AAS Fall 2021 Board of Directors Meeting – Report to Members

On October 18, 2021, the Association for Asian Studies Board of Directors (BOD) held a hybrid meeting, with eight Board members present in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and six Board members joining via Zoom. Over the course of the day, the BOD discussed numerous pieces of business and voted on a wide range of action items, summarized below.

The most consequential decision that arose from this meeting was to form an Executive Committee (EC) of the Board of Directors. This Committee will consist of the current AAS President, Past President, Vice President, two Area Council chairs (one representing the region of the Past Past President), a member of the Finance Committee, and the AAS Executive Director, who will serve ex officio. The EC will stand in for the full BOD on matters that require rapid response. The creation of the EC will be reflected in amendments to the AAS Bylaws, which will be put to a member vote in the Fall 2022 elections.

Another significant change involves the length of council chair terms. Each of the four Area Councils and the Council of Conferences elects a chair, who sits on the BOD. Each BOD term for council chairs has been typically only one year, meaning that they have scant opportunity to acquaint themselves with BOD service before their time on the Board concludes. A two-year term will provide chairs with more opportunity to establish themselves on the BOD, as well as more continuity in AAS leadership. The Board voted to put before the membership on the Fall 2022 election ballot a change to the Constitution and Bylaws that would formalize two-year terms for council chairs. This may mean that some councils will have 10 members at times (if the chair moves to that position in their second or third year of council service).

The BOD reviewed procedures to be followed when association members or groups request that AAS leadership issue a statement on an issue. The AAS typically asks the individuals/groups to draft a statement and send it to the relevant Area Council for review prior to BOD discussion. With the proposed formation of an EC, that body could serve to screen statements before sending them to the BOD for a vote. Some BOD members, though, suggested that this added an unnecessary extra layer of review. The BOD voted that if an issue is raised by an Area Council and passes through review at that level, then the statement should go directly to the BOD for a vote, without EC involvement.

A special Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) has been working throughout the past year to identify the needs of Asianists, both members and non-members, and to set priorities for a five-year strategic plan. Focus group interviews and surveys of AAS members, lapsed members, and non-members in the summer/early fall of 2021 have assisted in this endeavor. The SPC met on October 17 and settled on five core issues that it will seek to address with pathways to solutions in the strategic plan. These five areas are:

  • Growing AAS engagement in Asia
  • Increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Growing new membership and maintaining existing membership
  • Growing and maintaining revenue
  • Enhancing administrative efficiency and effectiveness

The SPC will work on a draft strategic plan to circulate in advance of the next Board meeting on January 8, 2022. The BOD decided to carry out full discussion of the strategic plan and its implementation at a special one-day meeting prior to the 2022 Annual Conference in Honolulu.

The AAS Editorial Board requested that the BOD approve a new round of funding for the First-Book Subvention Program, which has supported 101 first monographs by scholars in Asian Studies since its creation in 2006. The BOD voted to allocate $75,000 to continue the program.

The contract we have with Cambridge University Press (CUP) to publish the Journal of Asian Studies (JAS) will conclude at the end of 2022. A small committee has solicited proposals from CUP and other publishers and recommended to the BOD that it move forward with Duke University Press as the next publisher of JAS. The BOD voted in favor of this transition.

The Bibliography of Asian Studies (BAS) has used antiquated FileMaker Pro software for many years and now requires a new platform for its editorial work. The BOD approved an expenditure of $76,000, which will draw on a surplus of BAS revenue, to implement the PIXO platform. It also voted to reduce the BAS staff budget by 10% in 2022.

The Northeast Asia Council requested that the Board resume work on formulating a code of conduct for the AAS membership and conference participants that had begun prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This code will formalize and expand the anti-harassment policy implemented in 2019. The BOD voted to create a code of conduct working committee, consisting of one member from each council, which will be charged with drafting a code of conduct and presenting it to the Board for consideration at its March 2022 meeting.

The Southeast Asia Council (SEAC) asked that the BOD grant it additional designated panels at the AAS Annual Conference, to replace session sponsorships previously allotted to SEAC. The BOD voted in favor of the expanded SEAC designated panels. SEAC also nominated an Asianist to receive the 2022 Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies (DCAS) Award, and the BOD approved that nomination (the name of the DCAS recipient will be announced at a later date).

The AAS has its endowment and custodial accounts invested at Vanguard. (Custodial accounts belong to AAS committees and prize funds; the association holds their money but does not access it for AAS use.) AAS annual operating expenses are financed through a combination of direct revenue (membership dues, conference revenue, advertising, etc.), grants, and a drawdown from the endowment. The amount of that drawdown is 4.5% of the average endowment value for the previous three years. In reviewing financial statements, the AAS CFO and Finance Committee chair realized that in previous years the 4.5% drawdown was calculated on the total assets in the AAS Vanguard account, rather than just the endowment portion—meaning that the drawdown has been overvalued. The BOD voted to correct this mistake gradually over the next three years, ensuring that future drawdown calculations will be based on AAS endowment funds only.

The BOD voted to approve a proposed budget for 2022 and approved, as well, the Spring 2021 meeting minutes.