With greatest regret, we write to inform you of our decision to cancel this year’s MSA conference, which was to take place from June 18-21 in Charlottesville.
To be sure, those dates are still more than three months away. While we have every hope that the crisis will have passed by then, of course no one knows, and it appears increasingly that a complete disappearance in that time frame is unlikely. More important, it is in the next 4-6 weeks-namely in what will be the peak of uncertainty and disruption-that attendees would have to make their travel plans. While airlines and hotels have so far been more generous than expected with refunds and re-bookings, we expect that many of us will be wary of making risky investments, especially since many of our institutions are strongly advising against (in some cases prohibiting) “unnecessary” travel. Finally, we have had to take into account the potential liabilities to the Association: if we were to plan to go forward, the MSA would incur significant non-refundable costs in the next couple of weeks; older, more established associations might be able to afford that, but ours is a young organization, and we want to be especially careful to safeguard its future. Moreover, even if somehow we were able to persevere and hold the conference, we expect that, with lower than hoped attendance, it would not be the event that is appropriate to the importance of Charlottesville as a site of memory.
As you can tell, we have struggled mightily with this decision. We do not want to succumb to fear and hopelessness, and thereby to make a bad situation worse. But we are also cognizant of the responsibility all of us have not to put others at risk with our well-meaning desire to “keep calm and carry on.” We all have a responsibility in helping to confront this challenge and to protect the vulnerable. In the meantime, in happier news, we can tell you that planning is already underway for 2021 in Warsaw, which we expect to be a very major gathering indeed. That conference will also include a special stream during which invited speakers and others will address the important issues that were to be our highlights this year. We also hope to offer a transfer of this year’s acceptances to next year: namely, if your paper or panel was accepted for presentation this year, you would be given a place on the program in Warsaw, should you want it.
In the next couple of weeks, we will work to refund the fees for those who already registered for Charlottesville, and the Association will assume the costs of doing so. We regret very much if any of you have incurred non-refundable travel expenses already (though there is reason to be optimistic about refunds from travel companies if you act promptly), and hope you understand that the MSA cannot assume any of these costs. Please note that you will have to cancel your hotel rooms individually; we will be in contact with those who booked a dorm room via our conference website as charges will be refunded.
We also hope that those of you who might have been motivated to become members of the Association (or renew your membership) because of the Charlottesville conference will consider that there are other benefits to membership in the Association than a discounted conference fee, including access to the journal and participation in working groups, among other things. If, however, there are extraordinary circumstances that you think would justify a refund in your membership as well as registration, please let us know.
Once again, we want to express our deepest regrets that we will not be able to welcome you to what we hoped would be an extraordinary and important meeting in an extraordinary and important place, and to thank you for your trust in us, whether or not you agree with the decision or its timing,. We wish you all-and all your families and friends-good health and the least possible disruptions. Please stay safe and be well. And see you in Warsaw?!
With the best wishes for the next weeks and months to come,
Aline Sierp, Jenny Wüstenberg & Jeff Olick
Stef Craps, Francisco Ferrandiz, Alicia Salomone, Tea Sindbaek Andersen, Hanna Teichler & Joanna Wawrzyniak
Jonathan Bach & Siobhan Kattago