members who will interact with the graduate students and other audience members to discuss areas of concern for women scholars during the mentoring process. Rachel is currently working with Convention Director Larry McReynolds to secure funding for the breakfast food since the members Rachel Adams and Leslie Fishbein realized that, by adopting the Breakfast with Champions title for a regular session scheduled for the first morning slot, we might create an expectation that breakfast would be served as it had been for the innovative Breakfast with Champions inaugurated by the Students’ Committee at the Hartford convention in 2003. We intend this event as a counterpart to our earlier panel, similarly entitled “Lifting as We Climb”: Mentors and Mentees, which also was accepted for the upcoming annual meeting. Rachel Adams and Leslie Fishbein collaborated on planning this panel as well, and it is comprised of pairs of faculty mentors and their mentees (all of whom are now faculty members themselves) chaired by Maria Eugenia Cotera of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Together, the events will especially focus upon the issues minority faculty and students face on both sides of the mentoring relationship, and the challenges and rewards arising from mentor-mentee relationships that engage racial, ethnic, and class differences. They are titled “Lifting as We Climb,” from the motto of the post-Reconstruction era’s National Association of Colored Women. We encourage conference participants to attend both panels and to be inspired by the commitment to women’s social and economic improvement, uplifting alliances, and cooperative assistance that the phrase “Lifting as We Climb” connotes. The outstanding reputations and activist histories of the mentors and mentees who comprise these sessions are sure to attract a considerable group of participants.
In addition, the Women’s Committee is sponsoring a session chaired by the eminent multicultural feminist and scholar Ella Shohat of New York University and entitled “Mediating the Crossroads: Representing Arab Women in American Culture.” Committee member Marcy J. Knopf Newman conceptualized this session and is also one of the panelists, presenting a paper entitled “Scheherazade Teaches the U.S.: Representing Arab Women in the American Child’s Imagination.” The panelists will make multimedia presentations that will stimulate participants to think critically about how American culture has represented Arab and Muslim women since 9/11. This furthers our committee’s goals to bring to the forefront issues intersecting women at a global level and to challenge our ASA membership to identify and ameliorate stereotyping and misogyny in the non-academic communities outside of the institutions where they teach and research. With American-Arab relations currently at the forefront of U. S. foreign and domestic policy discussions, we think that this panel will attract a large and lively audience.
The fourth accepted panel we are sponsoring is “Keeping HOPE Alive: The Scholarship Program at the Crossroads,” conceived and organized by Barbara McCaskill, who is also chairing the session. No scholarship program in history has changed the trajectory of university education in Georgia as strongly as the HOPE, which guarantees admission to a public university to students who matriculate from Georgia high schools with a B or higher grade point average. In the wake of enormous budget cuts to the state’s education system and a lingering economic recession, changes to the HOPE are being considered that may hurt the very students the program was most developed to assist: those from inner-city populations as well as rural areas to the north and south of Georgia’s urban metropolis of Atlanta. The researchers on this panel will consider the future of the HOPE, and its benefits and shortcoming to date, in a discussion that will be sure to attract a sizeable group of community members and students who have invested in this program, as well as scholars who are curious as to how such an enterprise might take shape or translate in their own states.
While we are pleased to have four panels developed by the Women’s Committee on the Atlanta program and we were grateful for help from ASA Executive Director John Stephens and the ASA Program Committee and staff in scheduling the Breakfast with Champions in the earliest slot and “Lifting as We Climb” in the latest afternoon slot to accommodate audience discussion with the especially large number of session participants, we encountered the following difficulties in mounting these sessions and wish to alert both the American Studies Association and future members of the Women’s Committee to these problems so that they can be avoided in the future:
1. The Women’s Committee passed a resolution at its 2003 Hartford business meeting stating that we would like the American Studies Association to avoid scheduling any Women’s Committee-initiated sessions at the same time as the Saturday morning Breakfast for Women in American Studies, in fact, that has been done for the Atlanta meeting. The Breakfast runs from 7:00-9:00 A.M.: http://asa-dev.press.jhu.edu/program04/business.html while the Breakfast with Champions runs from 8:00-9:45 A.M.: http://asa-Dev.press.jhu.edu/program04/saturday.html.
2. Although the Women’s Committee traditionally has sponsored three or four sessions at each annual meeting, it is not clear how many sessions we may sponsor and whether any of them will be automatically accepted by the Program Committee. Furthermore, while in 2002 and 2003 the Program booklets announced our sponsorship and that of any other ASA groups that we had enlisted: the Minority Scholars’ Committee, the Students’ Committee, the Committee on Ethnic Studies, and the Queer Caucus, for the 2004 Atlanta program, only the Breakfast with Champions bears those endorsements. Considerable effort was expended in getting endorsements from the Minority Scholars’ Committee, the Students’ Committee, and the Committee on Ethnic Studies for the “‘Lifting as We Climb’: Mentors and Mentees” session, yet no such endorsement appears. We would like to know if the sponsorships can be listed for more than a single session and, if there are limits, whether it is the Program Committee or the Women’s Committee that should decide which sessions should appear as officially sponsored.
3. Rachel Adams agreed to serve as the session organizer for the Breakfast with Champions and nearly found herself barred from participating in another session because the online submission form, which the ASA imposed on even those who sought to submit paper proposals, did not distinguish between session organizers and chairs so it appeared that she was violating the ASA mandate against appearing twice as a session participant in the program booklet. This confusion generated additional problems when chairs, who assumed that chairing was the sum total of their obligations to the session, were informed of any problems with the sessions while session organizers were not. It is essential that those who volunteer to organize sessions not be penalized for doing so by being barred from appearing on the official program in another capacity and that they, rather than the session chairs, be informed of any organizational problems that need to be corrected before the program booklet can go to print.
4. Although all participants in sessions have been informed that they can appear only once on the program, both the Breakfast with Champions and “Lifting as We Climb” found that there were problems with participants who had agreed to appear in other sessions that also were approved by the Program Committee. Several of those problems were resolved prior to the printing of the official program, but the program booklet now excludes Thadious Davis, who had agreed to appear in the Breakfast with Champions and is appearing in another session on Thursday from 5:00-7:00 P.M.: “The Americas as Crossroads from Prehistory to the Present: Cultural Collisions and National Delusions,” and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, who had agreed to appear in “Lifting as We Climb” but also is appearing in another session on Sunday from 12:00-1:45: “Toni Cade Bambara’s Cross Cultural Work in Atlanta.” Since Beverly Guy-Sheftall is the mentor of another program participant, Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, excluding the former from participation would leave the latter in the embarrassing situation of being a mentee without a mentor, a fate she hardly deserves. Beverly Guy-Sheftall does appear in the online program, but Thadious Davis does not. Since in both cases the participants in these sessions are not presenting their own work but instead are appearing on request as mentors to offer advice to those more junior in American Studies, we suggest that an exception be made so that they can appear and be listed in the official program for more than one session.
We have invited Beverly Tatum to speak at our Women’s Breakfast. Dr. Tatum is ninth President of Spelman College, the oldest and most distinguished historically black school for women in the nation. As author of Why Are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and other Conversations about Race (1997), she is noted for scholarship that responds to this committee’s common goal of identifying common concerns of academic and community members.
Finally, we are prepared to conduct our annual Business Meeting at the Atlanta Convention, which will include organizing and brainstorming for the 2005 convention to take place in Washington, D.C. We have extended invitations to Chairs or representatives of the Minority Scholars’, International, and Students’ Committees to attend as well. As a follow-up to email discussions prior to the convention, we plan to move forward on developing a survey of women in American Studies that will update the 1987 ASA report entitled Personal Lives and Professional Careers—The Uneasy Balance: The Report of the Women’s Committee of the American Studies Association . The first step towards this goal is to delegate tasks to committee members to assess existing women’s survey data, to contact other influential scholarly organizations for endorsement of the project, and to draft a prospective online survey. We have invited Simon Bronner, the Chair of the Committee on American Studies, and Judith Babbitts, the Chair of the Crossroads Project Advisory Board, to participate in this discussion and to brainstorm ways that we can work collaboratively to forward this project without duplicating or overlapping the efforts of other committees. Irene Santos, the incoming Women’s Committee Chair, and I plan to attend the All-Chairs’ meeting during the Atlanta conference to solicit additional feedback and suggestions for the survey. As another item of business we will review the findings of the 2001 Final Report and Recommendations of the Task Force for International Women in American Studies and share ideas concerning how the Women’s Committee might act on this information in tandem with the International Initiative of the ASA as a whole. We have invited Doris Friedensohn, former member of the Task Force, to share her ideas with us. Having recently established a permanent slot on the committee for an international scholar, we are very interested in identifying additional ways that we can support the Association’s efforts to respond to the needs of its international constituents and to give them greater voice in shaping the organization’s direction.
I close by extending greetings to incoming committee member Katherine E. Ledford. Leslie Fishbein and Marcy J. Knopf Newman are ending their committee service in June 2005. Leslie has been a very active participant and her organization of sessions for both the 2004 and 2003 conferences has been significant. I would like especially to single out for praise her tireless facilitation of the very well received 2003 “Domestic Violence/Domestic Silence: The Activist Response to Shaming Rituals” roundtable collaboratively organized with two other ASA groups: the Minority Scholars’ Committee and Queer Caucus. Leslie worked energetically to secure funding for the speaker’s honorarium and equipment, and she dedicated considerable time and effort to publicizing this event to community members and ensuring a Saturday convention slot to maximize their attendance. Similarly, Marcy J. Knopf Newman distinguished herself by organizing dynamic conference sessions that address timely, newsworthy topics such as gay children and the school system and perceptions of Arab women in American culture. Because of her vision and facility, this committee has been able to foster stimulating academic-community dialogue, another one of our ongoing goals. I am also stepping down as Chair, and I am very pleased that Irene Ramalho Santos is stepping up to become the first international scholar to lead this committee. Recent Women’s Committee Chairs such as Barbara McCaskill have typically been recommended by the Committee to the ASA Executive Council for appointment. However, according to the ASA bylaws, the Executive Council also possesses the discretion of appointing Chairs, which it has done this year.
I would like to thank all of the committee members and ASA executive leaders for their hard work, guidance, and suggestions during my tenure as Chair.
Barbara McCaskill, ASA Women’s Committee Chair
Appendix: Sessions Sponsored by the ASA Women’s Committee
1. Thursday, November 11th: 8:00 - 9:45 AM
Mediating the Crossroads: Representing Arab Women in American Culture
Ella Shohat, Department of Art and Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies, New York University
Evelyn Alsultany, Program in Modern Thought and Literature, Stanford University
Selling Citizenship Post 9/11: Representations of Arab- and Muslim-American Women in Non-Profit Advertising
Amal Amireh, Department of English, George Mason University
Romancing Iraq as an Arab-American Predicament in Diana Abu Jaber’s Crescent
Marcy Knopf Newman, Department of English, Boise State University
Scheherazade Teaches the U.S.: Representing Arab Women in the American Child’s Imagination
2. Friday, November 12th: 10:00 - 11:45 AM
Keeping HOPE Alive: The Scholarship Program at the Crossroads
Barbara McCaskill, Department of English, University of Georgia
Cathy Mayes Hudson, Associate Vice Chancellor for Strategic Research and Analysis, Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia
Keeping the Best Students in Georgia: The Impact of the HOPE Scholarship
Bettye Smith, Department of Occupational Studies, University of Georgia
HOPE Scholars and a Land Grant Institution: A Decade in Review
Dorothy White, Department of Mathematics Education, University of Georgia
HOPE Scholars and a Land Grant Institution: A Decade in Review
3. Friday, November 12th: 4:00 - 5:45 PM
“Lifting as We Climb”: Mentors and Mentees
This roundtable discussion will update the theme of “Lifting as We Climb,” as a Reconstruction Era phrase that connotes the commitment to race betterment and improved racial identity and public image by the most privileged and better educated African Americans, to focus more generally on women of color and the mentor-mentee relationship in a post-identity politics context.
Maria Eugenia Cotera, Program in American Culture and Women’s Studies Department, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Michael Antonucci, Department of English, University of Illinois, Chicago
Mary Pat Brady, Department of English, Cornell University
Frances Smith Foster, Departments of English and Women’s Studies, Emory University
Nellie McKay, Departments of English and Afro-American Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Women’s Studies Department, Spelman College
Cherene Sherrard-Johnson, Department of English, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Sonia Saldivar-Hull, Women’s Studies Institute, University of Texas, San Antonio
Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, Institute of Liberal Arts, Emory University
4. Saturday, November 14th: 8:00 - 9:45 AM
Breakfast with Champions (Sponsored by ASA Women’s Committee, Minority Scholars’ Committee, the Students’ Committee, and the Committee on Ethnic Studies)
This session emphasizes the dual meaning of champion as not only one who has achieved outstanding success but also as one who can serve as an advocate for other like herself. A counterpart to the panel “Lifting as We Climb,” it provides an opportunity for more sustained engagement between graduate students and senior faculty in American Studies.
Laura Barraclough, Program in American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California
Rosemarie Garland Thomson, Departments of English and Comparative Literature, Emory University
Rosaura Sanchez, Department of Literature, University of California, San Diego