NEPSA 2020: APRIL 23-25
March 11, 2020
To the NEPSA Community:
With our annual meeting six weeks away, the staff and officers of the New England Political Science Association have been monitoring developments locally and beyond regarding the COVID-19 virus, and monitoring the responses being contemplated and implemented by public and private organizations. Although as of this writing the situation remains fluid, we wanted to update all of you about how NEPSA is planning to respond.
1. STATUS OF THE CONFERENCE
As of now, we are still planning on holding the conference as scheduled, on April 23-25, 2020. While cancelling the conference is a step that we very much want to avoid taking, we of course cannot rule it out.
We are mindful of the fact that universities are withdrawing travel authorizations from faculty, and we are of course aware that yesterday Connecticut declared a public health emergency as well as a civil preparedness emergency (and that this afternoon, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a “pandemic”). In addition, we recognize that many public and private organizations are recommending to limit or suspend gatherings of 100+ people.
As many of you know, our conference is small enough that other than the luncheons, it is never the case that 100+ people are in the same room at the same time. Yet is also the case that this is still a conference, and thus it is an enterprise which is dependent on in-person interactions. Even though an advisory to limit gatherings of 100+ people might not "technically" apply to the NEPSA conference, it is still an advisory we must take seriously.
Although we are reluctant to cancel the conference (which would moot the hard work that conference organizers have put in), we are even more reluctant to place our attendees at risk. It is of course possible that a decision to hold an academic conference may be taken out of our hands. Should the state of Connecticut issue a directive forcing the cancellation of the conference, we will communicate that to all of you via email immediately.
But even if the decision remains with us as our option, please be assured that we are wholeheartedly committed to protecting the welfare of our attendees and fulfilling our responsibilities as citizens to protect the public health. If it becomes clear that we must forego a cherished opportunity to share our work with colleagues in order to protect others who may be especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease, we will not hesitate to do what our duty requires.
We will regularly update you as to the status of the conference, even if it is to simply say that nothing has changed.
2. ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS
We are aware that other conferences scheduled for this spring are endeavoring to offer limited "virtual" presentation options so as to avoid wholesale cancellation. In theory we would like to be able to also do this, but the fact remains that NEPSA is not a large national association with copious technical resources in-house. In addition, because of the crowded academic calendar and existing contractual commitments, it is not possible for us to temporarily postpone the conference and reschedule it for later in 2020.
Consequently, it is our recommendation to all of you that you should assume that NEPSA has a binary choice: either we will hold the 2020 conference in the traditional in-person format on April 23-25, or we will cancel the 2020 conference outright.
3. HEALTH PREPARATIONS
We are working with the hotel to ensure that if the conference does indeed go on as scheduled, appropriate health and safety precautions will be in place, including supplies of hand sanitizer and other preventative measures. And of course, it is our recommendation that if you are exhibiting any respiratory symptoms, you refrain from attending the conference.
We have created a page, “COVID-19 PREVENTION,” which is found in the “2020 CONFERENCE” drop-down, for added guidance.
4. WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
As of this writing, if you have already pre-registered for the conference, purchased luncheon tickets, or purchased tickets to the Thursday evening tour of Mystic Seaport, it is our recommendation that for now you simply wait to see what future developments emerge, especially because it is our goal to be able to hold the conference as scheduled.
If, by contrast, you have already pre-registered but have subsequently been instructed by your institution to refrain from conference travel, please contact Peter Ubertaccio, NEPSA’s Treasurer (firstname.lastname@example.org), to arrange for refunds of your registration fees, your luncheon tickets, and your tickets to the Mystic Seaport tour.
If you have pre-registered but have not yet been instructed to refrain from conference travel (and are inclined to hold tight and see whether we are able to hold the conference), you have our assurance that if we are compelled to cancel the conference, all of your registration/lunch/tour expenses will be refunded promptly.
If you have not yet pre-registered for the conference, it is our recommendation that you temporarily hold off on doing so. To that end, please do not be concerned about waiting too long and missing the deadline for discounted pre-registration. We are officially announcing that if the 2020 Annual Meeting goes on as scheduled, the discount registration rate will now remain in place for the entire conference, and will be available to on-site registrants.
Finally, if you have already made reservations with the Hilton Mystic, we are working with the hotel to ensure that in the event of a conference cancellation you will be able to get an equally prompt refund from them as well.
5. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
At this moment, we are holding off on making a final “go or no-go” decision on holding the conference, because we think it is in everyone’s best interests to see what other developments emerge in the near future. However, we are also promising you that NEPSA will make a final “go-or-no-go” decision on whether to hold or cancel the 2020 Annual Meeting no later than Monday, March 30.
It is possible that a “no-go” decision may be made before then, but we want to give all of you our assurance that one way or another, you will have definitive and authoritative final information by that date.
In closing, thank you to all of you for your patience, for your understanding, and for your friendship. These are trying and unprecedented times, but our community will get through them together. We wish you all good health and good fortune.