Promoting, supporting and encouraging the study of the United States since 1955

British Association for American Studies


meeting 241


meeting 241

BAAS Executive Committee Meeting: January 15, 2005

Minutes of the 241st meeting of the Executive Committee, held at The Rothermere Institute, Oxford on January 15, 2005.

1. Present

S Newman (Chair), C Smith (Vice Chair), H Macpherson (Secretary), N Selby (Treasurer), C Elliott, C Morley, I Scott, G Thompson, J Virden and P Thompson.

K Cooper, J Davies, S MacLachlan, M Padget, I Ralston, J Kleinberg and T Woods.

In Attendance
George Conyne

2. Minutes of the Previous Meeting.
After the correction of minor typographical errors, the minutes were accepted as a true record.

3. Matters Arising
There were no matters arising.

4. Chair’s Business

a) The Chair began by reporting that Professor Paul Cammack (Manchester Metropolitan University) had been appointed Chair of RAE sub-panel 47, “American Studies and Anglophone Area Studies.” SN reported that invitations to serve on the panels are expected to be issued over the next three weeks.

b) SN reported that Anna Clarke, a former administrative Secretary of BAAS and well known mystery novelist, died in November 2004. The Independent ran an obituary on 28 December 2004.

c) SN reported that the BAAS mailbase was now up and running again, and he thanked Clare Elliott for all of her work in creating a new and improved BAAS email distribution list. For a variety of reasons, Clare had had to construct a new email list from scratch, inputting email addresses that she had gathered from a range of sources, and working with University of Glasgow support staff to create a proper email distribution list. CE reported there are currently 618 people on the list.

d) SN attended the annual conference of the American Studies Association in Atlanta, Georgia, 11-14 November. (Other representatives of BAAS included Jay Kleinberg, Martin Padget, Phil Davies, Scott Lucas, Marina Moskowitz, and Chris Bigsby.) The meeting provoked a series of interesting discussions which SN would like the Executive Committee to examine in some detail at the next meeting. These include long term ideas, including ways to facilitate postgraduates going to other conferences. There were also discussions about American understandings of American Studies as different from academic understandings in other countries. SN reported that the ASA conference appears to be more and more focused on academic work related to identities, while other organizations remain multi- as well as interdisciplinary, and thus somewhat more “traditional”. However, a number of possible collaborative ventures were aired, including co-operative ventures in annual (and smaller) conferences, perhaps exploring the issues raised above, including how “America” and “American Studies” are differently constructed in various countries and regions. Another possibility is a reciprocal scheme in which some postgraduate students are funded to attend and present work at international conferences (e.g. between BAAS and ASA). Following the conference SN wrote to SFF regarding these proposals, and she has responded by suggesting an informal (rather than institutional) approach to postgraduate participation in international conferences. These issues will be addressed in more detail at the next meeting.

e) SN and CS attended the UKCASA annual general meeting on 14 January 2005. SN reported that it had been a good meeting. Before the annual general meeting, Ed Hughes, the RAE manager, spoke to the group and offered a positive view of interdisciplinary area studies. What became clear is that area studies submissions may be lower in 2008 than in previous RAEs, and some departments or programmes are perceived to be in danger. Thus it remains crucial that there should be a concerted effort to support more cross-referencing in 2008. SN noted that it is particularly important to think about the position and funding of area studies programmes in relation to the funding of postgraduates; BAAS needs to help develop strategies that will work to raise awareness of the vibrancy of American Studies despite the expected lower submission rate to the RAE subpanel 47. SN also reported that the AGM had approved a letter to be sent to Sir Howard Newby (HEFCE) about the need to protect area studies and language studies programmes. A similar letter will also be sent to SHEFC and HEFCW. CS noted that it was a very supportive and non-confrontational meeting.

f) SN reported that on 23 September 2004, the Select Committee on Science and Technology published its “Eleventh Report of Session 2003-04, Research Assessment Exercise: a Re-assessment”. On 23 November 2004, the Committee received a memorandum from the Government which contained a response to the Report. Both the Report and the Response began by reiterating a commitment to “improving the treatment of interdisciplinary research”.

g) The Chair reported that he had been interviewed by British Forces Broadcasting Service (26 October, on the US presidential election and foreign policy); and by the Spanish newspaper La Razon (27 October, on the significance of the presidential election for Europe).

h) SN noted that Phil Davies had attended the Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS) group’s conference on the “Disciplinary Identity of Area Studies” (29 November 2004). PD reported that LLAS and subject centres are becoming increasingly institutionalized as part of the Higher Education Academy, and despite his and Dick Ellis’ best efforts, area studies in general and American Studies in particular are not as well represented as they could or should be. This needs BAAS’s attention. The LLAS is still far more focused on language programmes rather than area studies. SN would like the Committee to consider ways to proceed at the next meeting. Some suggestions include conferences, a new issue of Atlas, CILT in Scotland, and a Journal of Area Studies.

i) SN reported that heads of departments for various subjects (including History) have received a letter from Professor Geoffrey Crossick of the AHRB regarding the creation of an “AHRB Journal Reference List”. SN circulated copies of the letter. At present this is a pilot scheme for just a few subjects, but it will have a significant impact on the AHRB and RAE ranking of publications in journals by members of the American Studies subject community. There are no US-based journals on the list, and it takes academics in these and related fields towards a simple “metrics” approach to the assessment of the quality of journal articles. Although the RAE disregarded this, and said that it wouldn’t be used, the AHRB will judge the funding of research projects based on where they are published. Many history organizations are resisting this, and it was felt strongly that BAAS should send a letter to oppose it. A long discussion ensued which explored a variety of options. IS noted how metrics are being used in science departments and that this has generated controversy in those fields; in addition, metrics are not easily applicable to arts, humanities and social sciences. It was also felt that BAAS needs to be careful about simply adding journal names to this list, as in a sense this validates the idea of the list in the first place, something which the majority of members opposed. PT wanted any letter sent to note the misspellings of journal titles and suggested that one way forward would be to submit a list of journals for which BAAS Executive Committee members have offered peer review. SN suggested that it may be better if BAAS started as an initial point that there should be no table, since this erodes and undermines peer review. HM noted that by definition, new journals would not be included, and that academics had a professional responsibility to help new journals succeed, but that a list of “acceptable journals” would undermine this collegiate effort. Committee members noted that the list included relatively few interdisciplinary journals, and that this went against the AHRB’s stated aims of encouraging interdisciplinary work. In addition, the list privileged English History at the expense of American History research. CS felt that the list was part of the change from AHRB to AHRC and suggested that we should write as many letters as possible, and show clear academic reasons why it will not work. Any responses need to be to SN in the next week. Where appropriate, members should encourage heads of departments to write.

j) SN reported that Simon Middleton (UEA) had written to him saying that UEA are considering the future of their four-year degree with the introduction of top-up fees, and he asked what was happening elsewhere, and if BAAS has a position on this. Committee members noted that in their own institutions, this had not necessarily been a problem. At Nottingham, for example, it is harder to recruit to the three year programme rather than four year programme and is in any case extending its exchange programme further. Hull only had a four year programme and has not experienced a problem recruiting. PT suggested that part of the problem is that US students do not want to come over for one year, which results in a problem of balance. GC noted that this isn’t a problem at Kent, and IS noted that numbers at Manchester were steady. Manchester has a one-semester programme with some students having the opportunity go to for a year on a three year programme; UCLAN does the same. JV noted that for the 4 year programme, the year in the US only requires half fees. SN thanked the Committee Members for their views and will write back to SM about this.

k) SN reported that Phil Davies would like to produce a leaflet describing the strengths and virtues of American Studies for publicity for programmes, centres, etc. Eccles Centre can do this because it doesn’t run an American Studies programme itself, so it wouldn’t be seen to be biased towards any one programme. PD has managed to secure funding, but would like to call on BAAS Executive Committee Members to help draft the leaflet. The Committee suggested that Martin Padget would be an excellent choice and that SN should approach him. GC noted that he would be happy to help MP on this project.

l) SN reported on various initiatives proposed by James Dunkerley of the ISA. Prof. Dunkerley would like to arrange a meeting of heads of departments/centres/programmes. BAAS supports this. PT would like to ensure that academics from Oxford and Cambridge are included. Prof. Dunkerley also suggested creating an annual dissertation prize for the best dissertation in US and Latin American Studies which ISA would then publish. This lead to a full debate about the merits of such a proposal. Some concerns were raised about who would judge this sort of prize, and whether there was enough cross-over expertise to judge the prizes effectively. One suggestion was that in alternate years, the prize would go to a Latin American dissertation or an American Studies dissertation, with dissertations completed in the intervening two years eligible for the prize. It was noted that other academic organizations have these types of prizes, and that the judges do not necessarily need to be on the Committee itself. Though logistical arrangements might be difficult, the Committee felt that the principle behind a dissertation prize was a good one. There are some issues yet to be resolved, such as whether other area studies (Caribbean/Canadian) would be included, and whether the proposal comes from the ISA or the Latin American Studies Association. SN will raise these issues with JD and pursue the matter further.

m) SN reported that the proposed AHRB funded “Americas-wide Research Training and Resources” programme for beginning postgraduates, to be administered by the Institute for the Study of the Americas (London) and the School of American and Canadian Studies at Nottingham, has now been reformulated to include bibliographic information from the British Library.

n) SN thanked the members of the Executive Committee for approving the creation of an annual BAAS Book prize, which is now being advertised. He noted that the first prize will be awarded at the Cambridge conference.

o) The Chair met with Professor Tony Badger and Ann Holton in Cambridge (22 November), and discussed arrangements for and funding of the BAAS conference.

p) It was reported that Professor D M Turley has been promoted to Dean of Humanities at the University of Canterbury Kent.

5. Secretary’s Business

a) The Secretary reported that this past quarter had been particularly busy. In general, her role as Secretary mainly revolves around information flow, and most of her time is taken up receiving information or responding to email queries. She noted in particular that most of the correspondence she now receives comes in electronic format (for example, the Charity Commission News), which is distributed to the Committee as she receives it. However, at the meeting, she circulated a draft of the letter to Sir Howard Newby from UKCASA; information on an “Ethics and the Governance of Research in the Social Sciences” conference; and information on the “First Annual Debate of the Academy of Social Sciences”.

b) HM reported on other actions taken as Secretary. She has updated BAAS records with national surveys/records especially in relation to the STAs and other awards; distributed information about STAs and other funding/prize opportunities; helped direct people with research queries to the appropriate sources; distributed calls for papers, conferences, etc. through the listserve; sent out copies of the BAAS leaflet to those who have requested them; continued to add to the externals list; forwarded information to the Treasurer regarding membership queries, especially from lapsed members; forwarded information from EAAS to the Treasurer and the EAAS representative; liaised with Northwest BAAS representatives; and reviewed the applications for the US Studies On Line editorship, along with Carol Smith.

c) HM noted that she had received many fewer queries for the newspaper database this quarter and thanked GT again for his efforts in ensuring that information about the newspaper database is clear to the BAAS website users.

d) HM reported that she had contributed to the North American section of the “Diversity Manual” published by the Directory of Social Change, a charity that supports voluntary sector workers.

e) HM noted that she was interviewed by Fernando Duarte from the Brazilian newspaper O Globo about the US elections.

f) HM reported on BAAS archive discussions.

g) HM stated her intention to stand for re-election at the upcoming conference.

h) HM will send an email to members of the Committee asking them to let her know if they need Wednesday night accommodation prior to the conference and next Executive Committee meeting.

6. Treasurer’s Business

a) The Treasurer reported that he had also had a busy quarter, particularly with renewals.

b) NS reported that current membership figures stand at 569 members, including 187 postgraduates. There has been a very good response to the membership renewals this year, with only a few complaints by members about being “forced” to take JAS.). Of the total figure above, 331 are completely paid up. While this is good, it does still mean that there are still quite a number of people who need to amend their standing orders to take into account the new fees.

c) Balances on 14.1.05 are as follows: Current account: £2230; Conference: £17,226; Lib. Res.: £766; Ed. Development: £5174; STA: £23,033; Deposit: £31,097*, making a total of £79,526. In addition, the RBS Jersey has £14,712.74, and US dollar account has $2692. The Deposit account includes £830.55 just received from old Halifax account.

d) NS reported that because of the very heavy work on subscription renewals since the last meeting, he has not yet convened a meeting of the Working Party (ref 6c from the minutes of BAAS 240). This Working Party is tasked to examine the possibility of earmarking funds/reserves.

e) NS noted that Barclays have been very slow in getting back on whether direct debits or credit card payments could be used for subscriptions. It was not possible to set anything in place for card payments before this year’s membership renewals. This is an ongoing piece of business.

f) NS reported that he was still working on Gift Aid.

g) In relation to the Old Halifax Building Society account, NS reported that after a further three letters to Halifax, a cheque arrived from them on Monday (10 Jan) in the amount of £830.55, thereby closing the account. NS proposed earmarking this money for Short-Term Awards. The Committee approved this measure. Subsequently, in discussions, it was agreed that this money should be earmarked for the new BAAS Book Prize instead. See 8g.

h) NS reported that he is standing down as Treasurer in April, a year early, because of new commitments at Glasgow, as Director of the Hook Centre. The Officers have discussed likely candidates from the Committee, and encourage all members to think about whether they would like to take on this role. HM as Secretary noted that this would create a one-year vacancy, and that any successful candidate would be eligible to take up 2 further terms as Treasurer if elected. It was noted that this was a good time to take on the role, as renewals were already well underway. NS reported that the majority of his work was spent on renewals and the annual accounts, and estimated that he spent approximately half a day a week throughout the year on this role.

i) JV noted that royalties for Edinburgh University Press were still coming to her. It was agreed that they should be sent to the Treasurer in the future, but that they could also be sent to the Secretary for continuity. JV is to check who the contact at EUP is and send the information to HM for processing.

7. Development Subcommittee (IS reporting)

a) IS reported that he has written to Sarah Jane Mayhew at the US Embassy to report that BAAS has spent the money that the Embassy has awarded it on the projects that it was funding this past year.

b) IS noted that publicity for the Ambassador’s Awards has been sent out in a variety of formats.

c) IS has written to Bruce Field at South Carolina regarding the Teachers’ Initiative. The Plan is to invite Bruce and other US colleagues to attend the Cambridge conference and participate in the Teachers’ meeting and associated activities.

d) CE as postgraduate representative reported on the very successful postgraduate conference in November. Thanks were offered to Birmingham for hosting the conference at such short notice. Preparations are already underway for next year, and the University of Sheffield is likely to host the conference in 2006. Discussions have been initiated for commitments after that period.

e) In relation to the Teachers’ Initiative, IS reported that both IR and KC were not able to attend the meeting in Oxford, and it had not been possible to arrange other meetings during this quarter. However, progress has been made on several fronts, including appointing a webster to construct the webpages and research aids/materials for schools. This person will liaise with GT over the next few weeks. The Development Subcommittee would like to heighten the visibility of the teachers’ meeting at Cambridge and hoped it would be possible for panels to be arranged for the Saturday that would be of particular interest for teachers. In addition, there was hope that a reception for 6th forms near Cambridge could be included in the programme. Tony Badger has a lot of experience organizing teacher conferences, so it was hoped that these requests could be accommodated; IS is to contact him on Monday. GC reported that he recognized the value of his attendance at these meetings, as Conference Secretary for 2006, and said that he would like to have an early discussion with the Development Subcommittee in relation to the Kent conference. The Committee as a whole felt strongly that this was a positive way forward.

f) IS reported that the publicity for the Ambassador’s Awards may have inadvertently had a negative impact on submissions for the BAAS Essay Prize, and there was a sustained discussion about the future of the BAAS Essay Prize. The Development Subcommittee brought forward a proposal for the amalgamation of the two prizes for 2006; if the Ambassador’s Awards were discontinued in the future, BAAS could re-establish the BAAS Essay Prize. This led to a debate about limiting the number of submissions per programme (currently 3 per department). SN suggested that we put a note in ASIB about the low levels of entries to the competition, and our ruminations on whether to abandon the Prize or roll it into the Ambassador’s Award; this way we could gauge the Community’s response and make a decision in the Autumn about whether to continue advertising the prize. It was decided that this was an important issue that needed to be revisited at the Cambridge meeting, when Committee Members had had a chance to consider all aspects of the question.

g) IS also raised the issue of the STA timetable. This year, there were over 40 applications, which meant that it had not been possible to make decisions on them before Christmas. It is clear that BAAS does not make retrospective awards, but this meant that some applications for January/February would become ineligible. In order to avoid this in the future, IS proposed that BAAS should alter the closing date from 30 November to 15 December, and alter the dates of eligible travel from the current February-January cycle to a more realistic April-March cycle, which would allow more recipients to attend the BAAS Conference Dinner and accept their awards in person. The Committee agreed this proposal. HM noted the importance of updating information about this and other awards on the web.

8. Publications Subcommittee (CS reporting)

a) CS reported that BRRAM is vibrant with new initiatives and repackaging opportunities, as well as a new editor, Dr. Vasey, who has interesting ideas for ways forward for the series. In particular, he would like to revisit the contract between BAAS and BRRAM. The Publications Subcommittee would like to recommend that we offer BRRAM free advertisement in ASIB and send them a complimentary copy. The Committee approved this measure. CS reported that KM, who offered a full report, will get in touch with Dr. Vasey about renegotiations, and that we will discuss any proposed changes to the contract at the next meeting.

b) CS reported that EUP continues to be happy with the BAAS paperbacks series. There has been a slight delay in the market research that Nicola Carr is planning to undertake, but it should be available sometime this year. EUP has had to implement a programme of reducing stock numbers for some overstocked titles (anywhere from 100-700 copies), but EUP wishes to reassure the Committee that this is normal practice for publishers, and does not reflect negatively on the series. A proposal for a book on African American Visual Arts has received the support of the editors and will go forward to the next press meeting later in the month. Will Kaufman’s book on the Civil War has just been received and will go through final editing this year, as will Niall Palmer’s The Twenties in America. CS is to write a call for more titles for the next issue of ASIB.

c) CS reported that discussions about replacement editorial board members for JAS are still on going but it is hoped that there will be names to come before the next meeting. Members are invited to propose names to SN, CS and JK as soon as possible, so that, if appropriate, their CVs can be requested. CS offered the Committee’s thanks to Tony Badger, Emily Miller Buddick, and Douglas Tallack, whose terms on the Board ended in December 2004.

d) CS reported that the website is working well, and that initial problems with the 50th Anniversary questionnaire have now been rectified. The Subcommittee raised a question about whether the mailbase was open to non-BAAS members, and CE and SN replied that it was. Because of this, GT proposed that the website include an option to receive mailbase information; GT to liaise with CE to work out details.

e) CS reported that the next issue of ASIB has been slightly delayed in order to incorporate information about the upcoming conference. GT reported that it will include the first ever editorial letter he has received.

f) CS reported that there had been three strong applicants for the position of editor for US Studies On Line and that the Subcommittee proposed Elizabeth Rosen (UCL) as a replacement for Catherine Morley. This was approved. CS thanked Catherine for her work as editor, and noted that she will bring out one more issue of the journal before the conference. CS is to write to all applicants with the decision.

CS reported that the book prize panel, headed by Phil Davies, has now been constituted and unlike other prize committees, it is not anonymous. The other members included Professor Susan Castillo and Professor Scott Lucas. PD will give a speech at the Cambridge dinner about the prize. It is hoped that a version of this speech can be published in ASIB. The final deadline for the posting of books to CS is 15/1/05. Currently there were 13 books put forward, but two were ineligible because of publication dates. CS offered thanks to those members who had initially been approached about judging the prize, but who had to withdraw because of conflicts of interest. CS asked the Committee to keep under review the tight deadline for next year. It was agreed that the money from the old Halifax Account would be used to support this new prize.

9. Conference Subcommittee (JV reporting)

a) TW as Chair was unable to attend, but SN was able to attend the meeting in his place, and JV acted as recording officer. JV reported that it was a fruitful meeting, focusing on questions to ask of Cambridge representatives, who were unable to attend the meeting. JV noted that the conference budget is provisional. One question was how many seats were available at the banquet, which will determine how many guests BAAS invites. There is a long list of possible guests, but any further ideas should be emailed to SN as soon as possible. JV noted that there is a cost for speeches that go beyond 20 minutes; it was agreed that BAAS will pay for those costs, as it is important that the prize-giving ceremony is not cut short for financial reasons, since this is considered an important element of the conference, especially this year. JV distributed sample forms for the conference and noted that the non-BAAS registration fee would be amended upwards to ensure that the gap between BAAS and non-BAAS fees was greater than the cost of membership of BAAS. JV also noted that arrangements to pay by credit card needed to be added. The provisional programme for the conference should be available on Monday, which will need to be finalized quickly in order to ensure its publication in ASIB. TW, SMc and JV to liaise about conference programme.

b) JV reported that the conference dinner would not have a top table, but that VIPs would be mixed in with members of the Executive Committee at smaller tables throughout the room, with small groups of sets reserved for banquet guests and their “hosts”.

c) JV reported that the Committee discussed the Kent conference dates and other related matters. The responsibilities of the Conference Secretary and deadlines will be forwarded to GC by TW as soon as possible.

d) HM queried the deadline for full payment on the conference registration form, given that the form had yet to be made public. SN and TW to follow this up.

e) JV offered thanks on behalf of the Committee to Tony Badger, Ann Holton and Sarah Meer for organizing the conference, and for helping with the EAAS arrangements.

10. Libraries and Resources Subcommittee (IR reporting by email)

a) IR was unable to attend the meeting, but he offered a written report. Since the last Executive Committee meeting, the Library and Resources Subcommittee has secured financial support to develop and re-launch the BLARS newsletter. However, progress has been slow, and this will be a major item on the Subcommittee’s agenda at the February meeting.

b) IR noted that the resignation of the Secretary, Richard Bennett (for health reasons) had increased some problems, but IR was hopeful that the post will be formally filled after the next meeting.

11. EAAS (JV reporting)

a) JV noted that there wasn’t much to report this quarter. She asked NS if the EAAS fees had been paid, and he replied that membership lists have been sent to EAAS and it was in hand.

b) JV reported that she had sent information on EAAS to GT for ASIB.

c) SN noted that there was still time to send in proposals for the EAAS conference in Cyprus in April 2006.

12. Fiftieth Anniversary Planning (JV reporting)
a) JV reported that the Subcommittee had discussed having blurbs for the conference programme. SW is going to ask an Embassy official to write an introduction. This needs to be finalized by TB and SN.

b) JV reported that souvenirs for the 50th anniversary celebrations had not been finalized, so it was proposed that this be organized for the Kent conference in 2006 instead.
c) JV reported that responses to the 50th Anniversary Questionnaire had been low with only 24 responses received to date. Problems with the website might be partially to blame. JV is to liaise with CE to send the questionnaire out again on the mailbase.

13. Any Other Business
a) PT noted that at the last meeting, we had discussed encouraging people to donate to BAAS in their wills. He had been unable to attend to that task for a variety of reasons, but will move forward on that project now.
14. Date of next meeting
14 April 2005 at Robinson College, Cambridge. SW has volunteered the US Embassy for the following meeting in the summer.

Dr Heidi Macpherson, Secretary
Phone (office): (01772) 893039 or 893040
Fax: (01772) 892924