There's been some Facebook discussion about the fact that the Medieval Academy of America is holding its annual meeting next April in Arizona. Members of the Academy were notified of this long ago, of course, but the recent dissemination of a CFP reminded us of the location at a time when many of us are none too pleased with the terrible choices the state government has been making regarding social issues we care about. Governor Jan Brewer's signing into law an immigration bill that seems almost carte blanche for police intimidation and harassment is, to my mind, racist and just wrong. Now comes the possibility of banning ethnic studies.
So when the MAA CFP arrived in my inbox I wrote back asking "Given the recent and reprehensible choices that the Arizona state government has made, will the Medieval Academy consider moving its annual meeting to another state?" Today I received a reply from Elizabeth Brown, the Academy President. I am sharing the letter because it brings up several points that deserve a wider (public) audience:
I understand very well that the situation is complicated; that's why I wrote asking if moving the meeting was on the table, rather than insisting (with whatever insistence a member can voice) that the meeting must be relocated. And you know, maybe it is completely hypocritical of me to have ever written, because I am not attending the meeting in April for reasons having nothing to do with its location (though if I had been intending to go, I doubt I would as things currently stand). Still I'd like to think that I have an investment in this professional organization that represents me, and indeed I'm heartened that the political context is being taken seriously. I can hope -- as I think many of us do -- that the law will be modified or nullified soon. Robert Bjork has done a great deal of planning for the meeting, planning that I know can often seem thankless; I am truly grateful for the labor that Professor Bjork has undertaken. Yet I also can't help wondering: would it be the worst thing in the world for the MAA to be out $30K and skip a year of meeting if that sends a message to the state that the law it has enacted is so unjust that as a measure of support we medievalists will not convene in Tempe?Thank you for your eloquent message, which Paul Szarmach, our Executive Director, has just forwarded to me. On behalf of our Vice-Presidents and Treasurer, and Robert Bjork, who is organizing the meeting, I want to express our gratitude to you for writing to us.
The situation is very complicated indeed, and we are monitoring it carefully. We have been concerned about this problem from the moment the governor of Arizona signed the bill concerning immigrants. We are all following developments closely and are keenly aware of the importance of the issues that are at stake. I have responded to inquiries from many colleagues, and have followed up with Bob Bjork, who has established that cancelling the meeting now would cost something in the neighborhood of $30,000.We at the Academy are attempting to monitor the situation attentively and are fervently hoping that the offending legislation will be nullified or radically changed -- which we understand is a very real possibility. Like you, we are concerned about the legislation's implications, which go beyond the federal requirement that identity papers be carried (as is true in many countries). In short, we are adopting a policy of watchful waiting.We will do our best to keep you informed about developments and would appreciate any further counsel you can give us as we attempt to deal with these problems.With every good wish,
Elizabeth A.R. Brown (Peggy)Professor emeritus of History, CUNY; President, The Medieval Academy of America
I ask that as an open question. I wonder what our readers think.
[EDIT 1:30PM More on the letter from President Brown at xoom]