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.