It’s hard to believe that two and a half years have gone by since the last in-person ACES conference. Our virtual options in 2020 and 2021 were a blast, but I’m eager to make in-person connections again as soon as possible, and I’ve been so excited to see as many of you as I can in San Antonio next spring at the 2022 ACES National Conference.
But the curveballs keep coming, complicating those plans.
After Texas enacted a law that bans abortions after roughly six weeks of a pregnancy, many members reached out asking us to relocate the conference. This legislation, on top of new voting restrictions in the state and efforts to prevent participation in sports for transgender students, has many people considering whether they want to spend their hard-earned money in a state that doesn’t align with their belief system.
All of these issues are complicated for us as the ACES board. To begin with, we each have our own individual reactions to what’s happened in Texas and, of course, to other political events. But our duty to ACES is to act in the best interests of the organization.
So what is the best course for ACES?
A big consideration is money. To pull out of our conference site would mean a significant financial hit. Our venues are chosen up to five years in advance to snare spots in hotels that book events early and to ensure the best deals for our members. (Our future conferences are slated to be in Columbus, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and Atlanta.) At this point, canceling our San Antonio contract would cost us roughly $175,000—a sum that would be nearly impossible to make up. The ACES board is the steward of our members’ money, tasked with safeguarding our organization’s future, and to willingly lose that much feels irresponsible.
But the financial hit isn’t the only issue: Many of our fellow editors call Texas home. ACES has 300 members living or working in the state—almost 6% of our total membership. When we choose a site, we think a lot about how it will serve the people in that region; I want to continue to support our members all around the country, and I don’t want to cut some of them off based on the actions of legislators whose beliefs may or may not line up with their own.
And, of course, state politics aren’t the only thing affecting our 2022 conference. The pandemic is still raging, and many people are understandably nervous about traveling and spending lots of time indoors with editors from all over. We’re still hoping for the best—that vaccination rates will rise, case counts will fall, and we’ll all feel safe to meet again soon—while preparing for the worst. Our members’ safety is paramount as we decide what to do going forward.
As an organization, we want to give as many people the opportunity to participate in our conference as possible, and we’re working on options for virtual events as well. Ultimately, the decision to attend our conference is up to every individual. One way or another, we hope to see you all again sooner rather than later.
From the ACES president was originally published in Tracking Changes (Fall 2021 edition). Members receive a PDF of the quarterly Tracking Changes newsletter by email.