At the recent American Council of Learned Societies Executive Officers’ meeting in Ft. Worth, I met with the directors of more than sixty of our sister societies, ranging from small volunteer organizations with a few hundred members that run on a shoestring to mega-organizations with dozens of paid staffers, tens of thousands of members, and multi-million-dollar budgets. The Academy falls somewhere in the middle, with six paid staff members, 3,500 members, and an annual budget of around $850,000. And while our goals may be somewhat different from those of, say, the American Society for Aesthetics, over the course of the three-day meeting we found that we have much in common. In particular, we are all determined to support our members in their work and in their humanity.
At the EO meeting, we spoke about these issues at length and discussed how we might advocate for our members more effectively. Members of the Medieval Academy are facing many of the same challenges as members of our sister societies. It is not only medievalists who have recently faced painful issues of harassment and racism on campus and online:
classicists and eighteenth-century scholars, among others, have struggled with similar issues in recent months. Fiscal challenges to the humanities at the federal level have also hit close to home.
Many of the ACLS affiliates are comprised primarily of academics, and so the stresses of the job market affect us all. You may have seen recent reports from the American Historical Association and the Modern Language Association comparing the number of PhDs granted in recent years with the number of tenure track and other academic jobs on offer. The news was discouraging, to say the least.
The Medieval Academy will be addressing these pressing issues with sessions at our upcoming Annual Meeting at Emory University (1-3 March): a stand-alone panel and discussion, “Building Inclusivity and Diversity: Challenges, Solutions, and Responses in Medieval Studies” (Thursday at 5 PM); and the Graduate Student Roundtable, “A Future Outside of Academia: Alternative Careers for Graduate Students in Medieval Studies” (Friday at 4 PM). We hope that you will join us in Atlanta to take part in these valuable conversations, both of which, we hope, will lead to ongoing discussions and development of policy that will help make the Medieval Academy a more welcoming place for medievalists of all backgrounds and all career paths.
It is hard enough for students to face an uncertain job market without also facing the possibility of seeing their student debt increase due to the recent House of Representatives tax proposal that would make graduate student tuition waivers taxable federal income. It was this concern, in particular, that prompted ACLS affiliates, with the leadership of the American Philosophical Association, to sign a joint statement condemning this provision. We will continue to work with our sister societies to advocate for our members through a formal network of Executive Officers.
We cannot do this work without your support, however. If you haven’t yet renewed for 2018, please do so as soon as possible. You will also be hearing from me this week by mail with an end-of-year fundraising appeal. Please give if you can. Your gift and your membership fee directly support our grantmaking and subvention initiatives. I thank you in advance for your support.
On behalf of the staff and governance of the Medieval Academy of America, I wish you a very happy holiday season. The Office will be closed from December 25 – January 1. We look forward to working with you in 2018.
Lisa Fagin Davis, Executive Director
p.s. Here’s an easy way to support the Medieval Academy of America when you shop at Amazon.com this holiday season: go to smile.amazon.com , select the Medieval Academy as your charity of choice, and shop as usual! Amazon will contribute .5% of your purchase amount to the Medieval Academy of America.