March 11, 2020
Message from the PSA Council
Dear PSA Community,
With very heavy hearts, the PSA Council has decided that our annual conference cannot convene as scheduled in Eugene this month. The health of participants and communities is first priority—and large gatherings have the potential to contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus at this time. While many people experience mild illness with this virus, the risk to some people (elders; people with existing respiratory, chronic or autoimmune conditions; pregnant women; and more) is greater.
Thank you to the 756 scheduled participants who provided feedback on the survey. As of March 10, 67% of respondents said they were concerned about their health, the health of their loved ones, and the greater community health, less than 50% of respondents said they were planning to attend, and 34% of respondents said their institutions are limiting their travel.
In just the last week, new cases and mortalities from the virus have quickly increased in several areas of the U.S., particularly in the PSA region. It seems likely that this trend will continue in the next few weeks. In efforts to ‘flatten’ this spread, many universities are limiting ‘non-essential travel’, moving to online only classes, and other extraordinary measures—all with the goal of limiting person-to-person contact and possible exposure. This is the time for us all to do our part.
We understand that many people have already arranged travel and accommodations, and are concerned about the cost of cancellation. If you have a reservation at the conference hotel (Graduate Eugene), you should be able to cancel now with no cost—so do so now, and avoid potential late cancellation or no show fees. If you have purchased other accommodations, contact them now. News reports indicate that airlines may be flexible in refunds, partial refunds, transfers of tickets, issuing credits towards future travel, etc.—so contact your airline now. In addition, we hear that some universities that have issued travel restrictions are working with faculty and students who have purchased transportation and accommodations, and may reimburse these purchases if hotels/airlines/etc. will not refund—so contact your institution about these purchases now.
We understand that many people have been counting on the PSA conference as a place to present their work. PSA session organizers have invested significant time to plan an outstanding program for the 2020 conference. PSA is working on alternative, virtual presentation possibilities—an asynchronous model where presenters can submit a prerecorded presentation, which is then made available in an online session, nestled within a topical area, within the overall conference program—and then opened for viewing by members, with a robust Q&A component. In addition to the ‘nearly carbon neutral’, climate-change-forward characteristics of virtual conferencing, virtual presentations can be more accessible to a wider audience, with closed captioning, language translation, and other capabilities. We are working on a model that is accessible to people with varying levels of ‘tech savvy’. We will send more information to all scheduled presenters soon.
PSA will refund conference fees to participants who do not want to participate in any online/virtual format. Please watch for more information soon.
We apologize deeply for any inconvenience to our participants, and greatly look forward to seeing the PSA community March 18-21st 2021 in San Diego, California.
If you have a question or concern that cannot wait until we get more information out, please email firstname.lastname@example.org; Lora will respond as soon as possible.
Thank You is due to so many for their support of this conference: the Graduate Eugene, Lane County Public Health, and Travel Lane County; our sister organizations the American Sociological Association and Alpha Kappa Delta; the University of Oregon Department of Sociology; GoodDocs for allowing us to screen The Pushouts documentary; Program Chair Elizabeth Sowers, the Program Committee, and many others who have given time to plan the conference; the PSA Council and Officers; John Foran and Ken Hiltner of UCSB for sharing the Nearly Carbon Neutral (NCN) virtual conference model; and especially PSA President Dennis Downey for leading us through this challenging time.