Image of Baltimore at sunset with an rose-grey overlay
Baltimore City by Yanni Mathioudakis is licensed under a Creative Commons 2.0 License

Dear ASA Friends and Colleagues,

It is an honor to write to you for the first time as the ASA President. I can think of no better moment to be part of this extended community than a period of abolitionist uprising, global Black liberationist movement, and sustained, Indigenous led anti-colonial and decolonial struggle against the fundamental violence of the “A” in ASA.

To be sure, we are living in unprecedented, difficult, and uncertain times. The ongoing pandemic continues to have dramatic impacts on our daily and professional lives. We as an association have taken seriously what the membership has raised with regard to the infeasibility of an in-person conference; to proceed would unnecessarily place our members at risk and reproduce already existing inequities within our extended scholarly community.

I am pleased and relieved to inform you that the ASA has successfully negotiated a cancelation of the in-person 2020 Annual Meeting with no adverse financial effects to the organization. Led by the 2020 Program Committee, we will instead hold a limited series of online 2020 Annual Meeting Freedom Courses in November that reflect the urgent and timely themes of the planned featured sessions in the 2020 program. These 2020 Annual Meeting Freedom Courses will provide a lasting and vital point of convergence in lieu of our planned Baltimore festivities.

The 2020 Program Committee and the ASA Executive Committee have decided that we will not convert the full 2020 Annual Meeting program to an online or “virtual” format. We recognize that concerns about public health and the uneven impacts of financial austerity will impact the ASA’s Annual Meeting in the coming period. I write to assure you that we will continue to prioritize safety and equity in all of our future planning. With this commitment in mind, i am working alongside President-Elect Cathy Schlund-Vials to build continuity between the 2020 and 2021 Annual Meetings by sustaining the 2020 theme "Creativity Within Revolt" through the 2021 Annual Meeting. Our working plan is to retain the 2020 program of accepted session and paper submissions while providing an opportunity in the coming year for new submissions. We will also create a process for accepted 2020 sessions and papers to revise, reconfigure, or withdraw their submissions. Cathy, the Program Committee Co-Chairs, and i will communicate more details as they are finalized.

In the spirit of enlivening and sustaining the sense of intellectual community that is such a distinguishing feature of the ASA, i invite all of you to continue proposing and organizing ASA Freedom Courses. Four have been created thus far and a fifth will soon be posted on the ASA Freedom Courses channel. Email me at dylanrodriguezASA@gmail.com if you have ideas.

The ASA prioritizes principles of access and inclusion in its Annual Meeting and makes commitments to its Annual Meeting venues 3-4 years in advance. We have thus committed to holding the 2024 Annual Meeting at the same Baltimore hotel that would have hosted us this November. As most of you know, our organization deals exclusively with unionized hotels, and we sign socially responsible Annual Meeting contracts through INMEX. These commitments, in addition to other external factors (most significantly, the financial burdens imposed by the ongoing lawsuit against the ASA in reaction to its 2013 Academic Resolution supporting the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions), precluded the ASA from announcing a decision on the 2020 Annual Meeting until now. I hope you will accept my apologies for the relative lateness of this action.

At its July 24, 2020 meeting, prior to the negotiation of the cancelation, the ASA Executive Committee passed a motion that affirms the organization’s commitment to the well-being of the most vulnerable people in the extended ASA community during these extraordinary times. The motion reads as follows:

The ASA Executive Committee, in response to the unprecedented conditions confronting its membership in 2020,

  1. recognizes the definitive factors that make meeting in person impossible for the 2020 Annual Meeting in Baltimore; and
  2. initiates contingency planning for the 2020 Annual Meeting in a manner that upholds ASA’s responsibility to serve marginalized and vulnerable people among its membership while upholding its financial responsibilities as a member-based organization.

The culture of expectation that defines much of the hegemonic academy is not only “toxic” in this moment, but is imminently, asymmetrically fatal to specific communities that constitute the ASA membership. As many of us continue to fight the onslaught of “return to classroom” planning among college and university administrations, we cannot presume access to normative conditions of professional conference travel, large scale gathering, or even mundane everyday movement in the near future. Those of us living with disabilities (or caring for people with disabilities) are experiencing new forms and degrees of stress and vulnerability at this time, and it is clear that existing academic infrastructures (including and especially its culture of expectation) are neither feasible nor sustainable for people in such positions. It is therefore crucial for the ASA to serve as a center of critical community building in these times.

Many of our members inhabit new, exacerbated, and/or asymmetrical vulnerabilities under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the ASA’s obligation to prioritize members’ health and well-being in every decision it makes.

We recognize that contingent faculty members, graduate students, independent scholars, and many assistant professors, among others in this community, are experiencing acute conditions of financial and institutional vulnerability at this time. Many of us are caring for elders, children, and loved ones (including incarcerated, unsheltered, and displaced loved ones) who remain under severe threat of infection and illness due to the spread and mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. A good number of ASA members are highly endangered by the threat of coronavirus due to preexisting health conditions, and it is clear that Black, Latinx, Native and Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ people and communities are suffering from the pandemic in ways that directly reflect historical relations of anti-Blackness, racial-colonial violence, heteronormative patriarchy, and normalized transphobia.

For ASA members who have already registered for the 2020 Annual Meeting, there are multiple options. You can: 1) redirect your registration fee to the ASA Solidarity Fund to support contingent faculty; 2) apply your registration to support current and upcoming 2020 ASA Annual Meeting Freedom Courses; 3) forward your 2020 fee to the 2021 Annual Meeting; or 4) request a full refund. We will be sending a form to those members who have paid registration, with a request to indicate your preference by November 1. For the sake of protecting the ASA staff’s workload, please do not state your preference by replying to this email! (Members who do not respond to any of these options by November 1, 2020, will have their registration fees converted to support the ASA Solidarity Fund.)

Finally, on behalf of the ASA, it’s a pleasure to urge, cajole, and shake down our most financially privileged members to support the ASA either through our general trust or a dedicated fund for our growing list of initiatives. We recognize that the decisions the ASA and other academic organizations have made to cancel their in-person conferences are creating adverse impacts on people working in the hospitality industry. If you are able, please donate today to the UNITE HERE Education and Support Fund. As many know, the ASA is more than the Annual Meeting. The work it takes to support our collective ambitions requires resources as well as the tireless efforts of those of you who volunteer to lead and serve. I am grateful to you and to everyone for the scholarly contributions you bring to our association.

I look forward to hearing from you all. Expect to receive more from ASA leadership and me soon.

Peace,
Dylan Rodriguez
ASA President, 2020-2021

Posted for ASA Office in Annual Meeting
Post date: August 4, 2020

Community announcements and events are services that are offered by the ASA to support the organizing efforts of critical constituency groups. They do not reflect the decisions or actions of the association’s governance bodies, the National Council or Executive Committee. Questions should be directed to the committee, caucus, or chapter that has authored and posted this notice.