Fear of Harassment and Racial Profiling in Georgia Causes Switch to SFHat tip to J'nette
On Friday members of the American Educational Research Association received a letter from the organization's leadership announcing a change in the 2013 conference site.
This from AERA via email to members:
Dear AERA Members,
On October 30, 2011, the Executive Board, on behalf of the AERA Council, voted unanimously to change the conference site for our Annual Meeting in 2013 from Atlanta, Georgia. The situation leading to relocation was brought about by the passage on May 13, 2011 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 (Georgia HB87). This difficult decision was reached by the Executive Board after several months of thoughtful discussion, extensive review of any potential fiscal consequences, and consideration of the AERA’s educational mission by the Council and Executive Board.
A number of alternative sites were considered for 2013. A scholarly association of the size of AERA has limited options, and none were viable in the south that could meet our requirements. After examining intensively a number of available sites, earlier this month, we made the final selection of San Francisco. The meeting will take place April 27-May 1, 2013. We have previously held conferences in Atlanta, and we sincerely hope that at some point in the future we will be able to return to that city.
As our members know, the American Educational Research Association is dedicated to advancing knowledge about education, encouraging scholarly inquiry related to education, and promoting the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. As part of this overall mission, the Association’s Social Justice Mission Statement emphasizes that all AERA members and participants in AERA activities such as the Annual Meeting must have open access and opportunity to partake in them. The Guidelines for AERA Position Taking make clear the appropriateness of the Association operating its own function in accord with the values of equity, equality, and transparency. Among the most important of these functions is convening meetings and selecting sites for them.
Unfortunately, Georgia has passed legislation pertaining to immigration that seriously compromises the viability of AERA to hold a conference where all its members will be welcome. The new law has significant educational consequences for an important but vulnerable student population. Undocumented children are placed at risk insofar as parents will be afraid of enrolling their children in school. The law also suggests that educators who have routine interactions with, and/or help undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States could be guilty of committing a crime. Similar legislation in other states has led to bullying in schools. Our own members could plausibly face legal challenges to their presence if they were to attend the conference in Atlanta. Some AERA members have pointed out that they would not participate in a conference in Atlanta where individuals from Mexico, Haiti, and other countries could be racially profiled and harassed. Although this legislation may be overturned, there is no sense of when a definitive ruling will be made.
This decision to relocate from Georgia is consistent with the AERA Council resolution adopted in April 2010 in response to passage of similar legislation in Arizona (Arizona SB1070). The Association decided no longer to site meetings in Arizona until such time as the law was rescinded.
Considerable time and thought have gone into deciding to move the 2013 Annual Meeting from Atlanta. We have taken into account how to minimize, if not eliminate, any financial burden to the Association of changing locations. Also, whether our meetings are being held in the south, north, east, mountain states, or midwest, we are committed to holding meetings that are affordable and accessible for those who attend. Moreover, we remain committed to continuing our practice of being very inclusive in the selection of vendors with whom we do business. All of these criteria were paramount in our selection of San Francisco for 2013.
Site selection is one of the most challenging tasks that scholarly associations face, with circumstances arising that cannot be anticipated at the time of the original choice. We anticipate that not everyone will agree with this decision. Martin Luther King Jr once said “there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular.” We believe that this is one such time.
Arnetha F. Ball William G. Tierney Felice J. LevinePresident President-elect Executive Director