Over at Blogenspiel, Another Damned Medievalist comments on the MAA-in-Arizona issue. She says it so well, I’m going to quote it here:
I’m NOT surprised that the meeting is going on. A big chunk of money had been spent already, and I can see that the organization’s leadership might have felt that they could not simply write off that kind of investment. I can even see that they would think that it was important to some of the putative presenters’ careers to give papers at the meeting, although at this point, I doubt it would have affected anyone’s funding for travel.
What I AM surprised at, and what really guts me, is that the letter, written by committee or not, expressed absolutely no reference to the laws that those of us who opposed holding the meeting in Tempe objected to, except as some sort of bullshit “collective political action.” This upsets me, I think, because to me, the laws are clearly wrong in a moral sense (and in a constitutional one), and are not at all “political.” And to a certain extent, because I am acquainted with a couple of the members of the Executive Committee, I feel a little sick at not knowing if they willingly characterized racial discrimination as ‘political’ or if they were somehow argued down. It’s not a good feeling.
I’m also upset and, perhaps naively, surprised at how this entire thing has been characterized by some, especially in the Inside Higher Ed comments, as being a ‘leftist’ issue, or a case of ‘political correctness.’ I don’t know how people who have read the US Constitution and know anything about US history can see a support of equal rights and equal protections as being ‘leftist’. Admittedly, I have a dog in this fight — my family includes people of color who are Southeast Asian, African-American, Afro-Caribbean, and Latino. Some of my family members are also gay. But of all of those people, only the Latinos are likely to be personally affected by SB1070. This is a big country, though, and it’s not all about my family — it’s about anybody. I don’t see that this is any different morally than making ethnic minorities wear identifying clothing or denying people of a certain skin color the right to eat with Anglos. Shouldn’t we have reached a point where civil rights are seen as patriotic, rather than partisan?
So that’s why I’m saddened. Not so much about the decision to go on, but about the apparent unwillingness of the leaders of an organization to which I belong to publicly recognize that this is a moral issue at all, or even, at the very least, to publicly recognize that this is a moral and ethical issue for a fair number of the membership. This lack of acknowledgment of something clearly very meaningful to at the least a sizable and vocal majority minority comes across as a lack of respect and a dismissal that is entirely unwarranted and at best, very uncollegial.
I just emailed Sabine Feisst about this, saying that I was sorry that I could neither submit to nor attend Feminist Theory and Music 2011 because of the conference location. Sabine works at Arizona State University, as does her co-organizer of the 2011 meeting, Jill Sullivan. I know that their employer is opposed to the legislation, and I know that both women want to have a good, meaningful conference. So on one hand I’m a little sorry to say no to her about coming to her conference, because running a conference on your campus does often count as service and can be a good thing for tenure and general departmental kudos. On the other hand, with a year to spare, perhaps she and Jill could still work with a colleague elsewhere to relocate the conference and still been in charge of the vast majority of arrangements.
Sabine raised the point that if we boycott Arizona, we should also not go to California (Prop 8 ) or Oklahoma? Nope, we shouldn’t. States where members of the organization holding the conference or presenters at the conference are not welcome shouldn’t get to host academic events. But part of the problem, too, is that while some states have odious laws on the books, they aren’t enforcing those laws. When the AMS met in Texas, the state still had anti-sodomy laws in place, but they weren’t arresting anyone on them. In Arizona, that’s not quite the case: just look at Arpaio in Maricopa County.
If the FTM and IAWM would issue statements about their decision, and condemning the laws in Arizona, it might make a difference to those of us who would normally like to attend. But with no reassurances and nothing addressing the issue on the conference websites, there’s no way to know what their stances are. As ADM writes, it’s sad. Very, very sad.