August 28, 2017
Dear CCCC Friends and Colleagues,
As you may be aware, the CCCC Executive Committee is working through a very painful, difficult, and yet encouraging series of discussions about the 2018 Convention.
Before we begin, we want to say something that we should have included in the first statement that we distributed. We absolutely condemn SB 43. This bill limits civil-rights protections and undermines meaningful steps toward redressing structural inequality and justice in Missouri. It is an example of the legislative process being used to perpetuate inequality, discrimination, and oppression. We are an organization devoted to learning—and we know that in order to learn and teach, people must feel that they are valued and protected. This bill strips that value and protection, and it is wrong.
We know that many of you have been waiting for more information about CCCC 2018, and we apologize if it’s felt like a long delay. We want to lay out where we are, what we’ve done, the information we are weighing, and possible next steps. To date, we’ve had more than 200 messages exchanged in our online discussion site, as well as holding multiple online meetings.. So while it may seem that we have been silent, we are having incredibly intensive discussions about our own processes, about larger issues and fissures that this situation has made visible, and about how to move forward. We should note that the circumstances of the choices ahead of us and their timing (only weeks before acceptances were slated to go out)–and our efforts to respond to them–are unprecedented. For the time being, the 2018 CCCC Convention as a whole, including invitations, is on hold until decisions are reached.
Right now, the EC is in the middle of considering three options: cancel CCCC 2018, relocate CCCC 2018, or stay in Kansas City and implement changes to create a Convention that acts on the many recommendations that have been submitted, including those in the Joint Caucus Statement on the Missouri Travel Advisory, and that reflects our commitments and values.
We discuss each of these options in more detail below, but we also need to acknowledge that our conversations about CCCC 2018 have reinforced the belief that our organization has larger inclusivity challenges that we are committed to addressing. This moment will be kairotic for CCCC as an organization. We will grow and change in important directions. That hard work is ahead. First, we must decide what to do about the Kansas City Convention in the light of the Joint Caucus Statement, the comments that you have generously submitted, and the goals that we all share for CCCC.
CCCC Response to the NAACP Travel Advisory
When we learned of the NAACP travel advisory, the officers drafted a statement which was approved by the Executive Committee. In it, we pointed to the CCCC Policy on Convention Siting and Hostile Legislation, we used language about financial implications, and we said we would stay in Kansas City. It’s important to keep in mind that our convention siting and hostile legislation principles were drafted and approved by our EC in 2013. They were meant to anticipate situations like these, which they had done successfully in previous years (e.g., our Houston Convention). In this instance, the siting policy did not account for the strain and trauma that the travel advisory revealed. Additionally, our statement didn’t acknowledge the very real dangers members of color face travelling in Missouri that our white members do not face. Everyone needed more time to work through their own complicated feelings over our policy and their sense of what the ethical thing to do is given the travel advisory, the first one ever issued by the NAACP. The statement also included a link where hundreds of you submitted input about the Convention and your feelings. In trying to convey information expediently, though, many of you let us know that we failed. We failed to show that we heard and understood the real danger that our members felt. We failed to condemn SB 43, and we failed to address the travel advisory.
Your feedback helped us know that we needed to do much more. Over the next three days, the officers talked intensively and also held a two-hour video meeting. We realized that we would need to convene the entire Executive Committee, something that had never occurred in-between our biennial face-to-face meetings before, but we needed to reconsider our initial statement and to determine, collectively, how to proceed.
To make informed decisions about CCCC 2018, we also realized that we would need to gather information from people on the ground in Missouri about the situation. The officers were put in touch with Mr. Adolphus Pruitt, the Executive Director of the NAACP in St. Louis, who was already working with NCTE because the Annual Convention in November is sited in St. Louis. When the advisory was issued, NCTE sought out NAACP officers to find out how the Convention could be an ally and supporter for their efforts. Mr. Pruitt also talked with CCCC officers about Kansas City, since that NAACP chapter was in the midst of a leadership transition.
EC Discussions and Decisions
On Wednesday, August 16, the EC met in an official online EC meeting. Not all EC members were able to attend; however, we did have 16 voting members (not including officers), surpassing the number required for a quorum. Prior to our meeting, the officers distributed extensive information to the EC—summaries of the officers’ discussion, a summary of member feedback and a link to the full feedback, an overview of the circumstances leading to the NAACP’s advisory, and recommended motions from the officers. Additionally, the Joint Caucus Statement on the Missouri Travel Advisory was circulated the afternoon before our meeting.
During our meeting, Mr. Pruitt of the NAACP joined us to explain in detail the circumstances that led the Missouri state NAACP branch to issue a travel advisory in June (to pressure the governor to veto SB43). He said that the national NAACP’s adoption of the travel advisory was welcomed for bringing much more national attention to the issue, but it also had some unintended consequences, particularly, he noted, in its perception as a travel ban or economic boycott vs. an advisory, and the disparate impact this perception may have on the hospitality industry, which, according to Mr. Pruitt, employs many people of color. Mr. Pruitt ended his comments stating, “While I appreciate your concern and support for our efforts here in Missouri, I feel extremely comfortable in recommending you continue your planned visit.”
After we heard from Mr. Pruitt, the meeting returned to parliamentary procedure. The officers had designed a structure for that meeting that was intended to facilitate a decision about the Convention. But this, too, was a misstep. In creating a meeting designed to make a decision quickly and efficiently, we did not fully consider that the EC had not been immersed in the information or a part of significant conversations prior to the meeting, and thus did not allow sufficient time for EC members to process the information, ask questions, and grapple with the consequences of each choice, all of which have significant faults. The officers had already been grappling with the fact that there were no good answers, only decisions that would likely be divisive among CCCC members. EC members were just getting the full set of facts, seeing the impossible decision that needed to be made. Additionally, the Sturgis parliamentary procedures used for the meeting (procedures we are constitutionally required to use for all official meetings) prevented EC members from having the kind of dialogue that many of us felt we needed to work through these difficult decisions, as well as from thoroughly hearing and considering the concerns expressed about the safety of members of color that were communicated in the survey responses, the Joint Caucus Statement, and in the course of the actual EC meeting.
Many on the EC left the meeting feeling upset, unheard, and uncomfortable. Over the course of the next several days, committee members worked to explore together and communicate what was ineffective and at times hurtful during this first meeting. These exchanges were honest, lengthy, and sometimes angry; they once again compelled the committee to discuss the organization’s whiteness, the difficulty of enacting anti-racist actions, and the structural challenges that prevented the group from having a robust and ethical discussion of the real problems raised by the travel advisory. And they highlighted once more the faultlines within CCCC that continue to become visible during challenging moments in our history.
After engaging in these tough and open exchanges in our NCTE Connected Community site, we agreed that we needed more time to think through all of the options available. The EC convened again, outside of parliamentary procedures, on Wednesday, August 23. In that discussion, which was attended by most but not all of the EC, EC members had the chance to talk about all of the issues that have become even more clear as a result of the statement and the input that we have received. There was also time to consider the implications for CCCC of cancellation or moving the Convention.
Since this was a discussion and not a formal meeting, no decisions were made. To make binding decisions about our options, the EC needs to vote on motions. This is the only way that we can operate as an organization under our Constitution and Bylaws. EC members’ votes will then determine what CCCC does. Given the challenge of scheduling a meeting time with 20+ busy people across multiple time zones at the start of new academic years, we developed a procedure for decision-making that can take place asynchronously online. There will be time for EC members to discuss any motions together, listening to each other and weighing the options, followed by a vote, which will take place within a 24-hour period. We can vote on only one motion at a time, because each vote has implications for other votes.
Right now, as we note above, the EC is in the middle of considering three options:
- Cancel the Convention.
- Try to find a new location for CCCC 2018. We have discussed many shapes and affordances for this—different locations, different configurations, multiple sites.
- Stay in Kansas City and use the location to engage seriously with the issues at hand both within our own organization and at large. We have extensive input on this already from the Joint Caucus Statement on the Missouri Travel Advisory and from input contributed to the survey.
Because these are enormous decisions, we want to lay out for you what we are deliberating, too. This is new ground for all of us—and we are doing our best to figure out how to walk it together.
CCCC Convention Planning Complexity
It also may be helpful to understand a little bit about what goes into planning a Convention of this size (typically 600 or more sessions/~3500 attendees, group meetings, awards receptions, and other special events or speakers) to understand the difficulty and complexity of making changes once convention planning has begun. According to our policy, convention sites are selected 4–5 years in advance to ensure adequate space for the many presentations held during CCCC (during the busiest time of the year for Conventions) and to secure a sufficient number of hotel rooms at the best rates.
At this point, much has already been invested in the Convention—from the many volunteer hours by reviewers, proposal coaches, the local arrangements committee, and, of course, the program chair, to actual expenditures, including the site visit (which involves an accessibility audit), the proposal database system, Stage 2 review, the development of a convention logo and promotional materials that have already occurred, and much more. Furthermore, the number of acceptances is tied to the amount of presentation space available at a particular convention site. To ensure that there is sufficient space for all accepted proposals, all sessions are scheduled into specific rooms at specific times before invitation letters are sent, typically in late August or early September. We are trying to make decisions about something that is very much in motion.
CCCC Structure and Budget
To understand what is possible and the impact that any of the above options would have on the organization, we need to say more about CCCC’s overall structure and budget. Remember that CCCC is a conference of NCTE—that’s the first “C” in our name. We are one of four conferences—the others are the Conference on English Education, the Conference on English Leadership, and the Whole Language Umbrella. All conferences within NCTE contribute to operating expenses of the broader organization. This helps (but still doesn’t cover the full cost) for staff, including our NCTE liaison, who work with us, help with convention programming, and so on. But we have no full-time staff—just the staff we use as a conference of NCTE, so any new or additional conference tasks beyond CCCC’s previously established staff tasks require additional funding and pull staff away from other NCTE responsibilities.
We want to reiterate that we find SB 43 and the dehumanizing ideas and actions it entails abhorrent and unacceptable. The financial circumstances of this decision are hardly the only important factors in our decision-making when responding to the bill, those ideas and actions, and the NAACP’s travel advisory, but our finances are nevertheless an important part of the deliberations. For the purposes of this discussion, it’s relevant to understand that CCCC convention income contributes to the CCCC annual operating budget (which is about $1 million for the current fiscal year), as do expenses. In years where income is greater than expenses, CCCC earns a profit. These profits are added to the contingency fund, which is invested with NCTE’s pool of investments and earns income that contributes to covering CCCC’s annual operating budget expenses. The CCCC contingency fund is available for use on programming and initiatives that are transformational to the organization.
CCCC income comes from the following sources:
Cost of Canceling or Re-Siting CCCC 2018
A decision to cancel the Convention, whether we re-site or not, would cost CCCC in the neighborhood of $1 million. This figure includes $728,000 in cancelled hotel and convention center contracts that would need to be paid out immediately to hotels in Kansas City once any contract was cancelled; $87,000 in lost convention profit (our number one revenue source); $97,000 in expenses already incurred; $85,000 in reduced investment income due to lower reserves (our number two revenue source); and attorney costs. To be clear, even if we leave Kansas City, these funds still go to entities in the State of Missouri, which significantly blunts the impact of an economic boycott on CCCC’s part. These costs would come from the CCCC contingency fund, which currently contains $1,983,883.
There will be immediate effects to CCCC if these cuts are made. They are at least the following:
- Emergent and regular research grants would be reduced. These are set at 6.5% of the contingency fund, so those would immediately be reduced from $154,435 to $57,619 this year—that is, for research grant proposals that have been submitted for September consideration–and would remain reduced until reserves could be rebuilt. Additionally, funding of the summer conference initiative would be immediately (and likely permanently) cut.
- CCCC investment income would be cut roughly in half. Investment income is generated by the investment of the contingency fund and would be reduced from ~$180,000 to ~$95,000, which reduces both our operations budget revenue and our available resources to fund current and future activities beyond basic operations.
- CCCC would need to reduce its operating expense by $45,000 this year due to the loss of convention income. This is in addition to cutting programs and activities that are funded from the contingency fund (a separate pot of money), which is referenced in the first two items above. Any of these cuts would have ripple effects, reducing the support that CCCC can provide to members. Decisions about these budget cuts would need to be made by the EC immediately if the Convention were cancelled.
- Convention expenses (for the 2018 Convention if re-sited and for future convention contracts) also will increase by an estimated 25–40%, as cancellation will reduce CCCC’s (and NCTE’s) creditworthiness in the Convention and hospitality community. Further, most convention bureaus insist on seeing adequate liquidity from an organization before they will execute contracts, and CCCC liquidity will be greatly diminished should we vote to cancel our contracts in Kansas City, impeding contract negotiations for future sites.
Additional Information on Re-Siting CCCC 2018
Another option is to move the Convention to another site (or sites) or alter its format (e.g., a hybrid online or fully online Convention). It’s important to understand that, with a decision to move the Convention, CCCC will still forfeit the aforementioned cancellation penalties. This means writing checks to hotels in Kansas City and to the convention center of $728,000, excluding staff time and legal fees involved in navigating the process, and will result in the same consequences for future bids described above. In short, this means we would pay for both Kansas City and a new site in 2018.
If the EC decides to try to move the Convention, as a whole, to another city, we first must research and receive bids on other convention sites that meet our needs in terms of presentation space and that fit our values and principles as an organization. In addition to considering state policies, we must also take into consideration location, cost, and accessibility. A site must have hotel beds for between 2000–3000 guests. Note: although hotels in different cities have the same names (e.g., Marriott, Hilton), they are typically owned by partnerships and franchisees, so it’s not possible to simply cancel with a hotel in one city and move a contract with the same brand in another city. Convention sites are bid as a package–a location for the Convention and hotel rooms. NCTE staff must work with convention bureaus on these bids, who then convene the hotels to put together packages. This process typically takes 4-6 weeks under optimal circumstances and is one that convention bureaus do not readily engage until serious inquiries are made. If and when we do direct NCTE staff to pursue other bids, there is no guarantee that we will find an available convention space for CCCC 2018 around the same time period it is currently scheduled, and almost certainly not at the same rates we locked in five years ago when the Convention was originally sited. Plus, any changes made to the Convention, including exploring new sites, will require additional funding, also from CCCC’s contingency fund, because this requires additional work beyond the scope of what CCCC normally pays NCTE for staff time.
Other options discussed in the EC meetings and member comments include having multiple smaller conferences in regional locations, moving the Convention online, or some combination of these. These options also require payment of cancellation penalties and involve additional costs, time, and effort. The labor factor, particularly, is often invisible to members, but it is a significant consideration in the decision to move. Putting together a Convention is an enormous amount of work. Convention chairs—this year, Asao B. Inoue—are volunteer CCCC officers, and don’t receive release from their other jobs for this purpose. Other volunteers —especially the local arrangements committee—have labored. By August, there have been thousands of hours invested in the Convention, with many more to come. Staff at NCTE headquarters help with the Convention, but they don’t work full time for CCCC, and, right now, they are focused on the NCTE Annual Convention in St. Louis, which is less than 12 weeks away. Any changes that are made to our Convention require hours and hours of labor above and beyond the time that is already committed. The question is not whether those staff and volunteers are willing to do this extra work, but whether they have the time to do it given their other obligations.
Staying in Kansas City
We have talked about the risks involved in remaining in Kansas City, including potential physical risks to members and possible member boycotts or resignations. If we decide to stay in Kansas City—and let’s reiterate that no decision has been made yet — the EC is committed that CCCC 2018 will not be “conferencing as usual.” If a decision is made to stay, we anticipate that the EC will convene a task force to work with Asao B. Inoue and the existing local planning committee to address member concerns and recommendations. We also anticipate that funds will be allocated for addressing concerns with transportation, accessibility, and safety, as well as for programming that enables members’ engagement with local groups, including the NAACP, and with the issues brought to the fore by the travel advisory. NCTE has made the decision to proceed with its Annual Convention, NCTE 2017, and is pursuing options for action in St. Louis, which could also inform our actions at CCCC 2018.
Larger Picture and Moving Forward
As we’ve processed this information about CCCC 2018, the EC also has been compelled to ask some very hard questions. What do we want CCCC to be as an organization? How can we best serve our members? How can we ensure that the organization has the people, the initiative— and, yes, the resources—to do those things, not only in response to this current challenge, but also to create more robust and sustainable means for responding to future challenges? Strategically, how can we achieve these goals?
We are working with the best information that we have. Some of the information has come from you, and has profoundly affected our thinking. We hear your feelings about CCCC, about how vulnerable you feel, and about lack of support from CCCC. We also have heard the larger problems that we must address in order to make CCCC the organization that we want it to be, hope it can be. We have the statement written by the Black, Latinx, American Indian, and Asian/Asian-American Caucuses and signed by hundreds of CCCC members, and the Queer Caucus’s endorsement of the statement. We have information from NAACP. And we will use all of this—to make structural changes, to be transparent. We will seek advice and counsel from all of you—especially around our Conventions, but also around our organization. We believe this crisis can be—has been—structurally transformative for CCCC.
Because we are in the midst of deliberating, the Kansas City Convention is on hold. Acceptances and rejections for any Convention are tied to the space, so notifications can’t be sent until the EC reaches a decision. If the decision is to move, invitations won’t be extended until a space is secured, the number of rooms confirmed, and the schedule that Asao has made entirely re-done. In the case of relocation of the Convention, provided a new site can be located, it is likely that acceptance notices will go out in mid-late December at the earliest.
We hope that this statement gives you a sense of the complexity of the immediate decisions that we are wrestling with. We also have realized that we must work on huge structural transformation within our organization, including in its membership and governance processes, to make it more inclusive and equitable. We must do better—and we will. After we make the hard decisions about Kansas City, we will turn immediately to those very pressing, very relevant issues. But we know that you are waiting to hear about what will happen to CCCC 2018, and so are trying to make that set of hard decisions first.
We pledge to let you know where we are in this process as it happens, reporting to you what the EC has decided in its voting processes. We welcome your feedback. We value you, our members, and we hope that you will continue to be patient with us.
The CCCC Executive Committee