Dear fellow members of the Working Class Studies Association,
In my letter to you last fall, I talked about the importance of expanding our membership through a variety of efforts. One specific effort near and dear to my heart entails making way and making space within the organization, including the organization’s leadership, for a new generation of scholars, teachers, and activists. As past president Jack Metzgar has reminded me, my presidency is a part of that generational shift in the leadership. And for the record, let’s just say that I am no spring chicken.
A key part of welcoming a new generation to the organization is our Young Scholars and Activists Initiative (YSAI), and I am pleased to report that, in our second year of making awards to support attendance at the conference, we received over fifty applications. This is an indication that a large number of graduate students and people early in their careers are planning to attend and present at the conference, which is heartening news. The down side is that we are able to support, at least in a material sense, only a small number of them. Treasurer Cherie Rankin recently sent out a message to our membership asking people to consider making a designated donation to the WCSA to support both the Young Scholars and Activists Initiative and our need-based Travel Grants Fund; I would like to echo her request. Having read the proposals of all the YSAI applicants, believe me when I say that as a group, they are doing very interesting work that deserves to be nurtured and supported.
Buoyed by the success of last year’s effort at the Stony Brook conference, we are planning a meet-and-greet reception for the Georgetown conference specifically designed to welcome newcomers and graduate students. We are finalizing the details, which we’ll pass along as soon as possible, but please try and join us on the evening of Wednesday, May 27th to meet some new faces and reconnect with familiar ones.
Another possibility for expanding our membership takes a different approach. Prior to the conference, I will be circulating a proposal to the membership via e-mail outlining a plan for the Association of Working Class Academics (AWCA) to join our ranks, functioning as a caucus within the Working Class Studies Association. For those unfamiliar with them, the Association of Working Class Academics advocates for students and faculty of poverty- and working-class origins; strives to implement reforms designed to assure greater class equity within colleges and universities; establishes relationships and connections between poverty- and working-class academics, and serves as an informational resource for those interested in issues affecting poverty- and working-class people. The proposal, which has been approved by the Working Class Studies Association’s steering committee, lays out the details and logistics of the plan to incorporate the AWCA. Please watch your inboxes for this proposal, and be prepared to discuss and vote on it.
As you read further in this issue of the newsletter, please take a few minutes to read Sherry Linkon’s report on the upcoming Fighting Inequality conference. I am hopeful that this joint conference with the Labor and Working Class History Association will result in stimulating and unexpected dialogue between members of our organizations, and I also hope that it will have lingering effects, perhaps in the form of future collaborations on conference panels or research projects. I hope to see many of you there.
Finally, as spring approaches, it is time to begin thinking about our elections process. When the call for nominations goes out to the membership, please consider getting involved in the organization. Those of us in current leadership positions would be more than happy to speak with anyone considering increasing their involvement. The future health and stability of the WCSA depends on the visionary ideas and dedication of its members.
All my best,
WCSA 2015 Conference Report
Fighting Inequality Conference, May 28-31
Join us at Georgetown University for this year’s Working-Class Studies Association conference, Fighting Inequality. We’ve joined forces with the Labor and Working-Class History Association, and we expect more than 400 presenters from around the world. Plenaries will address “Reinventing the Labor Movement to Fight Inequality and Save Democracy,” “Testing Inequality: Teachers, Parents, and Unions Organizing for Education Justice,” and “Arts as Activism.” Plenary speakers include Karen Nussbaum. We’ll also have a DC labor tour; workshops on poverty, activism, and labor archives; film screenings; and our annual banquet followed by a music and poetry open mic. Festivities begin on the eve of the conference, with a meet and greet on Wednesday, May 27, followed by a film event sponsored by the DC Labor Fest. The conference continues through Sunday morning.
Travel to DC is expensive, so we’ve kept this year’s conference fees as low as possible — $125 for full-time workers, $75 for others, with a $50 one-day rate. We have a limited number of dorm rooms available, and we will give priority for these to students and others with fewer resources. To request a dorm room, contact Jessica Chilin at email@example.com. We’ve also reserved a block of rooms at the union Holiday Inn-Georgetown. You’ll find links to these on the Travel page of the conference website.
The conference schedule and registration are also online at fightinginequality.org
The 2015 Young Scholar’s and Activists Initiative (YSAI) committee is currently considering candidates for this year’s conference. Based on the success of last year’s event, a meet-and-greet reception for newcomers and returning members has been arranged for Wednesday before the opening night film screening at Georgetown. A new membership campaign has been underway since early fall, and the Communications Committee is currently expanding the visibility of the WCSA on social media as well as updating the website regularly to feature various news items. The Steering Committee has approved a proposal for the Association of Working-Class Academics to join WCSA as a caucus; the proposal will be circulated to the WCSA membership prior to our conference in May. Lastly, the Travel Grant application was revised to clarify information for international applicants as well as to determine funding limits for all applicants.
The Association continues to be solid financially, with just over $25,000 in our accounts.
The next significant expense coming up is travel grant funding for scholars in need who are attending our upcoming conference at Georgetown, and funding for the Young Scholars Initiative. In past years, we’ve received several hundred dollars in designated travel fund donations; this year, those donations have been significantly lower.
At present, we plan to fund both Travel Grant programs at their usual levels, in spite of the lower donation amounts. However, should you be so inclined, you are encouraged to make a designated donation to the travel grant funds. You may do so by making a PayPal payment through the WCSA website, or you may send a donation via personal check (made out to the WCSA) to me at the address below: Cherie Rankin / PO Box 264 / Emden, IL 62635.
Thanks in advance for your support of these travel grant funds.