In the first Executive Committee (EC) meeting I chaired as President (February, 2023), my report laid out my priorities for my year as NCA President this way:
I will be pursuing greater transparency in all NCA’s processes, as part of a larger commitment to IDEA principles, with particular emphasis on the A (Access), which is too often the barrier that prevents the full practice of inclusion, diversity, and equity ideals. I am also committed to working toward a discipline (and an association) that is more fully engaged in the well-being of communities. I note these priorities, while also having a leadership style that centers community input in the shaping of agendas. So, while I will advocate for these priorities, as I have since my first day as an officer, I consider myself to be one voice among several EC voices, hundreds of LA voices, and thousands of member voices that should be the guides for how NCA moves.
That’s how the year started. This is my assessment for how it’s going:
We had a February leadership retreat that emphasized the importance of structural change, and not just words, when it came to Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) values, and asked each Council (and the EC) to develop action plans for how to advance Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Access goals during 2024. One attendee made this social media post following the meeting:
“TFW you attend the nth ‘retreat’ of your life, and prepare for the inevitable iteration of empty phrases and performative acts of inclusivity; and somehow a few hours into it you realize: THIS RETREAT IS BRINGING IT! Action items, transformational discussions, etc. Well done NCA Leadership Retreat...”
As I mentioned during that retreat, the proof of success will be in how much progress toward those commitments have been made in 2023. There is a lot on that front that is yet to be determined (and that we’ll hopefully see in the final stretch of 2023), but here is an incomplete list of some of what I consider to be “wins” toward either the goals of the retreat or my priorities.
The NCA office has developed a dashboard that will help every member track the particular goals of each council, the EC, and the National Office and progress toward the achievement of those goals. That dashboard will be updated quarterly, with new goals set during the February Leadership Retreat each year. This is a win for both transparency and accountability goals. That dashboard will be ready by the 2023 convention.
During our February 2023 meeting, the EC approved a proposal to provide members with a more detailed summary related to EC votes on action items, and encouraged the development of a proposal for a system that will facilitate more feedback from members about action items in advance of their discussion by the EC (on the agenda for discussion and vote at the November 2023 EC meeting).
The EC approved my proposal to establish a Task Force on Academic Freedom and Tenure in Higher Education in the US. The call was recently released and the deadline for applications is October 2, 2023. The expectation is that the Task Force will produce a report that recommends particular actions that will make NCA a leader in fighting against threats to academic freedom and tenure in higher education in the U.S.
An informal working group of representatives from the Research Council, the IDEA Council, the Publications Council, Taylor and Francis, and myself are developing a set of proposals for best practices for NCA Publications as it relates to IDEA values. These proposals will be considered during the November 2023 EC meeting. If approved, this is an important step in NCA’s ongoing commitment to creating a Publications echo system that actively supports publishing the best and most diverse research in the discipline.
When IDEA-related positions are increasingly under attacks in academic settings, NCA has posted an ad for our first-ever Chief Diversity Officer, which, to my knowledge, will be the first full-time Diversity Officer in any of our disciplinary associations. We expect the position to be hired by our 2023 convention. This was one of the primary asks of NCA’s IDEA Task Force, which had its report approved by the Legislative Assembly during the 2022 convention. I am proud that we moved quickly on this front.
The Future of Conventions Task Force submitted its report at the February 2023 EC meeting, focusing on how we might create more opportunities for virtual access, and Kristen Yednock, NCA’s Conventions Director at the time, put forth a proposal to dramatically shrink the size of our convention over time, among other proposed structural changes. Unfortunately, action on both of these convention-related items had to be put on hold while NCA searched for a new Conventions Director, but there is a commitment to put forward related proposals in 2024, and no additional contracts for convention sites will be signed until decisions have been made about the future of our conventions.
Several other actions have been taken, many as or more important than the ones listed. This has been a busy and productive year, thanks to the tireless work of our executive director, Dr. Shari Miles Cohen, the staff at NCA, and hundreds of volunteer leaders at NCA (from program planners, to Council members and Council Chairs, to EC members, to Officers, and many others whose labor is what makes NCA run). I expect the last third of this year to be when so many of our efforts come together.
A couple more items:
1st Vice President Marnel Niles Goins and our new Conventions Director (CD) LaShawn Duckett have each put in an incredible number of hours to make up for the gap that occurred as we were searching for a new CD, and have put together a convention that will be remarkable and unique in so many ways. It really is not to be missed. If you haven’t yet registered and booked a hotel room, this is your reminder to do so.
NCA is hosting a “Conversation with Officers” September 28 at 1 p.m. EST. A convention update will be among the topics discussed. Keep your eyes out for information on how to join the conversation.
There are still many ways in which we can and must improve as an association. Organizational change takes time. But we are headed in the right direction.