British Association for American Studies
Minutes of the 287th meeting of the Executive Committee, held at the Institute of the Americas, UCL on Saturday 4 February 2017 at 1.00 pm.
- Present: Brian Ward (Chair), Jenny Terry (Secretary), Cara Rodway (Treasurer), Ben Offiler, Emma Long, Katie McGettigan, Kate Dossett, Paul Williams, Martin Halliwell, Martin Dines, Nicole King. David Sarsfield attended part of the meeting.
- Apologies: Uta Balbier, Joe Street, Simon Hall, David Brown, Katerina Webb-Bourne, 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 (November 2016 – February 2017)
- BW congratulated Uta Balbier on the birth of her son, Max Barack, on 19 January. JT had sent flowers on behalf the Committee and BAAS. Thanks were offered to EL for stepping into the role of chairing the Awards subcommittee, and to KD for standing as Vice Chair.
- In January BAAS was invited by the Fulbright Commission to help publicise the State Department SUSI (Study of the United States Institute) programme for teachers, and assist in selecting the Fulbright’s nominees to the programme. BW agreed to this collaboration and the call for applications was shared across our various media platforms, though as it transpired there were no applications.
- BW and KMcG attended a meeting of the Arts and Humanities Alliance at the University of London on 12 December to discuss REF 2021 and the consultation document issued by HEFCE. Informed by this, BW drafted a subject association response with input from KMcG and JT (since circulated to the executive). We need to file our response online by 17 March, and will also share it with Tony Chafer, chair of UKCASA, and with the Arts and Humanities Alliance. BW invited comments and suggestions by the end of February. We hope to be asked to nominate individuals to serve as sub-panel members for the next REF. We should consider if we wish to propose that APG, BrANCH, HOTCUS etc also become bodies that make nominations. It was noted that nominating bodies must be societies not just networks.
- On 19 November, BW participated in the BAAS Postgraduate Conference at Leeds University, which was a great success. He offered congratulations to Lauren Moffatt and Sabine Peck (the local organisers) as well as to our own Postgraduate Rep, Katerina Webb-Bourne, for a highly successful event. As hoped for, the new USSO Keynote Lecture was a great success. We thank Jade Tullett for taking the lead on this initiative and congratulate Hannah Murray (Nottingham) on a fine and well attended lecture. Agreed: following the success of this trial, we will support a similar keynote lecture at future Postgraduate Conferences. At PW’s suggestion, (Agreed) also in recognition of the local postgraduate organisers’ work we will offer to cover their conference fees at the next main BAAS conference and continue this form of recognition in future years.
- On 30 November, BW wrote a letter on behalf of BAAS to the University of Wyoming in support of its American Studies BA programme, which was under threat. This maybe symptomatic of a more widespread pattern. Since then BW has not heard how the internal review of teaching provision there is going.
- In the wake of the results of the 2016 US presidential elections, the executive published a brief statement outlining the Association’s 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.
- Following President Donald Trump’s Executive Order restricting entry into the United States, the executive committee published online a statement of grave concern about the discriminatory aspects of that policy towards various groups, notably Muslims, and its wider implications for academic and civic freedom around the world. BW offered his thanks to all those who worked with him on the statement and noted the unanimous support for it among executive committee members. Other possible steps in response will be taken up under Any Other Business.
- BW gave a brief report on the January round of the Embassy/BAAS Grant Programme. A very high number of applications had been received in this round (forty-nine) and these are currently under consideration. Future plans for funding from the Embassy are unclear at the moment as is any future administration of such support. Looking forward, we need to be alert to possible changes of tenor in BAAS’s relationship with the Embassy as well as bear in mind our wider and long term responsibilities to our membership and to the overarching mission of BAAS in promoting the study of the US.
(b) Achievements, announcements and events of note to BAAS members
- Sadly Chris Brookeman, a stalwart of BAAS, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, passed away in December. A tribute (prepared by Phil Davies and Ian Ralston) appeared in ASIB and highlights how active Chris was in Schools outreach work for BAAS.
- BW reported on the death of Louis Billington in November; since then a tribute, written by Jenel Virden and Richard Carwardine with the assistance of David Brown, has appeared in ASIB.
- Congratulations to Sylvia Ellis, who has taken up a Chair at the University of Roehampton.
- Secretary’s Business (JT reporting)
- Since the last executive meeting, and with UB starting maternity leave, nominations for Vice-Chair of BAAS had been invited. One candidate was nominated and agreed to act in this role, and we now confirm Kate Dossett as Vice-Chair.
- In November 2016 the Charity Commission approved our new registration as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). The previous BAAS charity registration will be terminated once transfer of our assets is complete.
- Each year as part of the Awards programme the executive invites nominations for a BAAS Honorary Fellow in recognition of American Studies academics who have made an outstanding contribution to the association, to their institution(s), and to the American Studies community in general over the course of a distinguished career. There is no obligation to award a fellowship every year. This year one nomination was received by the deadline of the 1 December and was circulated to the executive. Agreed: To award a BAAS Honorary Fellowship to Prof. Phil Davies (Eccles Centre) at the 2017 conference.
- The executive will be proposing a constitutional amendment at the 2017 AGM, which adds a commitment on equality and diversity to our governing document. The executive has seen this in draft form and the finalized wording will be recirculated for confirmation before being displayed on our website for the stipulated period for members to consult before an AGM vote.
- Nominations are now open for candidates for election to the executive committee in 2017. In line with the CIO constitution, two independent scrutineers and a new timeline, accommodating advance voting for those who cannot attend the annual conference, are in place. JT offered thanks to Rachael McLennan (UEA) and Mike Collins (Kent) for agreeing to act as scrutineers throughout the process. Candidate nominations will close on 26 February.
- On 25 January JT attended the Humanities and Social Sciences Learned Societies and Subject Associations Network at the British Academy. Representatives from approximately fifty learned societies participated in the day’s activities, which included a talk from Lord Stern on the aims of his report on UK research assessment and REF. JT is feeding information gained from sessions on the REF consultation (led by Steven Hill and Kim Hackett from HEFCE) into our own response. The Arts and Humanities Alliance is also pooling responses. Also of note was the launch of the British Academy ‘Skills Flagship Project’ (Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences). MH will pass on the call for evidence for circulation via JT.
- Treasurer’s Business (CR reporting)
(a) Bank Accounts (as at 4 February 2017)
BAAS Publications Ltd £51,117.84
Dollar account $3404.44 (as at 30 January 2017)
Our balances reflect the Association’s continuing financial good health.
CR is planning to open a new twelve month savings account through the Charities Aid Foundation, to be held with Shawbrook Bank. This will give a better rate of interest than the current rate of our Barclays savings account. It will also be somewhere to ringfence and safeguard our reserves as a charity. Agreed: CR to go ahead and open this account with the executive’s approval. The mandate is included for the record:
The following are the resolutions of our charity: 1 Pursuant of our governing instrument, it was resolved that a Savings Account be opened with Shawbrook Bank and that the bank be authorised to accept instructions in accordance with the mandate given by the charity/Trustees/Directors from time to time. 2 We agree that the list of Trustees, Directors or other officials of our charity who are authorised to sign instructions on its behalf as set out in this Application form is accurate. 3 We agree to notify Shawbrook Bank of any changes to signatories or otherwise relevant to the operation of the account. 4 We confirm that the mandate shall remain in force and Shawbrook Bank may act upon it until our charity notifies Shawbrook Bank that it is to end or not to be changed.
Further, as part of the move to CIO status, CR is in the process of opening new bank accounts with Barclays and transferring the assets of BAAS the unincorporated charity to BAAS the CIO.
(b) Membership Figures (provided by LC)
Honorary membership – 4
Schools membership – 13
Individual membership – 281 (129 online JAS, 152 with full JAS)
PG membership – 275 (215 online JAS, 60 with full JAS)
Retired (PR) – 29 (19 online JAS, 10 with full JAS)
Unwaged (PU) – 18 (16 online JAS, 2 with full JAS)
Total members on fully paid sheet: 620 [624 in Nov 2016]
This quarter LC has cleared out expired/unpaid memberships from our databases.
CR has now registered us with HMRC for payroll and tax purposes. She will be sending paperwork for completion to colleagues receiving payment from BAAS for their JAS, web and other work. Tax will be collected via PAYE from now on.
- Equality and Diversity
A number of issues and steps were highlighted under this new standing item on the agenda.
Information about the 2017 executive committee elections now includes a strong invitation for candidates to think about equality and diversity issues in the statement that accompanies their nomination.
Publications: CR noted that the Journal of American Studies is continuing to try to promote equality and diversity through a range of measures (e.g. a prize linked to work in a particular area, information gathering in relation to the journal via the BAAS demographic survey, editorial board composition etc).
Conferences: PW reported that something similar to the steer on gender and panel composition included in the Canterbury Christ Church CFP will be rolled out to the 2017 Postgraduate Conference and to future main annual conferences.
Awards: EL has produced some demographic/gender information on those who applied to our various BAAS and Eccles awards this year.
Development and Education: KD offered a further suggestion arising from Development of a ‘protocol’ guiding any work we do as BAAS executive members and also available for other members to follow if they wish. For example, if invited to join an advisory group or judging panel, a protocol could require us to ask about the composition of the group/panel or prompt us to respond, as needed, on equality and diversity grounds: ‘Because of our protocol I’m going to suggest someone else’. This is another kind of step we should consider.
- Publications Subcommittee (CR reporting for JS)
(a) British Records Relating to America in Microform (BRRAM)
David Sarsfield from America on Microform joined the executive for this item to talk about BRRAM work and discuss future directions. General editor Kenneth Morgan was unable to attend. Those involved in BRRAM would like to strengthen the relationship with BAAS, in terms of how output can be most useful and used more, and in terms of drawing on our expertise. In a general context of a turn away from microform formats, we need to consider changing usage and new models. The team would like to broaden the primary sources and collections that BRRAM processes, and to help with this would like to form an editorial board. David invited expressions of interest and suggestions of potential board members as well as of collections at our individual institutions. He will work with JS and Kenneth to take forward these plans.
(b) Journal of American Studies
A report had been received from the editors CMB and BS. Since the last executive meeting, the annual editorial board meeting was held in London on 13 December.
The subcommittee had discussed a proposal from the JAS editors to expand the editorial board by up to six new members, with the main motivations being equality and diversity issues and intellectual spread. The additional members would be appointed in a staggered way. There was general support from the executive committee for this development and it was agreed to take discussions and the process forward in April. The editors would also like to invite board members whose terms are about to expire to renew.
An event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Journal is also planned for 2018. The subcommittee had discussed the proposed location in Edinburgh and raised some queries about intended audience. Would a dedicated strand or forum at the joint conference with EAAS in London have just as much or greater impact and reach? On the other hand, folding this celebration into a much larger conference programme could mean a loss of distinctiveness. Agreed: the executive approved support for a one day format event. As part of this, it would be good to incorporate a dedicated element for Early Career researchers such as a roundtable. This in turn could feed into discussion of future directions for the journal. The executive would also like to see a sharing of the cost, with a financial contribution being sought from the proposed host venue, the University of Edinburgh.
The EUP Paperbacks series editors have received a proposal for an edited collection. The series has been made up of monographs to date. Is the executive happy with this potential diversification and for the editors to go ahead with the review process? Agreed: This could be a positive development; all titles would still need to fulfill the series remit.
- Development and Education Subcommittee (KD reporting)
The subcommittee has been considering schools activities in the round, rather than as something channeled through one individual or Schools Representative. It would be good to have an annual report on schools engagement, tying together all the different activities that arise from various subcommittees. This approach might also assist us in promoting our awards aimed at schools. Mercedes Aguirre is looking into an American Studies day involving teachers at the British Library; this might be at either London or Boston Spa. KMcG has been in communication with Mike Simpson about building our web resources for teachers. She will be in touch about gathering suitable teaching materials.
JT noted the Royal Geographical Society Student Ambassador scheme, which does schools outreach work and might be something BAAS could emulate on a smaller scale.
(b) Membership Survey
BO reported that the survey will go live at the start of March. It will include a question on mentoring (this is something BO would like to explore for the benefit of Early Career researchers). A book voucher will help incentivise completion of the survey.
There had been some discussion of whether the survey should also seek the views of members about the relationship between BAAS and the US Embassy. The topic of the relationship will be picked up under AOB (below). It was not thought to be something to include in the survey at this stage.
(c) Early Career Matters
As EC representative, BO had had input into our draft Association response for the REF consultation. Our response looks robust in terms of representing EC concerns and interests.
KMcG asked for the executive’s approval to renew Michelle Green’s appointment as website support for a further year. Agreed.
- Conference Subcommittee (PW reporting)
(a) Belfast 2016
Despite efforts to pursue this, the conference accounts are not yet finalised.
(b) Canterbury 2017
Organisers are in a good position of readiness and we look forward to the annual conference at Canterbury Christ Church University in April. There will be a conference App. This could also be of use for London 2018. The possibility of linking the Membership Survey into the App was raised.
Agreed: to extend to EUP the same agreement of a free stand at the annual conference that we have in place with CUP. Agreed: to do the same for digital Adam Matthew for this year and then review.
(c) London 2018
Plans are progressing well and the Conference subcommittee plus BAAS officers had viewed conference venues at the Institute of Education, UCL earlier in the day. There is an EAAS meeting coming up in March in Lausanne and some details and decisions will need firming up before then in order for MH to present plans.
(d) Sussex 2019
Representatives from the University of Sussex will join the subcommittee after April.
(d) 2020 Conference Bids
Two bids to host the 2020 conference had been received by the deadline. Both bids, from Plymouth and Liverpool, were discussed as strong cases. The subcommittee made a recommendation that the conference is held in Liverpool in 2020 and the executive approved this decision (Agreed).
(e) PG Conference and Support
KWB had attended the subcommittee and reported on the situation with the Postgraduate Conference, although she was unable to stay on for the main executive meeting. Having thought that an agreement was in place for a joint IAAS and BAAS PG conference to be hosted in Ireland in 2017, this is no longer the case. We will advertise and invite bids as soon as possible so that planning can begin for an Autumn BAAS PG conference.
KWB confirmed that the reciprocal agreement with the IAAS to fund PG attendance at each other’s annual conferences via a bursary remains in place; applications will open soon.
Led by PW, the subcommittee is also administering a scheme of hardship funds to support Postgraduate and Early Career participation in the Canterbury annual conference. The draft application form has been circulated. While we have acted to put this in place quite quickly this year, the most effective way of administering such support for future years will need review. Agreed: BAAS supports four or five hardship awards of up to £300 each this year. The hardship funds will be restricted to BAAS members.
- Awards Subcommittee (EL reporting)
EL thanked everyone who is serving on awards panels this year and also UB for her work and Awards handover. The subcommittee, which met jointly with Conferences this time, had considered the statistics on 2017 entries, including a gender breakdown of applicants for each award.
Candidates for the Graduate Teaching Assistantships had been interviewed on 24 February and EL reported that places had been offered to two excellent applicants.
In terms of our publicity strategy for next year, in some areas we need to review and do more. We could look at more targeted approaches (e.g. Schools, Undergraduates) rather than advertising all our awards in one tranche. There may also be scope to look at placement and accessibility of information on the website.
No report. London 2018 plans were covered under Conferences (above).
- Any Other Business
BW invited suggestions for responses and actions beyond the BAAS statement agreed and issued following President Trump’s Executive Order and travel ban.
In recent weeks a few members have contacted the executive about possible responses and, in one case, asking for discussion of BAAS’s relationship with the US Embassy in London. Agreed: Retaining intellectual freedom is key and transparency is also important in order that members have a clear understanding of that relationship (which in the past has involved a grant in partial support of our annual conference, and in 2016-17 involves the block grant ‘Promoting a Better Understanding of the US through American Studies’ wherein we administer the distribution of smaller grants to support a wide range of cultural and educational activities in the UK). The benefits of this as well as concerns could be something to address at the AGM.
One BAAS member had suggested discussion of a boycott of the US (this correspondence was circulated). We could support the cost of travel for someone from a country affected by the ban to enable them to attend our own conference. Another suggestion was donation to the American Civil Liberties Union. We could try to build partnerships and connections with subject associations and academics in the countries affected; this would strengthen our international affiliations more broadly and might further understanding of the best ways we can help. Broadly speaking, the executive was in favour of this kind of positive step as opposed to boycott at this point.
- Date of next meeting: Thursday 6 April 2017
Secretary: Dr. Jenny Terry / Email: email@example.com / Phone: 01913 342570