1. Why did the MLA Board feel that it should consider moving the 2019 and 2023 Annual Meetings from St. Louis to another state?
- As an organization committed to diversity and inclusion, MLA should “practice what it preaches” by setting an example. We should not encourage or do business with groups or entities that we feel act counter to our own Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy.
- Several MLA members stated publicly that they would not attend the meeting if it is held in St. Louis because of the NAACP travel advisory.
- The MLA Board has a duty to its members to ensure as much as is possible the safety and security of attendees to its meetings.
- The Board realizes that some members may decide not to attend the St. Louis meetings, resulting in a loss of conference registration fees; moreover, there may be some members who decide to drop their membership in MLA due to the Board’s decision.
2. What would the penalties be if MLA chose to break its contracts with St. Louis Hilton properties and move to another state?
- According to Sandy DiMinno of Experient, MLA’s convention site-selection consultant, cancelling the contracts with the St. Louis Union Station and St. Louis Ballpark Hilton properties would cost the organization $154,697 if we cancelled by 12/31/17. Afterward the cost would go up to $232,045. Either of these penalties would seriously impact MLA’s ability to carry out its mission and programs and would in all probability make an alternative 2019 meeting very costly or impossible, as well as require a significant increase in annual membership fees.
3. But isn’t MLA in a healthy enough financial position to absorb this loss?
- It is true that our investment funds are relatively robust at the present; however, we are not permitted according to our current investment policy guidelines to withdraw the amount necessary to cover the penalty for breaking the contract. Changing the investment policy would require a serious reconsideration of MLA’s investment goals and purposes for the fund.
4. If the MLA Board is concerned about issues of fairness, equity, and diversity, why would it decide not to honor the NAACP travel advisory?
- MLA received a letter from Adolphus M. Pruitt, President of the St. Louis NAACP Chapter, asking us to reconsider our decision to move our meetings from St. Louis (note that the decision had not yet been made). Mr. Pruitt stated in his letter:
We hope that you will reconsider your decision about holding your meeting in the St. Louis area. The hospitality workers, many of whom are people of color, need the jobs that are supported by travelers to our state and our city. Without you and your members, we will lose employment opportunities in hotels, transportation companies, restaurants and the many businesses that your meeting attendees will support when they attend your meeting in our community.
- “[Missouri NAACP State President Nimrod] Chapel said the NAACP is not asking people to stay away from the Show Me State but, rather, calling attention to “Jim Crow-style legislation” and policing policies that threaten the rights of all people, not just African Americans.”—Washington Post
- The Board was particularly interested in the feedback from MLA’s members-of-color. Some of these responses were not posted publicly but conveyed in private communication. They reflected a variety of observations; one member noted that they would feel much safer in a city like St. Louis than in Portland or Salt Lake City, two of our other upcoming venues. These communications also indicated that MLA has more work to do in its quest to create a truly diverse and welcoming organization.
- Finally, the Board feels strongly in using this opportunity to make a positive statement that reflects our mission and our core values as an organization. We have discussed several ways to do this. One idea with much merit is to have a themed conference in St. Louis (2019) that focuses on diversity and inclusion in the music library and how we as music librarians can use our skills and expertise to provide resources to educators and to the general public that highlight the diversity of the region. In addition, we can offer programming on ways to foster diversity and inclusion in our own workplaces. We also have numerous opportunities while we are there to reach out to the communities of color in St. Louis, including the opportunity of making music together. Doing so would not only demonstrate our values in a positive way but also bring visibility to MLA and our profession.
5. What will the MLA Board do for members who do not feel safe traveling to St. Louis?
- The MLA Board is discussing how to waive its usual fees for accessing live streaming of the conference for those members.