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News & Press: From the President

From ASTR President Marla Carlson, September 2020

Thursday, September 24, 2020  
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First and foremost, I hope that you are maintaining health and some degree of equanimity as we continue to face the challenges of a viral pandemic, necessary social unrest, and climate-related threats both quite immediate and longer term in their impact. As an organization historically tied to academic careers that have grown increasingly tenuous, ASTR must respond not only reactively but proactively to the present moment. Not only the educational institutions with which we are or have been associated as faculty and students but also our field of study are undergoing fundamental changes. We cannot predict how far-ranging they will be, but we surely must adapt.

As you know, we will not meet face to face for a conference this fall. Details about the virtual field conversations will be announced soon. Rather than attempting to create a full online conference experience that would exacerbate the Zoom fatigue that many of us are experiencing, these events are scaled down to be easily manageable within your undoubtedly unusual working conditions. Awards will be announced and celebrated asynchronously online, and we will be diligent about sharing news and information via email and the ASTR website in the absence of an annual business meeting. Please take a look at the conference program on our website to see the fabulous collection of panels and working sessions put together by our 2020 conference program committee, most of which will carry forward to 2021. Forty-five of the fifty-five working sessions listed in the program have chosen to meet with their participants this fall. I’m delighted that one of the Society’s most significant activities (and the one that made ASTR my scholarly home) can move forward within these challenging circumstances.

The first phase of the ASTR Commons launched in August to foster visibility, connections, and experience for scholars with insufficient resources and/or whose work has been undervalued. This resource-sharing interface is already connecting guest lecturers, especially BIPOC scholars, contingent faculty, and graduate students, with instructors seeking in-class guests or speakers for virtual colloquia and also connecting faculty and graduate students navigating changing formats and environments for teaching with peers who have relevant pedagogical experience in, for example, online course design and instruction. With this first phase in place, we plan to expand the types of connection we can offer and welcome your suggestions of ways in which ASTR can facilitate mutual support.

ASTR’s officers and Executive Committee continue to work with other organizations and with our ad hoc committees to address specific challenges. In addition to the inter-organizational task force on open access publishing that ASTR’s Vice President for Publications Dorothy Chansky is leading, Margaret Werry will be working with representatives from ATDS, ATHE, CATR, and TaPRA to conduct qualitative research that tracks trends in career pathways/employment in theatre and performance studies with particular attention to questions of equity such as: What does the “pipeline” look and feel like? What are the obstacles faced and transitions navigated by members in non-academic/contingent employment? What is job-quality like for those in such positions? What are the intersecting ways in which members are being impacted by structural racism in academia, healthcare, and public life? This data is intended to supplement and build on the quantitative research that Noe Montez has been doing for several years now. Shayoni Mitra is leading an ASTR task force to re-envision ASTR’s support for scholars in our field without secure academic jobs, working with members of the Membership, Mentoring, and New Paradigms Committees as well as some members at large. After conducting a brief survey in collaboration with ATHE, the Empowerment Committee is continuing to develop recommendations for ways in which ASTR and its membership can advocate for precarious faculty within our institutions.

You will have received the 2020 call for nominations just recently. Please visit our news page for more information, and then nominate yourself or someone else. In 2021, we will elect a President, a Vice President for Conferences, four members of the Executive Committee, a member at large for the Conference Program Selection Committee, and a Graduate Student Caucus President. If this commitment is beyond what you have time for right now, please consider volunteering for one of the committees that evaluate award and fellowship applications, plan different activities at the conference and beyond it, and work to help the Society better serve its membership and the field. All ASTR committees proactively welcome members from communities that have been historically excluded or marginalized from leadership roles within academic organizations, as articulated by the call for nominations, and appointments comply with ASTR’s longstanding non-discrimination policy.

Finally, please renew your membership if you haven’t already done so. You may choose what you pay for membership dues this year. This flexibility reflects ASTR’s commitment to executing specific, concrete, and meaningful actions to address equity and representation. At the same time, we do need funds to cover ongoing expenses, and I must ask (again) for financial help from those of you who are able to make a tax-deductible donation to support the mission of ASTR.

Marla Carlson
ASTR President

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