Monday, January 17, 2011

SBL postpones implementation of new policies for students

From the recent mass email:

The Executive Committee of Council met on 12 January 2011 to discuss concerns over the recent policies regarding student participation in the Society’s Annual Meeting. The policies that were announced in November 2010 required all students without a doctoral degree to submit to the Program Unit Chair the full text of the paper they intended to read and limited the number of sessions student can participate in (as panelist, presenter, and respondent) to one.

The action taken by the Executive Committee of Council, effective immediately , is to postpone the implementation of these policies and to undertake additional discussion of these matters at the Spring 2011 Council meeting. This action thereby sets aside these requirements and restrictions until 2012, pending further review.

I want personally to thank the members of the Student Advisory Board and the network of OSRs for the conversations we have had concerning these matters. They are active advocates for student interests. Please do continue these conversations with me or with representatives on SAB. SAB will provide a report directly to Council in April.


John F. Kutsko
Executive Director
Society of Biblical Literature

A wise move, I think.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy Newt Year and an SBL Student Survey

First of all, Happy Newt Year to you all! Here's to a year filled with the passing of courses and prelims, progress on dissertations, graduations, publications, jobs, and success wherever you are along the way.

As you probably know, SBL recently changed the criteria for student papers at the Annual Meeting. The main two changes are as follows:

1. All students without a doctoral degree are required to submit to the Program Unit Chair the full text of the paper they are proposing to read.
2. The number of sessions a student without a doctoral degree can participate in will be limited to one.

The first point has generated quite a bit of discussion in the blogosphere. For some examples, see the original email from SBL Executive Director John Kutsko on Pat McCullough's blog and a response by James McGrath. The most obvious problem from my point of view as a student is that I am not going to take time away from my dissertation in February to write a paper that may or may not be accepted for the Annual Meeting. Nor is it clear why this step is necessary for students who have successfully presented papers in the past. This rule will severely limit my ability to participate in future meetings and, I feel, diminishes the benefits of my SBL membership. No doubt there have been valid complaints about the quality of papers at the meeting, but this blanket rule assumes that (1) students are the only ones submitting poor quality papers, and (2) steering committees for the individual sections are incompetent at screening the abstracts they receive. I am sure you can come up with additional points in favor of or against these changes.

The good news is that it seems that SBL wants to hear from us. Pat McCullough posts some good suggestions here, one of which involves completing a survey that will provide data directly to SBL's Student Advisory Board. Pat mentions January 10 as a deadline for completing the survey and for submitting formal written responses to the Board. So I just wanted to encourage y'all to fill out the survey and make your voices heard.