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ATHE Adopts Policy Governing Conference Site Selection

Monday, November 17, 2014  
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At its quarterly meeting on October 30, the Governing Council unanimously approved a policy to guide the selection of sites for future ATHE Annual Conferences. This policy was developed by a special Committee on Conferences appointed by President Henry Bial in February 2014. A GC-approved draft version of the policy was made available for member review in August and September, and the final version of the policy (below) reflects and incorporates the feedback offered by members during that public comment period. The Governing Council thanks the Committee on Conferences – Josh Abrams, Gwendolyn Alker, Jason Bisping, Chase Bringardner (Chair), John Fletcher, Nina Lenoir, Mark Lococo and Monica Stufft – as well as the many members who took the time to participate in the policy development process. As a reminder, Conference 2015 will be held at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montreal. Conference 2016 is set for the Palmer House hotel in Chicago. The first site to be selected in accordance with this policy will therefore be Conference 2017.

ATHE Policy on Conference Site Selection, Approved by Unanimous Vote of the Governing Council, 30 October 2014.

Recognizing that choosing the site of the ATHE (Association for Theatre in Higher Education) Annual Conference is a potentially contentious issue and a frequently misunderstood process, ATHE has decided to set out a selection policy that outlines the necessities and considerations the organization’s leadership attends to when making this important decision on behalf of the membership.

ATHE typically holds its Annual Conference from Thursday to Sunday in late July or early August. The meeting currently attracts approximately 800-1200 attendees who travel from across the United States and the world; a significant portion are graduate students. Pre- and Post- Conferences hosted by ATHE’s committees and focus groups regularly occur on the Wednesday before or final Sunday after the general conference meeting days.

The final determination of conference sites shall be made by a majority vote of the Governing Council. After the selection of a conference site, ATHE’s membership elects a Vice President of Conference to organize the Annual Conference and serve on the Governing Council. The VP assembles a conference committee reflective of the diversity of ATHE’s membership; the following year’s VP joins the committee to gain experience and create continuity. Following the Governing Council’s approval of the committee selection, the VP and her/his committee generate a conference theme and subsequent programming that engages the conference location and addresses the needs and desires of the organization’s membership. While ATHE cannot predict the political realities of any given conference location two years in advance, it intentionally gives the VP and their committee freedom to engage the membership in programming that intervenes in various political dialogues.

ATHE will consider the following logistical needs when selecting a conference location:

The Conference requires…

  • A large hotel that can accommodate the meeting and bid competitively.
  • Affordability of hotel guest room rates and contractual terms and fees.
  • Availability/Affordability of air service and transportation infrastructure

ATHE will consider the following membership needs when selecting a conference location:

In light of the needs of our membership, we strive to select locations…

  • That demonstrate geographic diversity of meeting sites over time, in both the short and long term.
  • That offer a variety of extra-conference opportunities including nearby performance venues, restaurants, and sites of interest to our members.
  • That are economically feasible for a broad cross-section of ATHE members, with particular sensitivity to the financial constraints of graduate students, independent scholars/artists, and non-tenure track professors.
  • That ensure conference facilities that accommodate a range of abilities and disabilities

ATHE will consider the following advocacy concerns when selecting a conference location:

ATHE gives strong preference to:

  • Hotels whose staff is represented by a union.
  • Hotels with active sustainability policies and programs.
  • Locales that have demonstrated a commitment to providing service, accessibility, and civil rights to people equally, with particular consideration of the diverse social demographics of ATHE's membership.
  • Locales that engage with the issues outlined above through local activist performance/theatre initiatives.
  • Locales that offer the conference a chance to support local theatrical communities or companies.

In selecting dates for an Annual Conference, ATHE attempts to avoid conflicts with organizations of similar interests and audiences such as The American Society of Theatre Research (ASTR), International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR/FIRT), Performance Studies international (PSi), The Hemispheric Institute, American Studies Association (ASA), Congress on Research in Dance (CORD), and National Communications Association (NCA).

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