British Association for American Studies
Minutes of the 281st meeting of the Executive Committee, held at Northumbria University, Thursday 9 April 2015 at 2.00pm.
- Present: Sue Currell (Chair), Jenny Terry (Secretary), Theresa Saxon
(Treasurer), Katie McGettigan, Zalfa Feghali, Rachael Alexander, Uta Balbier, Sinéad Moynihan, Cara Rodway, Bevan Sewell, Bridget Bennett, Doug Haynes, Joe Street, Nick Witham, Martin Halliwell.
Apologies: Rachael McLennan
In attendance: Jenny Terry
- Minutes of the Previous Meeting.
These were accepted as a true record and will now go on the website.
- Matters Arising
- Review of Action List
The Chair asked the Exec to comment on the status of their Action List duties. Reported by Sue: communication with members of BLARS about changes had taken place earlier in the year. All other Action List duties will be addressed under the relevant section below.
- Chair’s Business (SC reporting)
(a) Chair’s activities, meetings and correspondence
- 12 December 2014, Sue Wedlake’s retirement party, U.S. Embassy.
- 19 December 2014, Journal of American Studies Editorial Board Meeting, Kings College London.
- 18 February 2015, UKCASA meeting at SOAS with Area Studies REF talks from Bruce Brown, Chair of Panel D and Peter Gatrell, Chair of Area Studies Sub-Panel.
- On behalf of BAAS Sue submitted an application to become a member of the Foundation for Science and Technology. The Foundation provides a support service to learned and professional societies. Around 140 societies subscribe to receive a Newsletter. Keith Lawrey is the Learned Societies’ Liaison Officer for the Foundation and he prepares Guidance Notes on a range of administrative issues of interest for the administrators of learned and professional societies who are members of the Foundation. Keith provided guidance to BAAS regarding charities law etc. to be discussed with the executive under Secretary’s business and was consulted about the new editor contracts between BAAS and the JAS editors.
(b) Achievements, announcements and events of note to BAAS members
- December 2014. Former ASIB editor Kal Ashraf passed his PhD, University of Sheffield. ‘Beyond Authentication: African American Speech Representation (AASR) in Brown, Chesnutt and Hurston.’
- IAAS Treasurer and Membership Secretary and former Treasurer to the EAAS, Tony Emmerson died in December 2014.
- Professor of American History (retired from Sussex University), Rupert Wilkinson died just before Christmas 2014.
- Martin Padget (Aberystwyth) has been offered a fellowship in the Tanner Center for the Humanities at the University of Utah for 2015-16.
- Launch of SAVAnT (Scholars of American Visual Arts and Text).
- Clodagh Harrington of De Montfort University has become (PSA) American Politics Group Chair.
- Jo Gill has been awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship for research on Modern American Poetry and the Architectural Imagination. £42,000 over 16 months, starting 1 September 2015.
(c) New BAAS logo
On 18 February 2015 Sue met with Katie McGettigan to discuss new logo designs as part of ongoing efforts to achieve the best outcome possible. Following several versions of a new BAAS logo being circulated around the executive committee and further efforts to find something suitable, Sue commissioned a new designer with more expertise in that area to try and find a solution. This has resulted in the logo, which will be launched at this April’s conference.
(d) American Studies Survey
With current changes in Higher Education, the as yet unclear implications of the results of REF2014 (for Area Studies and beyond), and the nature of REF 2020 not yet being confirmed in any detail, it is difficult to gauge the big picture for American Studies programmes, activities and research. Sue proposed a survey to enable the collection of statistics, experiences and suggestions from colleagues nationally. This would capture input not just from Heads of Department but also Early Career researchers etc. It could also include American Studies admissions data. This might suggest ways in which BAAS could offer support, information, and / or advocacy in the future.
Sue tabled a possible model survey (titled ‘Demographic Review of American Studies’). There was a discussion of whether this survey could provide the grounding for a broader ‘state of the nation’ report and operate as a helpful sounding board. If one outcome of it was to be a REF-centred report, it was noted that the timing of the survey would be important. The last such data gathering exercise was conducted in 2010.
(e) BAAS Archive
Sue put forward the possibility of funding some work on the BAAS archive in the future. This could highlight the archive as a resource and an important part of the history of the field.
- Secretary’s Business (JT reporting)
(a) Narrative Report
Thanks were noted to Jo Gill for covering most of the Secretary’s business while Jenny Terry was in the States September to December 2014. Jenny has dealt with various correspondence since the last meeting. The Sutton Trust had been in touch about participation in their annual Fulbright event to promote study in the US and study of the US to talented State School students. As the date this year clashed with the BAAS conference, none of the committee had been able to attend but an alternative American Studies speaker had been found. In terms of record keeping and the archive, members were reminded to pass on copies of material to Jenny.
(b) 2015 Elections
Jenny requested that members promote attendance at the AGM in conference panels etc. There will be a reshuffle of executive and sub-com roles and the election of a Vice-Chair after the AGM.
(c) Proposed changes to the Constitution
A hardcopy was tabled. The proposed changes to the Constitution have been made available to the membership for six weeks online prior to the AGM. Only one comment had been received from beyond the executive committee; this related to the amendment to (8) regarding former chairs. Agreed: the regular BAAS electronic newsletter will give notice to all members when executive committee minutes have gone up online, removing the need for separate circulation to former chairs. After discussion, it was agreed that if any of the proposed constitutional changes proved divisive at the AGM they could be voted on piecemeal but that the changes all had the recommendation of the committee.
(d) Electronic / postal election model
Depending on the vote on the changes to the constitution, further detail regarding an electronic election process may need to be worked out. One model (first circulated in February) was discussed. We need to ensure that the elections, in whatever format, continue to generate interest. Agreed: come back to models or suggestions for the process after the AGM.
(e) Move to Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO)
In the Autumn Sue and Theresa met with Keith Lawrey, the Learned Societies’ liaison officer and legal advisor. As well as the establishment of a trading arm (to be detailed under Treasurer’s business), a change in the charitable status of BAAS was advised for reasons of legal protection for executive members and as the most appropriate category of registration with the Charity Commission. In theory the change from unincorporated association to a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) is simple but in practice the Charity Commission requires us to place our existing constitution within a given template, meaning that we would have to vote on a new constitution to take this step, and also to dissolve and reform and reregister BAAS with the changed status. Our current constitution has a specific clause governing the dissolution of BAAS. It was decided not to rush this step for the 2015 AGM but to take the process forward in due course. Keith Lawrey will be invited to come and speak to us about it at the next meeting. He can also assist with the Charity Commission template; we are advised our current constitution could go within this intact. The paperwork will require the physical signature of every trustee.
(f) Changes to Sub-com Standing Orders
A copy of the changes to sub-com membership agreed in November was tabled. A further boost to the membership of Conferences looks necessary in light of these changes. Agreed: the Postgraduate Rep will join the Conferences sub-com in future; this will fit well with the work of organising the annual Postgraduate Conference.
- Treasurer’s Business (TS reporting)
(a) Bank Accounts (as at 07/04/2015)
General Deposit: £21,905.56
Dollar Account: $3375.42
(b) Membership Figures (provided by Louise Cunningham)
Members on fully paid sheet (total = 425)
Individuals – 193. The breakdown of this figure is 6 without JAS, 187 with JAS
PG – 196 (133 without JAS, 63 with)
PR (Retired) – 27 (15 without JAS, 12 with)
PS (schools) – 8
Noted: These reduced figures reflect the data from after a wholesale process of checking the membership database and membership payments. Theresa suggested that we might wish to differentiate between those paying for JAS online only and those paying for print in future.
(c) Narrative Report
- CUP / Journal of American Studies
- Bertoli Mitchell, our publishing advisors, have been paid according to terms (for the first six months). JAS Editors have been paid.
- Contracts for the JAS Editorial Assistants and USSO Editors are being drawn up. For personal tax allowance purposes, in the future it would be beneficial for an explanatory letter from the Treasurer to accompany all contracts as they are sent out.
- BAAS Publications Ltd
Our trading arm has been set up. The first VAT return is due at the end April; the accountants will complete most of this but the incoming Treasurer (with TS) will need to provide all relevant information.
- BAAS Publications bank account
This is now set up. It is worth noting once more that BAAS (the association) is the sole shareholder of the trading arm.
- Annual Accounts
Copies of the accounts for the year end 31 December 2014 tabled. These will go into the annual return to the Charity Commission once signed off with the accountants.
- Membership Database
Louise Cunningham has assisted Theresa in going through the database, chasing outstanding payments and clearing out obsolete profiles. This needs to be monitored regularly; the number of current members has dropped as a result of the updating process. Noted: some members are still paying at pre-2010 rates and they will be chased. Noted: Paypal on our website now shows the handling fee; this was always taken – there is no change in the charge – it just shows up now.
(vi) Warm thanks were offered by all to Theresa for stepping in as Treasurer during 2014-15 and for all her invaluable work this year.
- Development Subcommittee (ZF reporting)
(a) Membership of the Subcommittee
ZF confirmed the membership of the Subcommittee would change (pending ratification of changes to the BAAS Constitution at the AGM). If the proposal to dissolve BLARS is approved at the AGM, the role of Library and Resources Representative will be taken up by an ordinary member of the Executive. This will ensure continuing representation and presence in terms of library issues. ZF and SC expressed thanks to MC for his work with BLARS. ZF will conduct a handover with the incoming Early Career Rep. The subcommittee name is changing to Development and Education.
(b) Conference Funding Scheme
The application form for those seeking funding from BAAS to organise conferences has been revised. The form will be going back online on the website and guidance will instruct applicants to send it to a new conference support email address. As well as being administered by the Conferences Subcommittee from now on, the key changes that have been made include clearer guidelines on what BAAS would like to see prioritised in such applications, including: a clear plan for subsidizing PG attendance, schools attendance, etc, and not primarily to defray costs for visiting speakers, catering, or publicity. Applications must demonstrate clear plans to publicise BAAS, JAS, and USSO, and cannot be made retrospectively. Applications will now have two closing dates (1 April and 1 November, to be reconfirmed), and will be far more competitive. The maximum budget set for conference support every year will be £1500, with an additional £500 for the PG conference and a separate pot of money allocated for activities BAAS has traditionally supported such as ‘Congress to Campus’. The next deadline for applications will be 1 November 1 2015, in time for the Exec meeting to be held at the PG conference.
(C) Website and communications
KM showed the executive the new website, which now includes a Members’ Area, fast direct access to JAS, and more useful and accessible information about BAAS and related activities. This had a ‘stealth launch’ on 7 April 2015. Members can edit their profiles and promote publications, for example. There are networking opportunities via the ‘groups’ function and there could also be a closed group for executive members. Reported: Michelle Green has been hired as BAAS’ Online Editorial Assistant. Her responsibilities will include compiling and curating material for the website and ASIB in its new form. There will be an archived, quarterly digest on the website. Thanks were offered to KM for all her excellent work on this and for liaising with Clear&Creative to create a great new website. Agreed: all Subcommittee Chairs and BAAS Officers will receive training on how to work with the website.
Cara Rodway reported that just one Schools Conference had taken place this year (in Reading on 2 March 2015), although three had been hoped for. This ‘Congress to Campus’ event is now available online as a podcast via the BAAS – ASIB youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5UNjTuVWNk45zAy6Ny1vyeNaI6cjJjP5.
In the future the Early Career Rep could work with the Schools Rep on the BAAS Visiting Speakers series.
- Postgraduate Business (RA reporting)
RA reported that the 2015 PG and Early Career conference will be co-organised by Glasgow and Strathclyde in collaboration with HOTCUS (HOTCUS will have an adjacent event). There had been interest from several institutions and the joint bid from Glasgow and Strathclyde was successful. The theme will be “Collaboration in America and Collaborative work in American Studies.” Plenary speakers are still to be confirmed (suggestions would be welcome), as well as the final date for the conference. CFP is to be circulated in May. In order to encourage IAAS members to attend, some postgraduate travel bursaries will be offered.
- Publications Subcommittee (BB reporting)
(a) Journal of American Studies
The new editors Celeste-Marie Bernier and Bevan Sewall are in post after handover from Scott Lucas. As noted under 7 (c), other contracts for editorial assistants will follow. Submissions to JAS are up, including from the US. The Editors will seek to further involve the editorial board in handling submissions in future.
USSO has featured 150 blog posts now and attracts an impressively high number of hits. It is a finalist in the UK blog awards for 2014. Michelle Green and Ben Offiler will be looking to streamline processes and activities in the future. A set of job specifications for their roles might be helpful due to the number and variety of their responsibilities.
- Conferences Subcommittee (SM reporting)
(a) U.S. Embassy funding
BAAS applied to the U.S. Embassy for conference funding.
- Queen’s 2016
- SM visited Belfast on 2 February 2015 and met with the committee (Philip McGowan, Catherine Gander, Andrew Pepper) and members of the Visit Belfast team.
- Some accommodation will be provided on campus, but not all. The on campus accommodation will be £37 per night, B&B. That, and all other accommodation options, will be bundled together on to one website, which will be linked via the conference registration page. All the accommodation options will be only a five min walk from the conference venues. Visit Belfast to handle accommodation and travel enquiries.
- SM visited several campus venues (for keynotes; panels); all look fine. Rooms have been booked.
- Receptions: Thursday 7 April will be at Belfast City Hall (it will also “provide wines and soft drinks from its own stock up to a maximum of £500”); Friday 8 April to be hosted at Queen’s by Canterbury Christchurch; Saturday 9 April: Titanic Belfast will be the venue for the banquet, where one of the keynotes will also take place in a more casual setting.
- Keynotes have been confirmed as Deborah Willis (NYU; JAS speaker), John Howard (KCL; Eccles) and Richard Ford, the novelist (QUB speaker in Q & A format).
- The poster and CFP are done and will be in this year’s conference packs. 1 November 2015 deadline for proposals.
- Conference email now live – firstname.lastname@example.org– with conference website details to follow. Twitter account now live @IAAS2016BAAS
- CCCU 2017
Lydia Plath will be co-opted as conference organiser at Canterbury Christchurch. SC asked that the January executive meeting be held there in 2016. Nothing further to report.
- BAAS/EAAS 2018
The joint organising group for London is likely to consist of:
Eccles/BL: Phil Davies, Cara Rodway
ISA/UCL: Iwan Morgan, Nick Witham
KCL: Uta Balbier, Clare Birchall
BAAS: Sinéad Moynihan, Martin Halliwell
- Awards Subcommittee (UB reporting)
Uta Balbier offered thanks to those who served on judging panels this year and also to Louise Cunningham for all her work in facilitating the Awards process. Uta and Doug Haynes will present the awards together at the banquet, with Phil Davies presenting for Eccles. Recipients will be photographed for the website. This year we are awarding two additional prizes. These are PG essay prizes in association with JAS; the recipients will have the opportunity to submit their work for publication in JAS. Agreed: the executive’s approval for this initiative.
There was a strong field for the GTA competition. Interviews took place in London in January. We still need to promote awards further. Doug suggested contacting alumni of the GTA scheme for some copy for a promotional feature on the website; we should also make sure potential applicants understand what being a ‘GTA’ means and the benefits. Given the withdrawal of the GTA place at Virginia, it would be good to build links with a replacement institution.
A stronger steer for applicants to the Postgraduate Travel Award would be constructive. The awards are intended to support research trips. KM and RA suggested that the PG conference could have a session on applying for funding. This could also be linked into a USSO feature on the dos and don’ts of funding applications.
In future, applications for all our awards are likely to be made via the website and we need to build capability for that. All executive members should try to promote the various student schemes and encourage high quality applicants.
- EAAS (MH reporting)
Matters relating to EAAS were dealt with under 11 (Conferences) above.
- Any Other Business
Recognition of the work of BAAS committee members
BB raised concerns about the ‘unrecognised’ nature of the valuable and extensive work being done by those involved in BAAS. This kind of leadership, citizenship and committee work on a national level, is often not taken account of by the institutions where we work. We should try to further raise the profile of such contributions (in terms of workloading, promotions, prominence etc.). Letters are sent to institutions by the Chair when new members join the committee or take up office; could consider also copying HR departments in? Some institutions make a workload allowance for organising the BAAS annual conference, others do not.
- Date of next meeting
The next meeting of the Executive Committee of the British Association for American Studies will be held at the Institute of the Americas, UCL, on 19 June 2015. Sub-coms will commence at 11.30am and the main Exec at 1.00pm.
Secretary: Dr. Jenny Terry / Email: email@example.com / Phone: 01913 342570