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2008 CAO Fall Meeting


The ACLS Conference of Administrative Officers (CAO) held its 2008 fall meeting in Detroit on November 6-9. The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCVB) welcomed the group at a reception and dinner at the Detroit Institute of Arts, an event enhanced by an informal talk on Diego Rivera and his monumental Detroit Industry murals by Linda Downs, executive director of the College Art Association.

The meeting schedule is available here.

Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association and chair of the CAO Executive Committee, led the CAO Business Meeting, which took place in the morning on November 7 at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.  CAO members reviewed the agenda for the 2009 ACLS Annual Meeting in Philadelphia (May 7-9) and discussed plans for future fall CAO meetings: 2009 in  Portland (November 5-8); 2010 in Vancouver (November 4-7); and 2011 in Minneapolis (dates to be determined). The CAO Executive Committee had discussed these issues the previous day.  In addition to Rosemary G. Feal, the CAO Executive Committee includes Olavi Arens, academic executive director, Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies; David Barclay, executive director, German Studies Association; Lisa Mighetto, executive director, American Society for Environmental History; Jonathan Rodgers, executive director, American Oriental Society; Rona Sheramy, executive director, Association for Jewish Studies; and John Siegfried, secretary-treasurer, American Economic Association.

ACLS President Pauline Yu spoke at the business meeting. She reported that the ACLS Board of Directors' most recent meeting addressed the impact of the economic downturn on organizational activities, a concern shared by all member societies. She is continuing her schedule of meetings with the boards of member societies, a practice she started when she became president in 2003.

Sandra Bradley, ACLS director of member relations, reported on the September 2008 Learned Society Leadership Seminar for ACLS member society presidents and chief administrative officers.

Arnita Jones, executive director of the American Historical Association, gave an update on the American Academy of Arts and Sciences's Humanities Indicators Project. The prototype set of Humanities Indicators will be posted on the Academy’s forthcoming Humanities Resources Center Online. The website will also include statistical data and commentaries, a directory of humanities organizations and state councils, and a list of publications about the humanities

Candace Frede, ACLS director of Web & information systems, provided a demonstration of the CAO Net, a confidential work site for the Conference of Administrative Officers and affiliate members. The CAO Net offers expanded contact information, meeting documents, and background materials for new administrative officers.  Interactive features include a searchable discussion forum and a system for updating data presented in the Society Profiles on the ACLS website.  

Learned Society revenues were the focus of a roundtable session. Elizabeth Richmond-Garza, secretary-treasurer, American Comparative Literature Association, presented an overview of data collected in advance on member societies' revenue sources. Presentations followed by Chris Crenner,  executive director, American Association for the History of Medicine; Jack Fitzmier, executive director, American Academy of Religion; Richard Jensen, executive director, Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies; and Roger Smitter, executive director, National Communication Association on their experience developing particular revenue streams.  Breakout sessions allowed for fuller discussion of different categories of revenue.  

A session entitled "Law and Order: Learned Societies" engaged the questions: What should an executive director do when academic collegiality yields to conflict and the angry parties make for the courtroom?  When and where should a society seek legal advice?  How is the board/council to be involved?  Linda Downs presented College Art Association's experience with a recent case of “libel tourism” (plaintiffs choosing to file libel suits in jurisdictions thought more likely to give a favorable result).

Christopher J. Mackie, associate program officer of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, spoke on "Virtual Organizations and the Learned Society: Opportunities and Challenges." Adam Blistein, executive director, American Philological Association, and Michael Brintnall, executive director, American Political Science Association, offered comments.

A session on “Area and Ethnic Studies: Fifty Years after the National Defense Education Act (NDEA),”  addressed the history and legacy of area or ethnic studies, and their larger significance for the humanities.  Reflecting on the evolution of their own fields and learned societies were David Barclay, executive director, German Studies Association, who moderated the session; Carol Martin, executive director, African Studies Association; Amy Newhall, executive director, Middle East Sudies Association of North America; and Michael Paschal, executive director, Asian Studies Association.

National Humanities Alliance (NHA) Executive Director Jessica Jones Irons discussed the implications of the 2008 presidential and congressional elections for the humanities and higher education. Irons encouraged participation in the NHA 2009 Conference & Humanities Advocacy Day, which will take place March 10-11 in Washington, DC (see http://www.nhalliance.org/conference/2009/).

The meeting concluded with a session on “Things You Need to Worry About/News You Can Use,” in which Rosemary G. Feal brought to the floor questions she had collected from participants throughout the meeting.

In between business sessions, the CAO enjoyed visits to the Motown Historical Museum, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, the COBO Convention Center, and other Detroit attractions.

  • The CAO at the Henry Ford Museum, November 2008.

  • ACLS President Pauline Yu and Chair of the CAO Executive Committee Rosemary Feal

  • Michael Brintnall, Adam Blistein, Chris Mackie and Steve Wheatley

  • NHA's Jessica Jones Irons speculated on the impact for the humanities of the historic election.

  • John Siegfried displays one unconventional source of revenue for the American Academy of Religion.

  • "News You Can Use"

  • From upper left, Amy Newhall, David Barclay, Carol Martin, and Michel Paschal.

  • Rona Sheramy and Rosemary Feal

  • Donald Harreld, Paul Szarmach, John Monfasani (standing), Richard Jensen, David Barclay

  • Lee Formwalt, Saul Fisher, Arnita Jones, Jody Ciufo, Amy Bix

  • Stephen Stuempfle, Colum Hourihane, Patrice Petro, Paula Massood

  • Elizabeth Richmond-Garza, Sally Hillsman (standing), Amy Newhall, Adam Blistein

  • Pauline Saliga, Andrew Vaughn, Nicole Stahlmann, SarahPeters; standing: Sandra Bradley, Steve Wheatley, Roger Smitter

  • Lee Formwalt, Byron Wells, Paul Erickson, Kent Williamson, Jacqueline Tyson, Alyson Reed

  • Jim Nafzinger, Elaine Lynch and Richard LaRue