British Association for American Studies
Minutes of the 286th meeting of the Executive Committee, held at the University of Leeds on Friday 18 November 2016 at 1.00 pm.
- Present: Brian Ward (Chair), Jenny Terry (Secretary), Cara Rodway (Treasurer), Simon Hall, David Brown, Joe Street, Emma Long, Katie McGettigan, Katerina Webb-Bourne, Kate Dossett.
- Apologies: Paul Williams, Uta Balbier, Martin Halliwell, Martin Dines, Nicole King, Ben Offiler, Bevan Sewell and Celeste-Marie Bernier.
In attendance: Jenny Terry.
- Minutes of the Previous Meeting
These were accepted as a true record and will now go up on the website.
- Matters Arising
- Review of Action List
The Chair asked the Exec to comment on the status of their Action List duties. Items will be addressed under the relevant sections below.
- Chair’s Business (BW reporting)
(a) Chair’s activities, meetings and correspondence (June 2016 – November 2016)
- BW thanked all members of the Executive for their efforts on behalf of the Association, in particular JT and CR, but also noted our thanks to Jo Gill and Carole Holden, who have been looking after the new US Embassy/BAAS grant programme, and to KM, Louise Cunningham and Michelle Green, who worked with UB to update a lot of the Awards publicity this year.
- US Embassy/BAAS Small Grants Programme: Following a meeting with Tim Gerhardson and Laura Saarinen at the US Embassy on 20 September 2016, BW secured a welcome increase to the total amount of funding we can distribute in 2016-17. In the first round proper of Embassy/BAAS grants (September 2016), 21 applications were received, 12 of which were offered funding or part-funding. The successful projects cover a range of activities that will promote American Studies and/or enhance the understanding of the USA in the UK. They include a wide range of programme types and subjects (5 relating to art/culture and 7 to politics/society/history), are aimed at diverse audiences, and offer a good range of geographical diversity. There is plenty left in the pot for the January round and we should encourage colleagues to apply.
BW circulated a more detailed breakdown of the successful September applications, as provided by Jo and Carole, ahead of the meeting. Tim Gerhardson is pleased with the range of awards. We are still looking at ways of working with and supporting the Fulbright Commission. Unfortunately because of the £10,000 Embassy cap on awards, we were not able to sponsor a Fulbright Scholar via this scheme as had been mooted. BW is liaising about other possibilities and the cap could be something to look at if this collaboration with the Embassy continues another year.
- 23 August 2016: BW met with Penny Egan of the Fulbright Commission to discuss possible forms of support within the terms of the US Embassy / BAAS Small Grants Programme.
- 30 June 2016: BW attended the 4 July celebrations hosted by Ambassador Matthew Barzun and his wife at the US Embassy.
- 20 September 2016: BW attended the welcome reception for Lewis Lukens, the new Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy, also hosted by Ambassador Barzun.
- 9 September 2016: BW attended the HOTCUS Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher Conference at Northumbria University, which BAAS supported financially.
- BW reported that a statement relating to good practice with regard to Equality and Diversity has now been included in online advertising for our awards. We also have particularly robust language on this issue in the call for papers for the 2017 BAAS Conference at Canterbury Christ Church University. Thanks were noted to Gavan Lennon for assuming additional responsibilities in connection with the BAAS 2017 conference and to Lydia Plath for all her work on this and for doing her utmost to minimize the disruption caused by her move from CCCU to Warwick.
- BW also thanked BO for writing a piece for American Studies In Britain highlighting the recent focus and efforts on the part of BAAS in the area of Equality and Diversity, something that will be furthered via the 2017 BAAS Membership Survey (see Development and Education Sub-Committee business below). Ben’s article can be accessed here: http://www.baas.ac.uk/equdivupdate/
- The annual BAAS Postgraduate Conference (tomorrow) sees another initiative. BW offered thanks to Jade Tullett, who oversaw the new USSO Keynote Competition, inviting PGRs to propose a keynote lecture to be given at the conference. The winner for 2016 is Hannah Murray (Nottingham) who will deliver ‘Blackface like me: The borders of belonging and desires for blackness in America.’
Jade also offered an exemplary model of how to keep track of the demographics relating to the competition, including panel composition. BW asked others involved in BAAS’s various awards and schemes to consider compiling and sharing similar records. AGREED: Awards subcom and others to look at what’s feasible. Noted: with BAAS administering over 40 awards annually, plus the Small Conference Support Grants and the US Embassy / BAAS Small Grants Programme, there are administrative and resource implications to gathering this data.
- In the wake of the results of the 2016 US presidential election, BW proposed that BAAS issue a brief statement outlining its continued commitment to the critical exploration of all aspects of the US experience and that of its colonial precursors, and its desire to encourage the free and frank exchanges of informed opinion on those topics. A draft statement had been circulated in advance and, after discussion, the executive approved it. AGREED: That the below statement would be posted on the BAAS website, with notice also given in the weekly email bulletin and ASIB.
For more than 50 years, the British Association for American Studies has supported research and teaching on the history, politics and cultures of the United States and its colonial precursors in a variety of national, regional and global contexts. In the aftermath of the 2016 US Presidential Election there has never been a more important time for BAAS to encourage critical engagement with the American experience in all its complexities. The Association remains dedicated to promoting greater understanding of Colonial America and the United States among researchers, students, teachers, schools, and the general public.
- As CR will report as Treasurer, BAAS is currently in a pleasingly robust financial position. This is thanks, not only to Cara’s careful stewardship, but also to the revised Journal of American Studies deal with Cambridge University Press, brokered by Sue Currell and Bridget Bennett, when Sylvia Ellis was treasurer. BW will be writing to all three in thanks following this meeting.
(b) Achievements, announcements and events of note to BAAS members
- Sadly Prof. Louis Billington, a stalwart of BAAS, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, has died. Louis was a major figure in the development of American Studies at the University of Hull and an important scholar of Anglo-American religious history – and of BAAS’s own past. A fuller tribute will appear in ASIB in due course.
- In May 2016, Christian O’Connell (Gloucester) completed his semester as a Fulbright-Elon College Scholar at Elon College, North Carolina.
- Jacqueline Fear-Segal (UEA) and Emily West (Reading) have been promoted to Professor.
- Dafydd Townley (PGR- Reading) won a Gerald Ford Presidential Foundation Award to conduct research at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
- Brian Ward was awarded a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant for scoping work on ‘The Sick South: Disease, Disability, Dying and Death in an American Region.’
- Celeste-Marie Bernier is a 2016-17 Fellow of the National Center for the Humanities in the US (North Carolina).
- Martin Halliwell has become Co-Chair of the Arts and Humanities Alliance along with Susan Bruce.
- Secretary’s Business (JT reporting)
- Charitable Incorporated Organisation Registration
The collection of trustee signatures via mail had taken some time over the summer but the online application to the Charity Commission and various supporting documents were submitted at the start of this week. JT has received an initial response and there are a couple of small queries to follow up on but we should very soon have legal status as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) and a new charity number. Our assets will then be transferred from the ‘old’ BAAS to the ‘new’ BAAS and we can proceed with terminating our previous Charity Commission registration.
JT reminded the committee that because of the new advance voting system, election processes and the notice of vacancies on the exec would begin earlier in 2017. She invited suggestions for people who could be approached to act as independent election scrutineers (our CIO constitution stipulates two of these to work with the Secretary on advance and AGM voting).
- Vacancies arising
As UB will be starting maternity leave in January, we will be seeking both a new Awards Subcommittee Chair and a new BAAS Vice-Chair.
- Equality and Diversity
As we consider all aspects of BAAS in light of equality and diversity issues and best practice, JT has reviewed Secretary business in relation to this. She proposed adding Equality and Diversity as a standing item on the exec agenda (AGREED). We might also think further about the timing of our meetings; at the moment most take place on Fridays in the middle part of the day but sometimes they are held on Saturdays, which is not family friendly. This issue and the various factors involved in the selection of meeting dates and days was discussed. Issues noted: timetabling of teaching commitments, cost of weekend travel, January meeting usually involves a tour of campus venues for the next conference. Would a regular pattern (ie third week of Jan each year) help or does doodlepoll consultation remain effective? Committee members were generally happy with arrangements but it would be good to continue to monitor this matter.
- Treasurer’s Business (CR reporting)
(a) Bank Accounts (as at 14 November 2016)
BAAS Publications Ltd £60,310.81
To give an overview of our turnover between 1 January 2016 and 9 November 2016:
BAAS Charity £148,185.84
BAAS Publications Ltd £99,310.63
Total income: £247,496.47
This means we will have turned over nearly a quarter of a million pounds by the end of the year, and shows how we have magnified our activities and programmes and turnover as an organisation.
(b) Membership Figures (provided by LC)
Honorary membership – 4
Schools membership – 13
Individual membership – 288 (134 online JAS, 154 with full JAS)
PG membership – 277 (216 online JAS, 61 with full JAS)
Retired (PR) – 30 (21 online JAS, 9 with full JAS)
Unwaged (PU) – 12 (11 online JAS, 1 with full JAS)
Total members on fully paid sheet: 624 [611 in June 2016]
CR is currently looking for a financial advisor specialising in charities in order to get some independent advice with regard to investments. The Charity Commission suggests we need to draw up an investment strategy. It would be useful to take this forward with a couple of other volunteers from the exec. We are now in a better position in terms of meeting our reserves policy (which features in our annual accounts and report to the Charity Commission). One possibility for investment would be a trust which funds a scholarship every year from the interest.
We will be moving towards an organisational payroll, hopefully in the New Year, once the CIO change is completed. As a CIO we can enter into employment contracts as an organisation and legal entity. CR is seeking clarification from the accountant about our pension liability (if any).
- Publications Subcommittee (JS reporting)
The subcommittee had received a report from the Editors about JAS activities and plans. The next Editorial Board meeting is 13 December 2016. JS has been taking forward the review of the payment of the main Editors. Celeste-Marie Bernier and Bevan Sewell are doing great, and increasing, work with JAS and a BAAS review of remuneration is overdue. JS had circulated a proposal to the exec in advance outlining a model of payment involving both a flat rate and some payment linked to a percentage of the JAS annual profits (based on the Retail Price Index).
AGREED: The executive approved proceeding with the new payment as proposed.
A report from Editors Jade Tullett and Todd Carter had been received by the subcommittee.
(c) BAAS Paperbacks and BRRAM
Nothing to report. The subcommittee and exec will come back to developments with BRRAM, with Kenneth Morgan reporting, next time.
- Development and Education Subcommittee (KD reporting)
(a) Membership Survey
The survey has been redrafted, for example to include a question on submission of articles to JAS. The pre-circulated draft had been discussed by the subcom and was approved by the exec with some minor amendments. The survey will go live online on 1 March and run until 30 April. AGREED: Proposed expenditure and rolling contract with survey monkey. CUP will be approached about offering the choice of a book as a prize to incentivise participation in the survey.
(b) Equality and Diversity Statement
The draft statement from NK had been discussed by the subcom and approved with some minor amendments (to remove categories of difference and emphasise key principles). Once finalised, this can be posted on our website and proposed at the AGM as an addition to the BAAS constitution. The final version for the constitution would be brought back to the exec for approval in the January meeting.
(c) Equality and Diversity Role
The subcommittee had discussed the pros and cons of having a formal equalities role written into the constitution. After some debate, they recommend having a role that could be filled by any member of the executive. This member could be decided on following the AGM each year and would be offered training. It was proposed that all candidates who stand for election are asked to include in their nomination statement what they would try to do in relation to equality and diversity issues. These recommendations were AGREED by the executive.
With a sense that equality and diversity need to be responsibilities shared by all of us, the subcommittee also proposes that these become standing items on every subcommittee agenda as well as the agenda for the main executive meeting. Officers and/or subcom chairs should include equality and diversity reports in their annual reports at the AGM (AGREED).
(d) BAAS Archive
The subcommittee had looked at a number of models for how we might use a scholarship or grant to promote use of the BAAS archive. One model that received strong support was to fund a postgraduate placement, which would lead to an online publication such as ‘BAAS in 10 Documents’ and enable skills acquisition. This would require liaison with archivists in Birmingham. Another suggestion was to appoint a postgraduate researcher to conduct oral histories with former BAAS officers while the opportunities are still there. These ideas are in development.
The role of Schools Representative is not currently clearly defined and the subcom will work with our rep Mike Simpson to draw up a job description. MS had made suggestions relating to online resources and KM will liaise directly with him to further develop teacher resources on our website. Podcasts raising the profile of American Studies with teachers are also a possibility.
The subcommittee had also discussed the idea of a teachers workshop and considered holding this as part of the BAAS annual conference with a fees waiver for teachers. After consideration, it was decided that working with the British Library in London and Boston Spa to organise a teachers’ workshop would be the best strategy in the first instance. Events could involve American Studies alumni.
Website matters are generally fine. From April 2017 onwards KM would like to start to handover mailing list duties to someone else. This year it had been necessary to draw on extra assistance in order to get Awards publicity online with a tight turnaround. AGREED: funds for some extra web support around the launch of Awards each year (e.g. up to 20 hours work).
(g) Other matters
Mercedes Aguirre was in attendance at the subcommittee as our new Libraries and Resources Representative. As Early Career Rep, BO is working on ideas regarding a mentoring programme in American studies. KD is organising a panel / women’s caucus at the 2017 BAAS conference in Canterbury.
- Conference Subcommittee (JT reporting on behalf of PW)
(a) Queen’s University Belfast
The accounts are still not closed from the Belfast conference and it would be good to get these tied up.
(b) Canterbury Christ Church University
The organisers had received a higher than expected number of paper and panel proposals. With a shorter conference planned for 2017, this means careful management of parallel sessions and selectivity. AGREED: all of us wish to retain the BAAS conference’s traditional lively mix of postgraduates and researchers at other career stages.
As Lydia Plath moves on to a new job in January, she will remain involved but Gavan Lennon will become conference lead at CCCU. LP and PW are preparing an application for conference support from the US Embassy / BAAS Small Grant Programme (January deadline).
The steer on gender and panel composition included in the Canterbury CFP has prompted only one negative response to Lydia Plath plus a couple of queries to BW. AGREED: It would be good to have similar guidelines in the CFP for the next Postgraduate conference and future BAAS conferences, perhaps with some wording to be discussed at the exec. KWB also reminded the meeting of other forms of diversity and the need to work out how to address those at our events.
Nick Witham reported that planning is progressing well and the logo for the conference has almost been finalised. The next organising meeting is due to take place on 29 November. He would like the Conferences subcom to see some of the UCL venues on the day of the next exec meeting. As UB starts maternity leave, Dan Matlin will become the main King’s College representative on the joint organising group.
(d) BAAS Small Conference Support Grants
The second round of 2016 closed in mid November and applications have just been assessed. PW is passing on reports on completed events to USSO and ASIB.
(e) Postgraduate Conference
KWB reported that there will be approx. 60 delegates at the annual Postgraduate Conference at the University of Leeds tomorrow. As mentioned under Chair’s business, one innovation is the USSO postgraduate keynote. There will also be sessions linked to career development and USSO will be featuring interactive panel reviews to facilitate dialogue.
For future organisers, it would be helpful to have a clear picture earlier on of which BAAS exec members are able to attend and, in light of this, it might be a good idea to ask them to register.
KWB is looking ahead to the next Postgraduate Conference in 2017. There would usually be a bidding process to host but she has heard that there are prior arrangements for a joint PG conference between IAAS and BAAS to be held in Ireland. No one in attendance had memory of this and we need to clarify the arrangement if any. It possibly pre-dates the April 2016 Belfast conference and was a plan that got pushed back in light of the joint annual conference.
- Awards Subcommittee (JT reporting on behalf of UB)
The 2017 awards are now open, with print and electronic publicity underway. UB asks that all of us use all available channels to promote these opportunities widely (to schools, our students, colleagues etc.). Members of the exec are reminded that as BAAS trustees we should not be putting in for BAAS-funded awards. Arthur Miller, Eccles and Embassy-supported schemes are not included in this guidance. JT also noted that details about the nomination process for the BAAS Honorary Fellowship are online and any nominations will be considered at the next exec.
Interviews for GTA awards are due to take place in Manchester on 13 January 2017. DB is co-ordinating and EL and one other will assist on the interview day. AGREED: We will ‘spotlight’ the Graduate Teaching Assistantships in the next weekly BAAS bulletin.
UB had asked the subcom to consider what financial support we wish to give award recipients to attend the conference banquet and collect their awards. With an expanding portfolio of awards, it would be helpful to confirm our policy before Louise Cunningham writes to winners this year. The subcom proposed and the executive AGREED:
- We will offer to cover the banquet fee for all winners. This can be paid for as a separate fee (£45) on the Canterbury conference registration site by individuals and then claimed back from BAAS.
- Schools prize: we will reimburse the banquet fee for a guest/chaperone as well as for the winner; also travel costs (within the UK, advance booking) for winner and guest and one night’s accommodation for both.
- Undergraduate prizes: same as above for Schools. Although undergraduate winners might not officially need a chaperone, given the potentially daunting nature of attending the banquet it would be good to support them bringing a guest.
- Postgraduate prizes: reimburse banquet fee; we encourage postgraduate winners to seek conference funding from their institutions in the first instance – if this is not available we will support up to £100 of travel costs (within the UK, advance booking).
- In years when an Honorary Fellowship is awarded, we will reimburse the banquet fee; we will also offer UK travel and accommodation costs in cases where the Fellow wouldn’t be attending with institutional support anyway.
Awards discussion also included the suggestion of considering anonymisation of all awards on equality and diversity grounds. Entries for most of our awards are currently anonymised, but some are not as they involve letters of reference or books. KD proposed that we move away from using references (for example, in the case of Postgraduate Travel Awards), also for equality reasons. This discussion is one to be returned to by the Awards subcommittee, as all subcommittees review practice with equality and diversity in mind.
See Conferences Subcommittee business above regarding London 2018 planning.
MH’s term as BAAS’s EAAS Representative is due to end in April 2017 and is constitutionally non-renewable. The executive discussed the need to retain continuity and representation in terms of the run up to the London 2018 conference, organised jointly between EAAS and BAAS. One possibility is co-opting MH onto the BAAS exec for 2017-18, with him working alongside the new EAAS Rep for the year that takes us through to London 2018.
- Any Other Business
Michelle Green and Ben Offiler were congratulated on their appointment as Co-Editors for web presence for the European Journal of American Studies.
Thanks to Nicole King and JT, BAAS has submitted an association panel (‘Writing Shared Futures: African American Literature and Racialisation’) for the large-scale ‘English: Shared Futures’ conference to be held in Newcastle in July 2017.
- Date of next meeting: January 2017 date TBC; meeting to be in London, allowing viewing of 2018 venues.
Secretary: Dr Jenny Terry / Email: email@example.com / Phone: 01913 342570