Press Room

Statement From The National Communication Association Executive Committee

March 7, 2024
Association News
NCA News

The following statement is a condensation of the much longer report submitted by the Presidential Address Inquiry Committee (PAIC). The Executive Committee (EC) thanks the PAIC for both its arduous fact-finding and recommendations.

Following the events of November 18, 2023, the EC of NCA appointed a PAIC to conduct an independent investigation into the events at the NCA Presidential Address. As part of that investigation, the PAIC conducted more than 15 hours of interviews and engaged in many hours of thoughtful discussion and analysis. Because of the confidential nature of the investigation and based on advice of NCA’s legal counsel, the full report cannot, and will not, be shared. Instead, based on that report, the EC issues the following statement.

Summary of PAIC’s Factual Investigation

Mere hours before the NCA’s Presidential Address, some members of NCA’s staff pressured elected officers to cancel or alter the Presidential Address Panel, reportedly over concerns that multiple scripts, submitted in advance by the presenters for accessibility purposes, included terms such as “genocide” and “Free Palestine” and linked NCA to “white supremacy” and “colonialism,” which would do irreparable harm to NCA.

In the confusion taking place during these hours, and in an act of solidarity with performers whose scripts the EC believes were wrongly perceived to be a threat to NCA’s reputation, including Dr. Ahlam Muhtaseb, the other performers decided not to perform. Instead, they gave their performances in the atrium outside of the Cherry Blossom Ballroom following the Awards Ceremony.

These performers used a bullhorn to amplify their voices. Ultimately, hotel security removed the bullhorn following the second performance and the crowd was directed to an available room. This situation caused distress, stimulated rumors, and the aftermath was stressful and deeply upsetting. The impact on some individuals and the Association was profound.

According to the PAIC, senior NCA staff went beyond the bounds of their appropriate roles and usurped the powers, responsibilities, and authority that properly were the province solely of the elected officers. In doing so, they set in motion a series of events that, in effect silenced the voices of established respected scholars who had been invited to be part of this panel and who could give voice to some groups that had traditionally been silenced and ignored and deprived NCA members of an opportunity to hear, reflect on, and discuss the perspectives offered by the panel performers.

The ultimate effect of the commotion surrounding the Presidential Address Panel was to censor all who were scheduled to present. Those censored included Dr. Walid Afifi, the first Palestinian to be elected President of NCA. Past President Afifi’s goal has always been to bring new voices into the conversation and diversify NCA. To that end, he specifically invited these scholars with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints to envision the future of NCA through performance for his Presidential Address Panel. This situation also marred a convention that was carefully planned by Dr. Marnel Niles Goins, the first Black woman to be elected President, who had chosen the convention theme of “Freedom.”


Summary of PAIC Findings

  1. The PAIC’s Investigation concluded that all NCA staff and officers involved in this incident acted in what they perceived to be the best interests of NCA and its members.
  2. No NCA officer or NCA staff formally canceled the Presidential Address Panel.
  3. NCA staff first raised their concerns about the content of one or more presentations only two hours before the event, which did not allow for adequate time for reflexive, collaborative decision making. Instead, some staff adopted a crisis management approach as a last-minute action to eliminate what they saw as an event that could damage NCA’s reputation.
  4. Some staff assumed and exercised powers that were actually powers of elected officers of the Association.
  5. The consequences of NCA’s staff’s actions created confusion, concern, dismay, and emotional strain for panelists, officers, and attendees.
  6. The participants, faced with the threat of elimination of some performances from the panel chose not to perform their portions as an act of resistance and solidarity. The performers decided to offer their performances in the Atrium outside the Cherry Blossom Ballroom after the conclusion of the Awards Ceremony.
  7. The event led to presenters feeling censored and unwelcome, along with some members who agree with the views and ideology of those presenters.

PAIC’s Recommendations

The PAIC recommended the following actions to ensure this situation is not repeated.

  1. The NCA Executive Committee should re-affirm and communicate to all its constituencies its commitment to academic freedom and freedom of speech. Part of this affirmation should be an acknowledgment of the institutional history of inequities and a commitment to address those issues.
  2. That NCA leadership, at a minimum, share our key findings, conclusions, and recommendations with the full membership.
  3. The NCA staff and Executive Committee should collaborate to:
    1. gather and create a publicly accessible archive of all performance scripts for the 2023 Presidential Address Panel; and
    2. gather and archive all material relevant to the Presidential Address Panel, including social media posts, for before and after the convention.
  4. The Executive Committee and NCA staff should collaborate to:
    1. create a crisis management protocol and response team for conventions and other activities as stated in the IDEA Strategic Plan; and,
    2. enhance or develop mechanisms to communicate questionable incidents or disturbances during the convention to NCA staff and leadership.
  5. The National Office should create a Standard Operating Procedure for security at NCA conventions and communicate that to all attendees prior to and during the convention. That plan should clearly stipulate the person or persons with authority to control security forces and mechanisms for deciding how they are to be deployed.
  6. The Executive Committee should work with Board Source to:
    1. develop a systematic onboarding procedure to assure all employees understand fully the key values of NCA, including freedom of speech, academic freedom to express and debate ideas, and the centrality of IDEA work to NCA’s mission;
    2. assure that the onboarding process for the National Office staff include a thorough introduction to both the NCA and IDEA Strategic Plans;
    3. clarify more fully in both the job descriptions of staff and the description of officers’ roles in the bylaws the demarcation of responsibility for the content of convention programming and the appropriate role of staff in supporting the decisions of elected officers in convention content;
    4. set up clear job search procedures for National Office staff, that ideally will be collaborative, to assure that candidates for both continuing staff and contractual positions understand fully the commitment of NCA to free speech, academic freedom to express and debate ideas, diversity, inclusion, and respect for differences; and
    5. align infrastructure and processes for job advertisements so that these reflect and embody IDEA values.
  7. The Executive Committee and the Board Source should collaborate to:
    1. establish effective channels of staff communication within the office;
    2. develop guidelines for information sharing among staff; and
    3. develop practices to protect staff from harassment via mass mailings from members.
  8. The Executive Committee and the National Office should move quickly to fill the Chief Diversity Officer position so that person is in place well before the 2024 convention even if that individual is an interim. That individual should work to:
    1. develop a mechanism for members experiencing traumatic and/or micro-aggressions at the convention to report those incidents and receive appropriate support;
    2. adapt the convention app to allow members to notify NCA of issues surrounding security, misconduct, and injury; and
    3. work to strengthen policies that create accountability to IDEA in the hiring and evaluation of National Office staff; and,
  9. The Executive Committee should develop and implement mechanisms to assure the protection of freedom of speech and academic freedom in all NCA scholarship and all activities, including convention panels.

The EC takes these recommendations seriously, and we look forward to providing updates to members soon about our progress. NCA welcomes all voices and points of view and does not seek to thwart expression of anyone’s ideology. NCA does not condone making any individual feel unwelcome or censored. In fact, such actions violate NCA’s Strategic Plan and IDEA initiatives.


Members of the NCA Executive Committee of the Legislative Assembly

Marnel Niles Goins (President), Recused self from voting
Jeanetta D. Sims (1st Vice President)
Tina Harris (2nd Vice President)
Walid A. Afifi (Immediate Past President), Recused self from voting
James (Jim) L. Cherney (Chair, IDEA Council)
Laurie Lewis (Chair, Mentorship and Leadership Council)
John M. Sloop (Chair, Publications Council)
Shaunak Sastry (Chair, Research Council)
Katherine S. Thweatt (Chair, Teaching and Learning Council)
Jimmie Manning (Chair, Finance Committee)
Candice Thomas-Maddox (Director, Finance Committee)
Kenneth Lachlan (Director, Finance Committee)
Justin Danowski (Interim Executive Director), Non-voting member


The EC encourages member feedback in all its forms and welcomes ongoing member involvement in the necessary change-making at NCA, consistent with our Strategic Plan. You may reach us at We also honor the many actions that are being taken independently from the Executive Committee as responses to the Presidential Address cancellation and related events, including commitments by editors of NCA journals to devote space for discourse, statements and actions developed by various NCA units, as well as NCA members organizing outside of official NCA-affiliated units. We will continue to engage as a body to consider additional responses as information and feedback is received, and to events as they unfold.