Business Meeting Notes

American Religion and Literature Society: May 2018 Business Meeting Minutes

In Attendance: Ray Horton (co-chair), Kathryn Ludwig (information officer), Liam Corley, Tae Sung, Caleb Spencer, Ashley Reed, Chris Douglas, Gretchen Murphy, Dawn Coleman, Ashley Barnes, Jonathan McGregor, Ryan Siemers, Bill Gonch, Ryan David Furlong


The American Religion and Literature Society met for its annual business meeting on Friday, May 25 at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco. With 14 participants, it was the best attended and most productive meeting we have held in recent years. Many praised the growing enthusiasm and excitement within the ARLS, as evidenced by a high turnout at all three panels, broad participation in the business meeting, and an unusually high response rate to this past year’s calls for papers. Moving forward, we determined (1) that we need to expand and streamline our officer structure in order to account for our recent growth, (2) that we need to formalize certain aspects of the organization (including assembling an advisory board of senior scholars) before we pursue affiliation with other national organizations such as the MLA, (3) that we need to establish a more official (not WordPress) website as we add materials such as member profiles and a bibliography, and (4) that we need to strive for greater diversity and inclusivity in our future panels.

Ray Horton and Kathryn Ludwig have assembled the notes below in order to summarize as much of the full discussion as we could reconstruct. If you notice anything that has been omitted or overlooked, please email either of us (, and we will revise the notes. We encourage all ARLS members to skim the full meeting outline and to carefully read the first “to do” list in case you wish to contribute to any of these opportunities and projects.

Meeting Outline:

Welcome and Introductions:

  • ARLS Mission Statement: Suggestion to revise with language that describes what we do beyond holding panels at the ALA — specifically, creating a community and a place to share resources for scholars with interests in this field.

ARLS Conference Activity:

    • ALA 2019: We will ask the ALA for three CFPs, due to high participation and growing submission rate over the past three years.
      • CFP 1 Topic: Film and Religion (written by Caleb Spencer)
      • CFP 2 Topic: Ritual — phrase and distribute this one so that it signals inclusivity, i.e., more diversity and less of what Fessenden calls “unmarked Protestantism.” (written by Ryan Siemers)
      • CFP 3 Topic: Jewish American literature (written by Kathryn Ludwig)
  • Timeline recommendation: Complete drafts by Nov. 1 (due to ALA on Dec. 1)
  • Non-ALA Affiliations
    • Establish semi-permanent presence at one or more regional MLA conferences. (See “organizational structure,” below. We will have individual “conference coordinator” positions for each. Start with MMLA?)
    • Prioritize MLA affiliation. (Liam sent Ray information on how to become an allied organization. Officers will start working on these materials before next business meeting.)
      • In the meantime, we will try to include ARLS information in MLA convention program whenever there is an appropriate special session. (Eg, Ray and AnaMaria Seglie have co-organized a session for 2019.)
    • Future opportunities: AAR, ISRLC, Ian Ramsey Centre (Oxford), Rothermere American Institute (Oxford). Wait until we’ve solidified MLA presence before branching out to these.
  • ARLS account and use of funds
    • Website! (Caleb Spencer’s wife, Brooke, has volunteered to design the website free of charge. Estimate that domain & hosting costs will be ~ $125-$150 / year.
    • Next year: once we’ve elected a treasurer, we need to figure out how to move the account.
    • Several people recommend that we adopt a very modest dues structure for members. (Maybe $5. Ray’s suggestions: free for graduate students and wait until after next year’s business meeting, at the earliest, to require dues, once we have the account, a treasurer, etc. established.)
    • Last year’s idea to sponsor graduate student ALA registration: too impractical because of our zero (or low) dues and how quickly we’d run through our current account. Better to put funding into good website and promo materials first.

ARLS Scholarly Outreach:

    • Membership Profiles (website)
      • Best way to solicit information: create a Google Sheet with a few standard questions so that members don’t have to initiate or maintain their profiles.
      • Feature graduate student profiles?
    • Bibliography Project (website)
      • Detailed annotations will be difficult to secure. Everyone is busy, and there may not be much professional incentive to submit these.
      • New idea: create a listserv for the ARLS in order to solicit sources, and used a shared Zotero file — using topical tags rather than annotations — so that sources can be shared easily. (I believe this was Dawn Coleman’s suggestion; please correct me if I’m wrong.)
    • Teaching Resources (website)
      • We will need a process for vetting the materials (not just a big data dump), and while a great idea — something for the future — it will take a lot of work. Not a priority for this year, but let’s come back to it.
    • Advisory Board
      • Absolutely essential because of (a) how much of the ARLS activity is being undertaken by junior scholars and (b) our need to ensure continuity when new officers are elected every three years.
      • Current ARLS officers will assemble a list of senior scholars to approach. Members are welcome to email Ray ( with any suggestions or nominations.
  • Ray’s suggestion: Let’s try to have this in place, or at least well on its way, by the next business meeting.

Review Organizational Structure:

  • Proposal for new officer structure.
    • Change proposed officer titles like “information officer” and “outreach coordinator” to “Vice President of…” (It’s good for everyone’s CV, and it helps make our service to the profession more visible to chairs and deans, etc.)
    • Current officers will review the organizational structure and finalize the new officer positions and descriptions before the upcoming election.
      • We definitely need a President and Vice President with distinct responsibilities, an info officer and outreach coordinator (perhaps with VP+ titles), an active treasurer, (elected?) coordinators for all non-ALA conferences, and (appointed?) ad hoc positions to spearhead special projects such as the bibliography.
  • Discuss next year’s election procedures.
    • Current officers need to finalize officer positions by early 2019. (Ray’s suggestion: finish when we submit program information to ALA by Jan. 30.)
    • Current officers will submit the call for nominees to the membership well before the election. (Ray’s suggestion, within 1-2 weeks of submitting program info to ALA  — maybe mid-February?)
    • Hold elections virtually, well before the next ALA conference, in order to facilitate transition at the business meeting. (Ray’s suggestion: end of March?)

To Do List:

For the Membership:

  • Respond to membership profile request once officers have drafted and sent it.
  • Contribute to our bibliography once officers have assembled a shared Zotero file.
  • Write next year’s CFPs (Caleb Spencer, Ryan Siemers, Kathryn Ludwig) once Ray confirms that we can have three sessions at 2019 ALA.
  • Nominate senior scholars for the officers to consider for the advisory board. (Email Ray at
  • Consider whether you want to host an ARLS session at a regional MLA (or regional AAR, or other smaller conference) & self-nominate as coordinator for that conference.
  • Consider whether you want to run for an officer position (three year term) beginning next year. (More information forthcoming once the new org. structure is solidified.)

For the Officers:

  • Revisit our official documents (especially mission statement); draft bylaws and other documents and procedures (including, perhaps, a dues structure) that will be necessary to become an allied organization of the MLA.
  • Redesign organizational structure with new officer positions, titles, and descriptions in order to fill those positions in the next election.
  • Draft a list of senior scholars to contact re. advisory board. Contact by December 1 (Ray’s suggestion) so we can have the advisory board in place by ALA 2019.
  • Facilitate upcoming election, including identifying the best resource for conducting it virtually.
  • Create materials (listserv and zotero file) for bibliography project.
  • Create Google Sheet to solicit membership profile information.
  • Figure out how to draw from our account (and how / where to move the account) in order to start the website project.