British Association for American Studies
Minutes of the 295th Executive Committee Meeting
Held at Liverpool University on Friday, January 25th 2019, following a tour of rooms and facilities at the conference host for 2020. Convened at 13:00 as a “mini-Exec” with reports from chairs of sub-committees submitted in writing in advance.
- In attendance
Brian Ward (Chair)
Kate Dossett (Vice-Chair)
Nicole Willson (Co-Treasurer)
Laura MacDonald (Conferences)
Rachel Williams (ECR Rep)
Liverpool 2020 Team: David Hering, Stephen Kenny, Sandeep Parmar, Yannis Tzioumakis
Laura Sandy (Liverpool)
- Minutes of the previous meeting:
The minutes were amended to reflect that Emma Long and Nick Grant were both present at Northumbria, and were then accepted as a true and accurate record; they will now be posted online.
- Matters arising:
Sylvia Ellis is stepping aside as Secretary in advance of the standard end of the term. BW extends his sincere thanks to Sylvia for her stellar work as Secretary and her long service to BAAS in a number of roles and the Exec wish her well.
Rachel Williams is duly proposed, seconded, and ratified as Acting Secretary in the interim (BW having received no objections to her appointment). The post will be up for election at the April AGM. Ben Offiler is duly appointed Elections Officer to oversee organisation and administration of elections in the run up to and during Sussex 2019.
- Chair’s Business (Brian Ward reporting)
BW offered thanks to all Exec committee members for their work and support. In particular, he thanked Mike Collins for attending some meetings in London on Open Access organised by the Arts and Humanities Alliance, Rachel Williams, for stepping into the role of acting Secretary following Sylvia Ellis’s decision to step down early, and Ben Offiler, who agreed to take on administration of the BAAS 2019 elections.
BW encouraged colleagues to think of and, as appropriate, sound-out likely candidates for the Executive posts that will open up in April, especially Chair, Secretary and ECR representative. Nominations will be called for in March to allow for online voting.
BW noted that, following complaints raised in Autumn 2018 by two non-members of the Association regarding the CFP for the BAAS2019 Conference, BAAS commissioned Bindmans law firm to provide advice on the legality of its CFP policy (since the 2017 Annual Conference BAAS has prohibited proposals for all-male panels in an effort to address the historic under-representation of women in academic conferences). BW thanked Kate Dossett and Nick Grant, in particular, for taking the lead on this.
The specific legal advice, and recommendations for how to clarify the goals and demonstrate the value of our policy, along with suggestions for disseminating Bindman’s counsel to the membership, will be discussed as part of the business of the Development and Education Sub-committee. However, the headline is that Bindmans believed our policy to be a proportionate response to the issue of female underrepresentation and very unlikely to be found illegal.
BW reported on additional communications with the US Embassy and Lydia Plath and Matthew Shaw around administration of the 2018-19 Embassy-BAAS Small Grants. The plan is to have two rounds of applications, for review in January and May 2019. BW will review former (there were 28 bids to the January round), but not the latter as he will no longer be Chair.
Andrew Fearnley at Manchester University has been in touch with BW, offering to organise and host a meeting of American Studies Program Directors (or equivalents) that will focus primarily on issues of student recruitment and working with schools. BW recommended that this is something BAAS should support as part of its own school liaison/outreach efforts and will put Andrew in touch with Kate and the Development and Education Sub-Committee.
BW wrote formally on behalf of BAAS to:
- The University of Hull to voice concern about the threats to Modern Languages programmes and staff at Hull;
- The University of Keele to voice concern about the decision to end the American Studies BA Programme and express support for Americanist colleagues and the David Bruce Centre. I received a full response from Shane O’Neill, PVC for Planning and Advancement at Keele, offering assurances that Americanist staff are valued, American modules will continue to run and that the David Bruce Centre will continue to be a hub for important interdisciplinary research under the umbrella of a new Keele Institute for Social Inclusion;
- Mr C. G. Dilworth (Pitlochry), a BAAS Member since the early 1960s who contacted Nicole Willson as co-Treasurer of the Association, who wishes to make a small bequest to BAAS in his will. BW wrote to thank him in anticipation of his generosity and for his long-standing commitment to the Association.
BW commended Liverpool organizers for good early work on preparations for BAAS2020 and thanked them for hosting the January site visit and BAAS Mini-Executive.
Notable Achievements of Members
- Exeter University PGR Jessica Mehta has been awarded an artists-in-residency fellowship by the National Parks Art Foundation at Gettysburg National Military Park and a Helm Fellowship at the Lilly Library to access the archives of Sylvia Plath.
- Secretary’s Business (Rachel Williams reporting)
Thanks to SE for her useful handover notes to RW. RW will now take over the Secretary’s email account and will become the named contact with the CCO.
NG and LC will liaise with Clear and Creative to address continuing issues with the website and membership. Membership issues were previously with the Secretary but this was decoupled.
BW proposes meeting with LC, Katie Edwards at Keele, NW, EH, and RW as part of a wider discussion about streamlining and rethinking BAAS administrative roles and their various remits.
- Treasurers’ Business(Nicole Willson reporting)
Bank accounts (as at 23 January 2019)
BAAS Current Account £10,362
BAAS Savings Account £97,194
BAAS Publications Ltd £47,425
CAF Savings Account £20,258.58
In March 2018, total active memberships stood at 618 (EH & NW will report back on latest figures in due course).
Cara Rodway has been exceptionally helpful during what has been a challenging and unexpectedly protracted handover and EH & NW have awarded her an honorarium to thank her for her continued support. EH & NW anticipate that this arrangement will continue until the end of the reporting period.
Although the mandate had changed on the charity accounts at the time of the last executive meeting on 02.11.18 EH & NW are still waiting to be added to the mandate on the publications account, and have had to lean on CR for support in setting up and transferring payments. This has led to a delay in JAS and charity employees receiving their January pay, but standing orders have now been set up to go out on 1st of each month. NW and EH apologise sincerely for this delay and for any disruption that it may have caused to colleagues.
Money was lent from the charity account to the pubs account to cover a VAT bill that needed to be paid in November while we were awaiting the advance from CUP. This has now been received and our pubs account is looking a bit healthier, so the loan will need to be repaid to BAAS charity.
BAAS/US Embassy Awards programme 2018-19
LP and MS will be administering this round of awards with the assistance of KE.
As of 23/01/19 the first payment from the embassy has not yet been received so EH and NW suggest that this needs to be followed up with the embassy (Koen Van Eynde?) as a matter of urgency. BW seconded the need to follow this up.
EL has sent a projection of upcoming expenses for the BAAS awards and NW and EH are very grateful for the comprehensive summary.
JAS Recruitment Query – FAO SM/NW
NW found the following guidance on the lra.org (Labour Relations Agency) website in respect to SM’s recruitment query at the last executive meeting:
Q: We are recruiting an administrative assistant but may have another vacancy in 3 months; can we create a reserve list from this recruitment campaign?
A: Employers will often choose to use reserve lists for posts where they have more than one suitable candidate for a vacancy and they can be a useful and cost effective method in recruitment activities. It is important that if using reserve lists this is carried out in line with any recruitment and selection policies and procedures within your organisation. In addition candidates should be informed at an early stage that reserve lists may be kept so that they are making an informed decision in applying and this could potentially increase the number of applicants you have. Candidates who are deemed suitable and who are to be kept on a reserve list should be informed that they are, perhaps what position they hold on the reserve list and also how long the reserve list will last for. It is also important to put a time limit on the reserve list. Further guidance can be obtained from the Equality Commission on 028 90 890 890, website, www.equalityni.org.
EH is on research leave in Texas on a Fulbright Fellowship until the end of April and NW continues to manage a very heavy workload across her respective posts at UKC and the UoE. EH extends her thanks to NW for taking on the burden of treasury business while she (Eilidh) settles in Texas. NW will also be away on UoE business in D.C. from 1-10 February, so there may be a delay in processing treasury business during this period.
Given the potential challenges that the election of two new officers in the coming months might bring, EH and NW would appreciate any support in assisting with this transition, especially given their own inexperience in managing executive business. It would be helpful to have a discussion with officers (both standing and acting) about how we can further streamline BAAS administration. EH and NW will consult with CR about how she thinks the treasurer role might be more robustly supported by admin colleagues.
EH & NW still do not have access to the PayPal account, despite EH making several enquiries about this. NW and CR to meet in February to discuss outstanding issues such as this. Update: access now seems to be granted.
NG to approach Michelle Green (NTU) who has previously undertaken administrative work, especially on the website – with the possibility of resuming this role and assisting LC. If MG is amenable, NW will make sure she is added to the payroll once more.
- Equality and Diversity
Nothing to report
- Conferences (Laura MacDonald reporting)
LM extends her thanks to the Liverpool 2020 team for their organisation and hard work.
The CFP for 2020 should be ready for circulation by June 2019 at the latest (to include confirmed keynotes). Ideally it would be ready for promotion at Sussex but confirming keynotes and finalising possible changes to the wording of BAAS policy regarding all-male panel proposals (see below) may prevent this.
DH and team will liaise with CUP (including JS as head of Publications) and the Eccles Centre (including Phil Hatfield and CR) to draw up a mutually agreeable roster of potential keynote speakers and to explore availability and expenses. LM stresses the need to ensure a diverse profile of speakers and range of topics. Typically the JAS-sponsored speaker is based in the US, and the other two in UK/Europe, but this is not set in stone.
Potential themes for the CFP – the Liverpool team are keen to reflect the history of the city, and are therefore exploring ideas around slavery, transatlantic migration, and radical politics and dissent. They are keen to move beyond traditional panels and to explore more innovative session ideas including workshops, site-specific panels incorporating important places in the city (including the Everyman Theatre, the Tate), walking tours, and so on.
Budget hotels are widely available in the city; DH and team will explore the possibility of making block bookings at preferential rates for delegates. DH will liaise with Tom Wright and Tom Davies to explore and clarify precedents set by Sussex for different bandings for waged and non-waged delegates.
Banquet venues are TBC; LM confirmed that at CCCU 63 regular delegates and 42 students (out of a total of 217 delegates) attended the banquet at a cost per head of £45/£25.
Targeted Research Panels
This is the first year this scheme has run; the top three proposals have been circulated to Exec members and LM thanks all for their responses. The number and quality of the proposals is encouraging for the future of the scheme.
The top two panels will be funded for a period of two years; a further two will be funded beginning at Liverpool 2020 (meaning there will be four Targeted Research Panels at Liverpool).
BW thanks LM for her leadership in coordinating this scheme.
PG Event at Sussex
Olivia Wright has asked for money to fund a PG networking/social event at Sussex; although it is unclear whether money was provided at EBAAS to book venues and purchase nibbles etc, BW proposes a £500 standing commitment going forwards to ensure postgraduates have access to an inclusive and supportive social event.
LM extends her congratulations to Keele for their successful bid to host the 2022 annual conference. They have provided two Thursday-Saturday options that spring. LM will liaise with David Ballantyne (lead coordinator) going forwards.
OW proposes an event at the BL instead of at a HE institution. The BL would like to work with postgraduates based at institution(s) outside London. OW will work with Fran Fuentes at the BL to draw up a call for proposals; the event should focus on the collections and resources available to Americanists at the Eccles Centre.
OW will circulate the draft call for comments once it is ready. BW and the treasurers confirm BAAS will provide funds to support this event in due course.
- Publications (Joe Street reporting)
Edinburgh University Press: BAAS Paperbacks
Emily West has been forced by personal circumstances to resign as co-editor of the BAAS paperbacks series. She has agreed to continue in position until April. Martin Halliwell and I, in conjunction with EUP’s Michelle Houston, are currently discussing how best to appoint Emily’s successor. Emily’s term was due to conclude in 2023, and the replacement will cover the rest of this term. We have agreed to place an advert on the BAAS email list and will make it clear that our preference is for a female academic, to ensure the gender balance of the editorial team. Martin is drafting the advert, which will include the role’s responsibilities. He will also conduct interviews alongside a member of the BAAS Executive or an academic of similar standing at the Sussex conference. Should any applicants not be able to attend the conference, they will be offered the opportunity of a telephone interview. Unfortunately, Michelle cannot attend, and so will be unable to take part in this.
Our best month, since the last report, was November 2018 with 7211 views (the fourth highest since USSO was founded).
We have published a regular range of book and conference reviews, alongside:
- State of the Discipline Series, reviewing key works across a range of disciplines within and related to American Studies.
- Zora Neale Hurston Series, gathering reviews and original research articles commemorating the publication of Barracoon.
Practical Resources: In a commitment to increasing USSO as a place for practical resources for postgraduates and early-career scholars, we have established a new “Awards and Grants” page. This draws together a range of funding opportunities, including conference bursaries, travel grants, and other research funding, and will be consistently updated. It has proven highly popular, with 153 views in December alone. We hope to develop this page with further opportunities, and also advice on the writing of applications (potentially some examples, if they can be secured).
Relaunch of #Bookhour: We are thrilled to be relaunching #Bookhour—USSO’s open forum Twitter discussion between scholars and the public—with Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence on Wharton’s birthday, 24 January. Our experts will be Dr Laura Rattray (University of Glasgow), Anna Girling (University of Edinburgh) and Chiara Bullen (Red Press), all part of the Transatlantic Literary Women network. In promoting through two online networks (USSO and TLW), we hope to generate a good level of interest and engagement for the relaunch. We are finalising the text and online panel for February’s Book Hour, which will be linked to LGBT+ History Month.
Adam Matthew Digital: We have recently issued another call for reviews of the Adam Matthew digital collection, which we are in the process of publicising. We are preparing another call for reviews of digital archives, in the hope that this will add to the Awards and Grants page as another resource for researchers.
Research Posts: As noted in the October 2018 report, one of our primary goals was commission a wide range of research posts, building up a good reserve of content for publication. We’re making good progress here with:
- A number of individual research posts, submitted in response to our CfP.
- A series on Video Games and American Studies (anticipated publication, April 2019).
- Literature and Visual Imagery in American Studies
In the case of the latter, the series is based on the top papers from PG BAAS. We’d like to thank BAAS for the generous travel support they provided to members of our editorial team, thereby facilitating the commissioning of these pieces.
- Expand and develop Awards and Grants resource, including potential application writing advice.
- Following relaunch, re-establish Book Hour as a monthly event.
- Continue work with Adam Matthew Digital, expanding archival reviews as a resource for researchers.
- Continue commissioning new, original and engaging research posts and series which demonstrate the breadth of work by emerging scholars in American Studies.
Discussions continue (BW, NW, JS) to determine whether BAAS will continue to fund conference attendance for two USSO representatives (as has occurred recently – there is no formal precedent, but ought this to continue?).
BAAS-British Online Archives (formerly) British Records Related to America on Microfilm
Sadly, due to illness, I was not able to attend the timetabled meeting with BOA representatives. We are rescheduling for March, and will give a full report at the April meeting.
Journal of American Studies
See reports below from Nick and Sinead. They have also included vision statements and CVs from two people whom they’d like to add to the JAS editorial board to replace departing members. If you object to either of these candidates, please let me know as soon as you can; otherwise, I’ll pass on our approval.
- Transition to new teams. The handover is now in operation. On the reviews side, editorial assistant Zoe Bulaitis will finish up officially on 31 January. She has been liaising with (incoming editorial assistant on the reviews side) Francesca White at Leicester to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Zoe in the warmest possible terms for the supreme efficiency and professionalism with which she carried out the role, especially during the “handover” phase.
Nick and Sinéad have now taken over all functions on the editorial side and Ben and Zalfa have taken over all responsibilities on the associate editor side. Lauren Mottle continues as editorial assistant to the co-editors-in-chief; we are really grateful for her expertise and for the continuity her renewed appointed has afforded.
- Editorial board. Following the expiry of the terms of Richard Gray, Caroline Levander and Hugh Wilford on 31 December, we are keen to fill these vacancies as soon as possible. Anke Ortlepp (America and the World) and Georgiana Banita (20C American Literature, possibly with Southern Studies) accepted our invitation to submit a CV and statement. These will now be discussed at the January BAAS Executive meeting. Unfortunately, all three of our “Transnational American Studies” candidates had to decline our invitation. We are now working our way through the below shortlist (currently awaiting a response from Jasbir Puar):
Transnational American Studies
- Jasbir Puar, Rutgers
- Kirsten Silva Gruesz, UC-Santa Cruz
- Judith Madera, Wake Forest
- Iyko Day, Mount Holyoke
- Going forward. At the BAAS publications subcommittee in April, we would welcome the opportunity to return to two issues that were raised towards the end of Celeste and Bevan’s tenure i) the possibility of moving to 5 issues per volume to expand coverage and reduce number of articles per issue (awaiting some detail from Holly Buttimore of CUP on this matter) ii) the possibility of appointing a Managing Editor who would sit between the editorial assistant and the co-editors-in-chief. We have received a bit more information from Holly on the sorts of tasks this member of the team would be responsible for, based on current models in operation at other CUP journals.
- Development and Education (Kate Dossett reporting)
In November 2018 two members of the public contacted Brian Ward, Chair of BAAS, with concerns that the CFP for Sussex BAAS2019 conference contravened the 2010 Equalities Act.
The BAAS executive committee took the decision to seek legal advice to ensure that the legal basis for its policy was sound.
Below I have summarized the legal advice, the recommendation of the mini-exec for wording of the Liverpool 2020 CFP and a schedule of next steps required to ensure the policy remains relevant and appropriate to the needs and goals of BAAS.
Summary of Legal Advice
BAAS appointed Salima Budhani of Bindmans LLP. On 20 December 2018 Bindmans presented their advice regarding BAAS’s policy prohibiting all-male panel proposals in its CFP. My summary is below:
- the Policy is likely to be a lawful application of the “positive action” provisions in the Equality Act 2010.
- Budhani suggests some amendments to the Policy for our consideration (see Recommendations) which would reduce the likelihood of a complaint or legal claim.
- BAAS should conduct a review of panel proposals/panel formulations at its conferences in recent years to ascertain:
(a) the proportion of men/women proposed to speak on panels;
(b) the proportion of men/women speaking on panels;
(c) any improvements seen as a result of the Policy.
This analysis would enable BAAS to evidence its reasonable belief that women are underrepresented on conference panels, and it would also allow BAAS to monitor changes which will be important in order to demonstrate that the Policy is proportionate.
- It is crucially important that BAAS continue to collect detailed information from conference delegates/proposers.
- BAAS might also wish to consider writing to Sussex University to explain the reasons the Policy has been put in place and that BAAS intends the Policy to be a form of lawful positive action.
The mini-exec and DH and team agreed that BAAS should reformulate its conference policy for Liverpool 2020, adding a statement of rationale to the CFP to clarify and explain the policy.
Budhani suggests two options detailed below. New text is highlighted in red.
BAAS is dedicated to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion. We will give preference to panels that reflect the diversity of our field in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and institutional affiliation. We will also give preference to panels that include a mix of participants from across the career spectrum (i.e., from postgraduate to professor). Historically women have been disproportionately underrepresented on panels and BAAS is taking positive action, as permitted under s.158 Equality Act 2010, to enable and encourage the participation of women. For this reason all-male panel proposals will not be accepted. BAAS may constitute an all-male panel or other presentation where absolutely necessary (but any such consideration will be other than via the call for papers procedure).
In order to avoid any risk whatsoever, BAAS could consider amending the Policy itself to allow an exception, for example requiring an explanation as to why an all-male panel is necessary. It would be very difficult to see how such a Policy could be considered disproportionate. Example wording: Option 2: All-male panel proposals will not be accepted save in exceptional circumstances, and they must be accompanied by an explanation of the exceptional circumstances
The mini-exec supported the option 1; KD will put this to the full Exec for discussion.
- Monitoring Past Conferences:
Chair of conferences, Laura MacDonald, will contact previous conferences organisers for help collecting data. This might also be supplemented by qualitative research conducted by Sabine Peck, data collected through the membership survey, and reports drawn up by other organisations such as the RHS.
- PG BAAS Conference 2019; Liverpool BAAS 2020
- BAAS Conference Committee to work with host institutions for PGBAAS 2019 and Liverpool 2020 to design a template to enable conference organizers to collect monitoring information.
- Paper and panel proposers will be required to fill out a brief data monitoring form at the point of submitting a paper/panel proposal and consent to this data being used and stored for a limited amount of time. This will avoid conference organizers/BAAS becoming arbiters of gender identity.
- Conferences to work with host institutions GDPR leads to ensure GDPR compliance.
- AGM 2019: the new conference policy to be taken to the Sussex 2019 AGM
- The Future of the Conference:
BAAS agreed to fund a conference in collaboration with the Eccles Centre in American Studies to bring together American studies academics in BAAS, HOTCUS, BRANCH, BrANCA, APG and other professional associations alongside equalities in higher education experts to share best practice and develop resources and guidelines for organizing conferences. (Nick Grant and Rachel Williams)
The Women in American Studies Network met before Christmas, and discussed the possibility of advising other organisations with issues surrounding diversity and inclusion (for instance sharing best practice surrounding the targeted research panels). Work compiling a membership list is ongoing. BAAS have agreed to host on their website the WASN statement of purpose and contact list: KD and OW will contact NG to set this up on the website. Discussions are ongoing to set up an advisory group for WASN to maintain continuity.
The schools working group continues under leadership of NG (with assistance from RW); in particular, NG will finalise details of the new scheme to fund events specifically focused on schools work/creating resources for teachers/outreach and widening participation.
- Awards (Emma Long reporting)
With thanks to the BAAS Awards team, applications for the various awards are being sent out to committee chairs. So far things seem to be going smoothly with the exception of some logistical issues with the book award. For the information of the Exec only at this stage, please find below figures for the number of submissions received for those awards where the deadlines have passed along with the numbers for the last three years for comparison:
Breakdown of Award Submissions 2019
(blanks indicate information pending – recent/extended deadline)
|ECR Travel Award – new 2018||5||5||–||–|
|PG Short Term Travel||29||22||33||38|
|Barringer Fellowship (Monticello)||1||3||2|
|Public Engagement and Impact Award||2||2||–|
Thank you to everyone who is currently serving on the panels – I know it takes time to judge these awards and all your work is really appreciated. Particular thanks to the book prize panel who are dealing with a 50% increase in numbers and some issues in getting access to the texts in question.
Equality and Diversity Statistics for Awards:
* denotes the Chair
^ denotes successful applicant (where known)
Provisional information regarding the breakdown of awards as of January 17:
|ECR Travel Award||0||5||2||1*|
|PG Short Term Travel||21||8||1*||2|
|Monticello Teacher’s Fellowship||1*||2|
|Public Engagement and Impact Award||2||1*|
|BAAS Book Award||8||7||1*||2|
It is worth noting that after our discussions of the past year, the number of submissions to the book prize from female academics has increased significantly and makes up just over half of the submissions. Many thanks to everyone who flagged up the award through networks or personal connections.
I’ll have a complete breakdown of these numbers and statistics for the AGM and Exec meeting in April.
One thing to raise – unfortunately I won’t be able to attend the conference in April as I will be in the US for research. As such, I’m looking for a volunteer to annouce the awards at the conference dinner (it only takes a few minutes between dessert and coffee and I’ll make sure you have all the necessary information) … please get in touch if you’re interested.
Jenny Woodley will attend the forthcoming meeting in Greece and will send her report for inclusion in the next set of minutes.
KD proposes a review of the function, format, and timings of Exec meetings going forward; in particular, should the January meeting (frequently run as a pared-down version focusing primarily on the site visit) be run as a full Exec meeting.
- Date of next meeting
Thursday, April 25th at Sussex 2019 conference (venue and timings TBC)