I write to you as both the current ASA president and co-chair of the 2021 annual meeting. As you know, 2021 meeting was envisioned as a hybrid conference, comprised of both virtual and in-person meetings and sessions. However, current conditions and contemporary circumstances make it unfeasible to proceed with an in-person convening. I therefore want to first announce that the 2021 ASA conference will take place virtually; we are presently making the necessary shifts for those who indicated both preference and willingness to conduct their respective sessions in-person and on-site in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
We chose a hybrid format due to the unpredictability of pandemic prognoses, politics, and polemics; we wanted to avoid a conference cancellation (which was something the ASA had to do last year, in 2020). We took seriously the health of our members and wanted to ensure an accessible virtual format. Despite such intentional foresight, we have consistently been reminded that it is impossible to plan for the unprecedented times in which we live.
Soon after acceptances for this year’s conference were sent, the program co-chairs worked closely with ASA’s small yet dedicated staff to pursue as many options as possible, which included a 100% virtual conference. However, this option required a considerable amount of “behind-the-scenes” work with hotels and other previously contracted entities. It was during this multi-month process, which coincided with the emergence of more virulent variants, including Delta, and greater hospitalizations, international travel bans, and vaccine hesitancy, that we began to see a dramatic increase in requests to convert in-person sessions to virtual panels. These requests have become even more frequent as the conference date neared and especially after our September 15 deadline for converting in-person sessions to virtual sessions.
On September 16, 2021, after many months of negotiation with convention center and hotels in San Juan, the ASA was able to move forward with a 100% virtual conference with the assurance that those who reserved hotel rooms would be fully refunded and without catastrophic economic consequence to the association. We were in the process of sharing this news via a member-wide email when we received news from individual members that the hotel had already started cancelling those reservations. This was done independent of the ASA, which is why you may have received such a notice without the benefit of context and confirmation of the virtual program shift.
I regret that our ASA conference messaging was preceded by such notifications and want to acknowledge that this shift to a virtual format may seem quite late given next month’s 2021 convenings. However, proceeding with this virtual option will allow us to convene safely, and we are now converting the in-person sessions into virtual panels.
With much respect and appreciation,
Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, ASA President and 2021 ASA Program Co-Chair
Community announcements and events are services that are offered by the ASA to support the organizing efforts of critical constituency groups. They do not reflect the decisions or actions of the association’s governance bodies, the National Council or Executive Committee. Questions should be directed to the committee, caucus, or chapter that has authored and posted this notice.