Our Program Committee has been working incredibly hard during these difficult times to make the conference an intellectually stimulating and enjoyable experience. We also want to be transparent about why we have chosen to move forward with an in-person conference. The following message briefly outlines the factors behind our decision and what this means for the conference and the Society.
While remote conferences have their advantages, we are overwhelmingly facing Zoom burnout. The Executive Committee and Program Committee decided to proceed with an in-person conference for three reasons: members expressed that preference; our limited budget prevents us from holding a more costly hybrid-style virtual and live meeting; and we had a nonrefundable deposit on a hotel from the 2020 conference. The 2020 post-conference survey showed that members prefer a majority in-person event with some virtual options. To have a hybrid option requires an additional event license from Ex Ordo, which would prohibitively raise our costs. And most importantly, the shift to a virtual conference in 2020 did not end our financial commitments to the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables, which included a $30,000 nonrefundable deposit. After renegotiating the contract for the 2022 conference, we face penalties in excess of $70,000 if we cancel now. That type of loss would put the Society in financial peril. Unfortunately, the timelines and costs associated with either a hybrid or virtual conference are not feasible at this point. C19 cannot afford the penalties involved in canceling or further delaying the conference, nor can the Society’s finances cover the costs for the other options. Needless to say, Covid-19 and the ever-changing public health situation has proved incredibly challenging, and we have taken into careful consideration the needs of our members and of the Society at every step of our decision-making process.
It is imperative that the in-person conference be safe. While we can hope the global health situation will improve by the time of the conference, we will be implementing the following measures. We ask that participants be fully vaccinated with boosters in advance of the conference. We also require that you practice social distancing and remain masked, preferably with either a KN95 or KF94 mask or their equivalent while indoors during the conference unless you are actively eating or drinking, even if local area regulations do not require such preventative measures. We have also scheduled a number of our special events, including our Common Table Dinner and closing Reception in outdoor locations, weather permitting.
Some of our members have mentioned how they have benefited from the increased accessibility of the 2020 virtual format. While we cannot offer this for 2022, C19 is proud of the work done by the new Ad-Hoc Committee on Events which has organized several well-attended online events in the past year to sustain our scholarly conversations and community while we remain apart; these virtual events are often in collaboration with the C19 Podcast Subcommittee to make these dialogues available after the event with transcripts, further increasing accessibility. In this regard, we are excited about the virtual First Book Authors event organized by the Ad-Hoc Committee on Events, coming up in February, which serves as a preview for the in-person celebration in Coral Gables.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to our Travel Fund, please visit our C19 Fundly page at https://fundly.com/c19-travel-fund-2022. Awards for the fund will go to participants with limited funds to attend the conference, and we encourage eligible participants to apply for these awards by January 31. To those of you who can afford it, please book rooms at the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables so we can fill our contracted room minimum.
Thank you for your understanding, and we look forward to bringing our community together in Coral Gables,
The C19 Executive Committee
Image: Martin Johnson Heade, Florida River Scene, late 19th century. Courtesy of the Gilcrease Museum.