Dear Fellow MAA Members:
At our annual meeting this past spring, the Council of the Medieval Academy considered a wide range of issues and challenges for the continued growth of the MAA. Treasurer Gene Lyman laid out the financial condition of the Academy and projected where we would be in the near future. Unlike most learned societies, the MAA has a substantial endowment, supplemented by the generous gifts of members and enlarged by the wise oversight of our Finance Committee. Yet, as Gene laid out, for the past several years the MAA has experienced the same downturn in its portfolio as every not-for-profit. At the same time, we have begun to accumulate a substantial structural deficit in our annual budgets. These trends could not be left to run their courses without some decisive action.
At that meeting and in subsequent consultations with us as new Executive Directors, the Executive Committee endorsed a series of fiscal reforms and spending cuts at the MAA offices. In addition, Executive and Finance Committee members have begun to cut back on their travel and meeting expenses, making up for these from their own pockets. For the first time in years, the new 2012 budget just endorsed by both the Finance Committee and the Executive Committee includes a small surplus instead of a budgeted deficit: a major fiscal turnaround.
These efforts are intended both to tighten expenditures and to move resources from administrative overhead to core MAA programs. These include Speculum and an array of services and benefits to members that will now begin to expand: MAA book programs, publication prizes, fellowships, and digital offerings, such as the IMB, ACLS Humanities E-Book, and MAA Books Online. The Academy continues to offer travel grants, assistance to graduate students, and support for seminars in paleography and codicology. It also supports numerous committees, including CARA’s efforts to expand the visibility of medieval studies at institutions across North America.
We have already begun to revise our website, revived this Medieval Academy News as a born-digital monthly, launched an interactive online calendar of events, and reinvigorated our MAA Blog, bringing news of and for MAA members in an elegant, up-to-date format. Our annual meeting remains a high point of the academic year, bringing together the best scholars and scholarship in serious discourse and relaxed interaction.
Beginning in the new year, the MAA will implement a new Association Management System that will allow individuals to register their own memberships, to post and control their professional information, to join with their colleagues in discussion groups, virtual committees and peer-review activities, and to plan to offer members Speculum’s digital edition.
To support these activities – and to bring the MAA into line with the best practice of other learned societies – we also plan to enhance revenues. In the year ahead you will see the revival of a few MAA book series as we move to online sales channels like Amazon.com and to the conversion of our titles into digital formats – including the Kindle, iPad and other tablets and handhelds – and into online scholarly aggregations. We are also seeking foundation support for special programs and projects.
The learned society remains the most important public focus of our scholarly energies. As many media and special conferences have reported, the crisis of the academic community has brought program and department cuts, diminished resources for research and publication, and threatens to convert the library from a scholarly to an information resource. Unlike the department, press, or library, the learned society retains its independence and its ability to self-govern, to set its own agenda, to enhance its special place in the world of scholarship. At the MAA we elect our own officers and form our own committees, maintain our esteemed publications series, and offer support for a new generation of scholars and colleagues.
As you may already have guessed, this leads us to one of the most important decisions of the Council this past April: to approve an increase in MAA dues. In the days ahead you will be receiving your renewal notices for memberships, and these increases will be reflected in our request for support. Overall your dues will be increasing an average of about 36%. Dues are scaled to reflect your professional status. This increase will supplement – but not substitute for – current cost-cutting at the MAA offices and revenue enhancements. But dues remain an essential foundation both for the MAA’s financial stability and for the programs that derive from that income. Dues increases will also bring the MAA’s into line with those of other societies of our size and interdisciplinary nature. Our increases have been designed to least affect our younger members – scholars in, or seeking, their first positions – and to place most of the responsibility for support on the older generation who have both benefited from, and already generously contributed to, the efforts of the MAA.
So, please, when you receive your dues notice, think first of MAA cost-cutting efforts already underway, of increasing support for vital programs, of your extra membership fees – and of your donations to the endowment and travel funds – as the core part of the larger effort to enhance the MAA’s financial base and to help maintain and expand its member benefits and its leadership role in the decades ahead. We are, and will be, doing our part to match your efforts and support. Thank you.
Eileen Gardiner & Ron Musto