Maria Grosz-Ngate of Indiana University will become the new Vice-President of the Association (transitioning in November 2018 to President and in November 2019 to past President) at the annual meeting in November. Three new board members – Bessie House-Soremekun, Jackson State University; Sean Jacobs, the New School; and Ebenezer Obadare, Kansas University, will also start three year terms in November.
I wanted to thank also those candidates who agreed to run but who were not elected and those members who cast votes. The willingness of members to run for an officer position or for the Board is critical to the democratic process which we in the association are committed to sustaining in this increasingly undemocratic age. Members may be surprised to learn that not all professional associations actually hold competitive elections for their leadership. In some cases, members are basically asked to approve a slate chosen by the board. At the ASA, not only are our elections competitive, but members may nominate themselves (or encourage others to nominate them) for consideration by our nominations committee. In the past election, we had several candidates who were placed on the ballot through this means.
Given the ASA’s recent election, I wanted to take a few moments to discuss the responsibilities of our elected officers and Board members and the relationship we have with the Executive Director and the secretariat. The secretariat runs the daily operations of the association, maintains the membership, manages our finances, undertakes the logistics of daily operations, and a million other things. In partnership with the secretariat, Board members and officers undertake much of the scholarly work of the ASA. Subject to board approval, board committees choose the program chairs and the local arrangements committee (LAC) for the annual meeting each year. Working closely with the secretariat, program chairs, the LAC, and others, the Board oversees the planning for the annual meeting, invites distinguished speakers to give keynote addresses, and organizes or approves Board sponsored panels.
During our fall and spring board meetings, we also approve new initiatives such as the use of podcasts at our annual meetings or new awards honoring the accomplishments of our members. At our fall board meeting in 2016, for example, we decided to issue a call for proposals from coordinate and affiliate organizations to fund important work they were doing. We want to recognize all the creative ways in which coordinate and affiliate organizations contribute to the vitality of the ASA. At our recent board meeting in the spring, we approved eight awards to these organizations to host conferences on the continent, to host a digital platform on pedagogy, or to bring ASA members from Africa to our annual meeting (see here for the complete list of awards). We will draw on our 50th Anniversary funds to support these efforts and we hope to continue this initiative in future with funds from our 60th Anniversary campaign.
In response to the difficult political climate occasioned by the US presidential elections in November of 2016, the ASA has had to dramatically increase its advocacy. Here, too, the ASA Board has made strenuous efforts to condemn executive orders that demonize immigrants and restrict immigration. More recently, we have joined other organizations to defend continued funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, Title VI programs and Fulbright-Hays–all of which are targeted for elimination in the President’s proposed budget for 2018. Going forward, we expect to work with members, partner institutions, colleges, universities, and lobbying groups to advocate for the retention of these programs. We especially welcome suggestions from members on ways to engage constructively with the political leadership of the United States to save programs that are vital to the core mission of the ASA.
To conclude this brief synopsis of the Board’s activities, I want to thank once again those members who agreed to run for positions this year and those who voted. Serving on the board is an important service that members perform for the association, but also it fosters a greater appreciation for the work of the ASA.
Anne Pitcher, University of Michigan
President, African Studies Association
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