Dear ASECS Members,
I hope this email finds you and yours safe and healthy. Lately, I and members of the Board have received a number of emails with questions and expressions of concern about meeting in person, two months from now, for the ASECS Annual Meeting in Baltimore. We understand the concerns that some colleagues may have about travelling and gathering at this time, and respect that they may consider the risks associated with attending a professional meeting to be too great. Below, I explain ASECS’s decision to move forward with an in-person meeting and also share more information about ASECS’s current health and safety plans for the Baltimore gathering.
At this point, it is not financially feasible for ASECS to cancel the in-person meeting and pivot online. Federal, state, and municipal authorities continue to permit large in-person gatherings. ASECS therefore remains bound by its contract with the Baltimore conference hotel, which was signed many years ago. The cost of cancelling our contract is in excess of $225,000. This would be a monumental expense for the Society. To put it in context, that cost would exceed ASECS’s expected revenue for the year, excluding any investment income. Our budget would be deep in the red before accounting for fixed operating costs—staff, office expenses, insurance, accounting, etc. Holding a hybrid conference is also financially and logistically not feasible for reasons that were previously shared (see here: https://www.asecs2022.org/why-meet-in-person). ASECS is lucky that it does not depend on the Annual Meeting to draw a profit. In fact, in normal years, ASECS slightly subsidizes the Annual Meeting from its operating budget, to keep costs relatively reasonable for attendees. Incurring such a huge cancellation penalty this year would hamper our ability to keep costs low for future Annual Meetings and would likely force us to cut back or suspend other programs.
We have also heard from colleagues who are eager to gather with their scholarly community for the first time since 2019, to renew, or finally experience for the first time, the professional mentorship, connection, and support that in-person conferences foster. Hundreds of members have already registered for the Annual Meeting and booked hotel rooms. Our priority is to offer the safest possible in-person experience for registrants. ASECS is working with public health experts to design robust health and safety protocols. To implement those protocols, I am working with a meeting planner, Devon Binder of Red Door Alliances, who has over twenty years of event-planning experience and a certificate in Pandemic Meeting & Event Design. Right now, we can share that there will be a vaccine requirement for attendance at the Annual Meeting, masking will be required in ASECS meetings spaces and common areas, and meeting rooms will be arranged to accommodate less dense seating. (As the Covid situation is constantly changing, we will issue final protocols and instructions for submitting proof of vaccination closer to the conference.)
Of course, much of what we value about in-person conferences happens outside of session rooms, often at social events that involve food and drink, and where masking is less consistent. We are attempting to hold some of these events outdoors, including our annual members’ reception, which will take place in an outdoor courtyard, weather permitting.
We remain mindful of the shifting institutional and legal barriers to attendance, especially for members from outside the United States. We also realize that members’ comfort with attending may shift over time. We have therefore made cancellations quite easy. Refunds will be issued, less a $15 administrative fee, through March 11. Refunds will also be offered after that date in cases of medical emergency.
ASECS will continue to monitor the changing Covid situation and adjust the Annual Meeting protocols accordingly. I and the Board always welcome your comments and questions; you can reach me at ASECSExecutiveDirector@gmail.com. Thank you for reading and for your support of ASECS in these trying times.