AGM Minutes 6 April 2014

British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies 

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting, 6 April 2014

Provisional until ratified at AGM 2015

1. Minutes of the meeting held on 7 April 2013.

The minutes were accepted by the meeting as a correct record.

2. Matters arising from the minutes

There were no matters arising not already itemised.

3. President’s Report

Peter Waldron submitted a written report to the meeting. Conference 2013 was very successful financially and the profit generated would help to fund the BASEES Research and Development activity. Autumn 2013 had seen a transition to a new website, which contributed to improving communications about what BASEES does. He had continued to make representations to issues that affect BASEES and its members, for example on Open Access to HEFCE and other organisations; he had also played a part in the Academy of Social Sciences’ study on the role of learned societies; he had made representations on behalf of Levada to the Russian government.

4. Membership Secretary’s Report

Peter Waldron welcomed Melanie Ilic back into the role, which she took over in January 2014. Melanie Ilic submitted a written report to the meeting. She had found it interesting to take over at time of transition in procedures: the new website had facilitated a move to online application, which was more efficient. She reported that a huge number of people on the membership database were not paying regular subscriptions, so her most urgent task is to contact such people who may not be aware that their membership has lapsed. Of those who are paying subs, she reported that most are not paying at the rate agreed at the 2012 AGM. More positively, she reported that there was plenty of interest in joining BASEES, as she had handled  several new applications just in the first three months of 2014. Peter Waldron thanked Melanie Ilic and also Jon Oldfield for their work in identifying the above issues.

5. Treasurer’s Report

Jon Oldfield submitted a written report to the meeting. 2013 had been a good financial year which had rectified losses of previous years, the BASEES/EuroICCEES Conference 2013 had made over £9000. He noted that the accounts item under Payment for communications included a one-off payment for setting up the new website. Overall the Association’s figures were much healthier. As actioned in the minutes of AGM 2013, Jon Oldfield had looked into changing auditors, but had opted to stay with the existing firm as their fee is lower this year and it is more convenient to stay with those who know our accounts. He acknowledged that once the membership subscription issues are resolved this will help the Association’s finances.

Acceptance of the Treasurer's report was proposed by Stephen White and seconded by Melanie Ilic, and agreed by the meeting.

6. Information Officer’s Report

Claire Shaw presented an oral report to the meeting. She reported that the newsletter was published three times per year, distributed electronically, and had been reformatted to fit with the new logo colour scheme and resized. This was all done by the existing designer of the newsletter. There had been small changes to content: there is now a regular column on Routledge series; there is also a regular section dedicated to  raising the profile of postgraduates, such as those supported by the R&D fund. She remains open to suggestions for content. The online profile of BASEES had changed hugely, thanks to the new website, which will make a big difference to how we communicate with members and generate information, for example the newsletter can be uploaded to the website. Claire Shaw thanked Matthias Neumann for all his work on establishing and maintaining the website. In respect of other means of communication, she reported that the format of the ‘basees-members’ Jiscmail list enables members themselves to distribute information, so that the newsletter can therefore be a space for longer, more reflective items. The Jiscmail list is one of two email lists which need to be consolidated. BASEES is also becoming more active on Facebook and Twitter. Peter Sowden commended the newsletter. Stephen Hutchings suggested a section in the newsletter on Knowledge Transfer and Impact, given the importance of these to funding bodies. This was agreed.

7. Report on the work of the Research and Development Committee

Jeremy Hicks was unable to attend the meeting but submitted a written report in absentia. Peter Waldron spoke to the report on his behalf. The R&D Committee had received fewer applications and funded more compared to the previous year, so that overall the money spent had increased a little since the previous year. Stephen White noted two items in the report where apparently postgraduates had been funded simply to present a paper at conference; he queried whether this was in line with the defined purpose of the R&D fund. Mary MacRobert framed the issue in terms of transparency and proposed that the R&D Committee either state explicitly that it would fund postgraduate attendance at conferences, or not fund future applications of this type. It was agreed by the meeting that this be discussed at the BASEES Committee meeting the following day, bearing in mind the possible financial consequences of extending the fund to such applications. Peter Waldron noted that the R&D Committee had turned down an application for funding to bring Russian delegates to participate in a panel at Conference 2014. Melanie Ilic noted that in line with regulating the membership database, the R&D Committee must check that they are only funding BASEES members.

8. Prizes:

a. Alexander Nove Prize

Sarah Hudspith reported that there had been three applications considered for the Nove prize, and confirmed that the winner of this year’s Nove prize is Sarah Oates for Revolution Stalled: The Political Limits of the Internet in the Post-Soviet Sphere (Oxford University Press). Sarah Hudspith reported that it had been drawn to the Committee’s attention that the book should technically belong to the cohort eligible for the following year’s prize scheme (as it was published in 2013 instead of 2012). It was thought that the mistake had come about because the published prize scheme details had fallen out of date during the transition to a new website. As this had only come to light just before the Conference, the Committee had unanimously agreed to put to the AGM the following solution: that the prize for this year should still be awarded to Sarah Oates; that the next Nove prize cycle should be open to books published in both 2012 and 2013 so that no year cohort be disadvantaged, and that if the judges found deserving winners from both year cohorts then two prizes would be awarded. The meeting agreed this solution. Sarah Hudspith expressed thanks to the judges Terry Cox and Stephen Hutchings for their hard work.

. George Blazyca Prize

Sarah Hudspith reported that there had been five applications considered for the Blazyca prize, and confirmed that the winner of the Blazyca prize for a book published in 2012 is Longina Jakubowska for Patrons of History: Nobility, Capital and Political Transitions in Poland (Ashgate). Sarah Hudspith expressed thanks to the judges Cathie Carmichael and Karen Henderson for their hard work.

. Postgraduate Prize

Sarah Hudspith reported that in its first year there had been six applications considered for the Postgraduate Prize for Best Scholarly Article, and confirmed that the winner is Lukasz Szulc for ‘From queer to gay to The names we dare to speak in Poland’ Lambda Nordica 17 (4), 2012: 65-98. Sarah Hudspith expressed thanks to the judges Sam Greene and Luke March for their hard work.

9. Election of Officers and Committee Members

The following nominations for officer posts were received:

Membership Secretary: Melanie Ilic (University of Gloucester) proposed by Sarah Hudspith, seconded by Ruth Coates.

The following nominations were received for Ordinary Members:

Matilda Mroz (University of Greenwich) proposed by Claire Whitehead, seconded by Katharine Hodgson.

All the proposals were unanimously approved.

Secretary Sarah Hudspith, Treasurer Jon Oldfield and Information Officer Claire Shaw were reconfirmed in their posts.

Peter Waldron noted that Brendan McGeever would be stepping down from his Committee post as Postgraduate Representative; a new representative would be co-opted as soon as possible and this would be reported in the Newsletter following the appointment.

10. Conference 2014

Matthias Neumann reported that Conference 2014 had attracted 420 delegates. These figures were healthy compared with Conference 2013, which attracted 500 but was one day longer due to the combined event with EuroICCEES. Initial feedback suggested the Conference was intellectually as well as financially successful. £4,500 had been allocated to support postgraduate participation, which had resulted in many young people attending, thus indicating good prospects for the future of the event and the discipline. The organisers had produced a programme booklet again as this was popular last year. Stephen White asked about BASEES’s relationship with the commercial conference organisers, Suzy Howes and Associates, and requested more information on the conference accounts. Peter Waldron commended the Howes, they are both responsive and pro-active, and the Committee has received good feedback on them from delegates too. Matthias Neumann reported regarding the conference accounts that they had tried to be conservative in terms of estimating the amount of  money to support postgraduates, as the level of conference income cannot be guaranteed until March, whereas the postgraduate support sum is decided on in the Autumn. They had opted to fund a larger number of smaller grants to encourage more people to come. Advertising in the conference programme booklet pulls in £1,500 which effectively covers the cost of printing. Stephen White proposed that it would be a good principle to see the previous year’s conference accounts at the AGM. The meeting agreed that this should be instituted from AGM 2015. Planning for Conference 2015 would begin the following day at the BASEES Committee meeting.

The meeting expressed thanks to Matthias Neumann for the huge amount of work he had done in organising the conference.

 11. AOB

a. Report on XV Congress of Slavists

Mary MacRobert presented a written report. She explained that the International Committee of Slavists expects each country to have a national committee which sends a representative to the Congress and reports back to their national committee, which is why a report comes back to the BASEES AGM. The Congress was a success, there had been speculation that some participants may have been put off by the location in Belarus but the participation rate was still good. Prof Arnold McMillin gave a plenary address, marking the first time for some years that someone from UK had done this. The condition on participation of pre-publication of papers was seen as unwieldy by UK participants; electronic pre-publication on the website of Oxford University was arranged in order for the UK participants to meet the criteria. The International Committee is now planning to rethink this condition, as there is a need to attract more people studying literature and culture; currently papers are mostly weighted in favour of languages and linguistics. Claire Shaw noted that BASEES would support promotion of the next Congress (2018 in Belgrade) via the newsletter, website and its other media. Peter Waldron thanked Mary MacRobert for being the UK representative.

b. Proposal for a BASEES Women’s Committee

Judith Pallot proposed setting up a Women’s Committee, with the brief to encourage more women into the field, to encourage and promote courses on women’s studies in the field, and also to support women in how to deal with gendered attitudes when doing fieldwork etc. The Women’s Committee’s main aims would be to mentor young women researchers, to encourage research on and by women, to establish a prize thereon, to sponsor conference panels and workshops focused on gender and related issues.  The next step would be to form the committee, consult the BASEES membership more widely and hold an inaugural event. Stephen White queried the status of such a committee in relation to BASEES and asked whether there might be an existing model for formalising its relationship to BASEES. Judith Pallot agreed that the proposed Women’s Committee would need a constitution, but that it could sit within the existing BASEES structures, by contrast with ASEEES women’s committee, which is completely separate. Peter Sowden noted that there could be publication possibilities arising from the activities of a Women’s Committee. Peter Waldron noted that the move would be timely, with regard to the Gender Equality Charter Mark that would be instituted for higher education soon. Judith Pallot proposed that Melanie Ilic should sit on the Women’s Committee in her capacity as Membership Secretary. The meeting agreed that the Women’s Committee should be established. Brendan McGeever noted on a related issue that there was low participation in the BASEES Conferences from the black and ethnic minority community and suggested that this might be a subject for future discussion.

c. Dismissal of Andrei Zubov

Philip Boobyer reported on the dismissal of Andrei Zubov, a Professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), due to his article comparing Russia’s actions in Crimea with  the Anschluss. A public letter in support of him from Vladislav Zubok (of LSE) had served to delay but not prevent his dismissal. Philip Boobyer spoke as both a friend and collaborator of Zubov. He declared that there is a need for a response to show that the academic community in the West is concerned by such matters, and proposed that a letter should be sent on behalf of BASEES to Anatoly Torkunov, the Rector of MGIMO. The letter should be supportive of Torkunov who, it is believed, was pressured into dismissing Zubov, and since Zubov’s article has stimulated some debate within Russia, a letter from BASEES would  to give Torkunov more ammunition in any further discussions with the Kremlin. Peter Waldron noted that BASEES should not be drawn into political statements and that the idea was to write in defence of academic freedom. The letter should be private at first but should include a statement that if Torkunov felt it appropriate then BASEES would be happy for it to be made public. No response from Western organisations could also be seen as a signal. Stephen White reported precedents where BASEES has spoken on freedom of speech issues. The meeting agreed that Philip Boobyer and Richard Sakwa would draft the letter.

d. Report on BASEES Routledge series.

Peter Sowden submitted a written report on the BASEES Routledge series. The series now had a total of 96 books published, with two more in production; five of those published this year were first time authors publishing their PhD thesis. The cumulative revenue from the series over the past 12 years had passed the £1 million mark, with roughly £2,000 in royalties generated for BASEES this year. 60 paperbacks on demand have been published, and all new titles are also published as e-books. The BASEES series does not represent Routledge’s entire activity in the field, as other publications on Russian, Central and East European Studies are published by Routledge as part of different series. Stephen White proposed a vote of thanks to Peter Sowden. Peter Waldron thanked Routledge for sponsoring the Sunday evening drinks reception, commended the BASEES series as a model of collaboration between a learned society and a publisher, and noted that we look forward to 100th edition.