Dear Members of SSAR,
We are writing to bring everyone up-to-date on the current situation regarding “The Rochester Affair”: that is, the debates that are occurring about a range of issues that arose after The Herpetologists’ League “Distinguished Herpetologist” lecture. This letter will summarise the SSAR’s responses to date, and it is modelled on a similar letter that ASIH has drafted to send out to its members. The three societies (SSAR, HL, SSAR) have been communicating with each other frequently, and are committed to moving forward on a united front to address the problems that have been revealed. We sincerely believe that the tensions that surfaced in Rochester can be harnessed to enable meaningful changes that will improve the functioning of professional herpetology in general, including the SSAR, into the future.
First, a sincere thank you all for your membership and continued support. Some of the issues that have emerged have the potential to be deeply divisive, and we appreciate the fact that our membership has remained highly supportive of SSAR initiatives and responses.
The meetings in Rochester, New York were a success thanks to all of you, our local hosts (Brian Witz, Nazareth College, and the city of Rochester), and our meeting’s management company (Kansas State University). Nonetheless, a number of issues were raised at the JMIH meetings that we need to address. Some of these are long overdue. One strong positive from the debates that emerged has been to elicit ideas and reflections by a wide cross-section of SSAR membership, including from groups who feel that the previous structure of meetings was not ideal for them. We are deeply committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all our members. We will need input from the entire membership to truly achieve that goal.
These are the actions that we have already taken or will have taken by JMIH 2019:
(1) The joint JMIH societies are working to expand the draft Code of Conduct to cover all JMIH attendees with a new joint Code of Conduct that will have explicit guidelines for proper conduct, a clear protocol for assessing breaches of the Code of Conduct, and consequences for violations of the Code of Conduct at our annual meetings. ASIH is to be congratulated for taking the lead on this important initiative.
(2) We are in talks with several ombudsmen services, to provide a trained professional for JMIH attendees who have any harassment issues to contact. This professional will independently evaluate and help us enforce our Code of Conduct.
(3) We have appointed Jessica Tingle (whom many of you will remember for her powerful presentation at the beginning of the SSAR business meeting in Rochester) as Chair of our Student Participation Committee. Jessica and her committee will look into ways of changing the practices of the SSAR to better represent our diversifying society. And we are determined to look broadly at issues such as race and identity as well as gender: SSAR needs to welcome everyone with a professional interest in herpetology.
(4) The societies are collaborating to support a symposium for next year’s JMIH that will focus on issues women herpetologists face and highlight opportunities for women within and outside academia.
As the details of these activities play out please feel free to reach out to the SSAR Board of Directors to provide any feedback, advice, or concerns you may have.
Rick Shine, President (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Marty Crump, President-Elect (Marty.Crump@nau.edu)
Aaron Bauer, Past-President (email@example.com)
Marion Preest, Secretary (firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann Paterson, Acting Treasurer (email@example.com)
SSAR Board of Directors:
Robin Andrews, Board Member (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lee Fitzgerald, Board Member (email@example.com)
Tony Gamble, Board Member (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jackie Litzgus, Board Member (email@example.com)
Ann Paterson, Board Member (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Melissa Pilgrim, Board Member (MPILGRIM@USCUPSTATE.EDU)
Emily Taylor, Board Member (email@example.com)
Greg Watkins-Colwell, Board Member (gregory.watkins-colwell@yale.