Statement of Members of the #SHEAR2020 Program Committee

Centre Square Philadelphia, published by S. C. Atkinson for the Casket.

The undersigned members of the Program Committee explicitly apologize for the harm caused by the racist language, racist apologetics, and dismissive and misogynist attitude towards the work of other scholars used by a single scholar at the 2020 Plenary. This plenary did not adhere to the guidelines of diversity established by SHEAR. While the decision to make that single scholar’s paper a plenary did not rest with the Program Committee, we issue a sincere apology and are taking this as a moment of reflection.

The undersigned members of the Program Committee were not consulted in the choice to offer an online summer webinar or in the choice to feature Prof. Feller, and this absence of consultation was part of a broader pattern of minimizing our role.  We should have collectively demanded more transparency and a greater voice and we apologize for not having done so.

We agreed to serve on this committee because SHEAR matters to us. In the aftermath of the 2020 plenary, we have heard attendees from SHEARs past share their experiences of racist and sexist comments at the conference. They have spoken of feeling like they do not belong and are not welcome in our scholarly community. Their stories reveal that the 2020 plenary was not an isolated incident. This is not how we want SHEAR to be, now or in the future.

As members of the Program Committee, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to make changes in what is arguably the most important aspect of SHEAR’s existence: its annual conference.

As members of the Committee, we are frustrated by the lack of transparency in the process that led to this being chosen for the plenary. We believe that it highlights the need for more clarity about the 2020 program, and for some rethinking of the ways that the Program Committee is expected to work. In the original consideration of the proposed roundtable, this session received mixed reviews from program committee members. Some believed it could be the occasion for a sustained discussion focused on audience participation; others felt it would not make a strong addition to the programbecause of its lack of diversity. The committee was not convened for discussion on this or any other panel. We did not know that this panel would be a plenary until the announcement went out over email to the public.

In addition, not all members of the committee were consulted in the creation of the 2020 program. The 2021 program co-chairs, Prof. Emily Conroy-Krutz and Prof. Vanessa Holden, were appointed to this committee but never received materials to review despite multiple requests to the 2020 co-chairs. The Local Arrangement Representative Lori Daggar’s rankings were also not considered in final evaluations of panels. Communication to other committee members was sporadic. No member of the committee received a final list of accepted panels or the program.

We believe that changes are needed in the short and long terms in the ways that the program for SHEAR’s conference is selected and assembled.

For the 2021 conference, the plan to simply reproduce the 2020 program must be reconsidered.

  • The entire program should be reviewed so additions and modifications can be made where necessary and space created for additional scholars and scholarship not reflected in this year’s plenary.
  • The 2021 Program co-chairs would like to confer with the Advisory Council to discuss the outcome of the 2020 program and the roles of the 2020 and 2021 Program Committees.
  • All panels must contribute towards expanding the diversity of scholars and research commitments.

In the long term, the Program Committee must reconsider the ways in which it deliberates.

  • Communication must be continuous and inclusive of all members of the Program Committee.
  • The Program Committee must meet after the votes are tallied to collectively discuss the makeup of the program before it is finalized.
  • In the event of changes to the program structure (such as going online), program chairs and the committee must be consulted.
  • Attention must be paid to diversity among the members of the Program Committee itself.

It is our hope that SHEAR will respond to this difficult moment as an opportunity for self-reflection and affirmation of the organization’s stated commitment to diversity and inclusion. As members of the Program Committee, we commit ourselves to this goal.


  • Mark R. Cheathem
  • Emily Conroy-Krutz
  • Lori J. Daggar
  • Andrew K. Frank
  • Vanessa M. Holden
  • Alexis McCrossen
  • Elizabeth Varon