Thank you for your patience and good will during this unprecedented time. The cancellation of Congress approximately one week ago led the ACCUTE executive and the ACCUTE Board to think carefully about the potential options and alternatives that might be available moving forward for a conference or gathering of any kind in late May of 2020.
In particular, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the ACCUTE Vice-President, Liz Effinger, and the ACCUTE Office Co-ordinator, Vicky Simpson, for their willingness to engage in a number of a long and thoughtful conversations during a very busy time. In addition, thank you to the Federation team (Gabriel Miller and his office) who provided our association with alternatives in a timely and supportive manner. The ACCUTE Board and several past Board members (Brenna Clarke Gray and Erin Wunker) committed to meeting via video conference to probe these options with myself and the executive; our collective aim throughout has been to prioritize the well-being of our members, who are overtaxed in all kinds of ways right now. The incoming ACCUTE President, Gregory Betts was unwaveringly supportive and understanding of the immediate challenges facing our members, and committed to rethinking next year’s conference to accommodate these unique circumstances; his team is already looking for Plenary Speakers for 2021, which is fabulous! Finally, Manina Jones (former President of ACCUTE and this year’s Local Area Co-ordinator at Western) had done an enormous amount of invisible labour to physically host ACCUTE and of course, all of that is no longer a possibility; I owe her a huge thank you.
We have decided as a Board to move forward with what I have described as the “hybrid” model. ACCUTE will NOT run a virtual conference in May 2020. Papers that have been accepted for ACCUTE 2020 at Western are guaranteed acceptance to ACCUTE 2021 at the University of Alberta; members will be able to give their papers in-person in May of 2021. There is NO guarantee that your paper will be on the same panel but your paper WILL BE included in the ACCUTE schedule for 2021. Member-organized and joint-sponsored panels that have been accepted for ACCUTE 2020 are also guaranteed acceptance for ACCUTE 2021. For those who may wish to list the paper on their cv, you are welcome to do so—state that the paper has been accepted and that it will be presented at ACCUTE 2021.
The only events we will host virtually in May of 2020 at NO cost to ACCUTE members are the following:
- The two plenaries by Anthony Stewart and Emma Donoghue (who are eager and willing to present on-line this May).
- The ACCUTE Annual General Meeting (to undertake the business of the association, including the election of new members of the Board, the installation of the new executive as the ACCUTE office moves to Brock University in July of 2020, and the receiving of various reports)
- The Celebration of Research where the winner of the Priestley Prize will be announced, along with acknowledgement of the books that were to be launched at ACCUTE 2020.
The timing of these limited on-line events will be announced by late April and will be planned to ensure that individuals across the country can participate, despite a wide variety of time zones. The ACCUTE office intends to try to honour the proposed schedule with respect to dates, so the plenaries will be held on the weekend of May 30-31, 2020, with the AGM and Celebration of Research either on the same days or on June 1, 2020.
For those of you who had booked travel, accommodations, and paid Congress and ACCUTE fees for Congress 2020, we suggest that you cancel your physical travel (hotel reservations, flights, car rentals, etc.), if you have not done so already. Accommodations on campus at Western should have been automatically cancelled, but if you have any concerns, please just email email@example.com to confirm.
Note that there is NO need to request a refund from the Federation for Congress and ACCUTE conference fees; they will be refunded automatically as soon as possible and an email confirmation of the refund will be issued. Please know that the ACCUTE office cannot control the timing of the refunds, nor do we have the ability to issue them. The Federation manages the collection of all conference fees.
We hope that by offering members the opportunity to gather virtually for the two scheduled plenaries and to be part of the ACCUTE AGM and Celebration of Research, members will feel that they are being intellectually stimulated without being overtaxed. The pressures on all of us to juggle the sudden move to on-line course teaching, to provide child care while working, to care for sick family members, and to manage our own health and well-being requires sensitivity and kindness.
Notably, our office is also undertaking considerable advocacy work in the current context. We will be connecting with CACE (the Canadian Association of Chairs of English) to prepare statements advocating that universities and colleges stop the tenure and promotion clock for faculty and be sensitive in determining merit assessment pay which is often done in a cyclical manner. We will also be urging institutions to consider the challenges that Covid 19 poses to graduate students who may be expected to complete comprehensive exams and continue their research without tuition relief and with uncertainty about teaching and research opportunities going forward. ACCUTE will working with the Federation to urge SSHRC to develop flexible guidelines for the completion of funded research and to continue to move forward in providing research funding results to those whose applications are in process (whether at the graduate level or with respect to research grant applicants). Finally, we will be sending a letter to the Federal Minister of Finance to advocate for ongoing support for scholarly associations like ACCUTE, given that our members are going to play a critical role in documenting, analyzing, and engaging with a radically changing world in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
In closing, I would remind you that our office is here for you. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to write me as the President of ACCUTE (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to contact our office at email@example.com.
Wishing you all the best,