2019 Symposium on Music Teacher Education
SMTE Forum for Conversation: Location of the Conference
Daniel Hellman and Karin Hendricks
Over the last several years, discourse on the location of the symposium has generated a robust dialogue among SMTE membership. In 2016, the North Carolina legislature passed House Bill 2, which placed severe limitations on the manner in which individuals could make claims of discrimination (https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookup/2015E2/H2). It mandated the use of bathrooms that correspond to one’s biological sex and limited claims of discrimination to those of race, religion, national origin, biological sex or physical handicap.As a result of the impact of this legislation, the SMTE Executive Board made the decision to move the 2017 symposium to Minneapolis and affirmed to all members that SMTE is an organization committed to inclusion, diversity, equity, access and de-marginalization of all areas of the profession and society as a whole (https://smte.us/2016/09/15/greensboro-symposium-2017-and-hb2/).
In 2017, House Bill 142 was passed by the North Carolina legislature https://lrs.
sog.unc.edu/lrs-subscr-view/bills_summaries/295626/H142). This law amounted to a partial repeal of House Bill 2. It eliminated the requirement for using the bathroom of one’s biological sex but also prevents local communities from enacting nondiscrimination laws or regulations until December 2020. Notably, negotiation on the bill did not involve the LGBTQ community as significant stakeholders and has been criticized as political deal-making primarily focused on mitigating the economic implications of North Carolina’s actions (Stern, 2017).In November 2018, the SMTE Executive Board made the decision to hold the 2019 Symposium in Greensboro http://smte.us/wpcontent/uploads/2019symposium/Symposium2019LocationDecision-1.pdf).
The board noted that relocating the 2019 Symposium would increase the cost of the conference acknowledged the difficulty in making this decision and the hardship that holding the symposium in Greensboro would pose for some members (http://smte.us/wp-content/uploads/
2019symposium/SMTE-Symposium-Location-Update-2018-11-16.pdf). They also explained that holding the symposium in another location would not be possible without significantly increasing the cost of the conference thereby causing accessibility issues for many members. While reserves were tapped to move the symposium in 2017; these resources were no longer available in 2019. The board invested time and energy in studying the status of the laws of North Carolina and the context of UNCG and the Greensboro community in making the decision. The board also worked with UNCG to make virtual participation available for SMTE members who could not attend due to their state laws.
Efforts Toward Equity and Diversity
After the 2017 conference, the SMTE Cultural Diversity and Social Justice ASPA has worked to further issues of inclusion in this organization and its umbrella organization NAfME. On April 20, 2018 ASPA co-chairs Karen Salvador, Amanda Soto, and Juliet Hessposted a list of “Concrete Action Items” for NAfME to consider. These items included specific recommendations for administrative hiring, professional development, education, communication, formal recognition of inclusive pedagogues and practices, research funding, conference planning toward equity and diversity, more thoughtful and careful representation, and partnerships with other organizations. The list was geared toward NAfME more broadly and did not mention the location of the SMTE conference; however, the action items did challenge the cost-prohibitive practice of hosting NAfME conferences at resorts (para. 17). We question whether this was a missed opportunity to also challenge the practice of hosting conferences in locations with prohibitive and discriminatory laws. Since then, NAfME has invested substantial resources in an audit by Cook Ross to look at diversity/inclusion policies, materials, and processes at the national level, with a hope to eventually share information with state organizations.
Continued Concerns from SMTE Members
Despite efforts of the SMTE board and CDSJ ASPA to promote values of inclusivity and equity, some members of the organization have remained deeply troubled by the decision to move the conference back to North Carolina. Concerns raised by members have included a feeling of silencing of non-gender conforming individuals; cost concerns among members teaching in states that prohibit funding for travel to states with discriminatory laws; and general concerns regarding the organization’s willingness to take a moral stand in support of LGBTQ+ individuals. It is important to note that North Carolina is neither unique in discriminatory laws, nor in boycotts from other states as a result of those laws. For example, in 2017 six states banned non-essential travel to as many as eight other states (Beitsch, 2017), with California adding two more states since then.Matthew Garrett has prepared a slide of most recent state travel restrictions that will be presented during the Social Justice ASPA working session on Saturday morning of the conference.
The Board has made no decisions regarding future conference locations and has expressed that it remains committed to equity and access and making the best decision in light of the needs of the members of SMTE (http://smte.us/wp-content/uploads/2019symposium/SMTE-Symposium-Location-Update-2018-11-16.pdf). They have provided an open invitation for members to express their position on location, equity and social justice to the SMTE chair and the division representatives.
Shifting political dynamics, legislative agendas and court decisions make the future difficult if not impossible to predict. On July 23, a federal judge approved a consent decree that grants transgender individuals the right to use the bathroom of their gender identity (Kennedy, 2019). At this point, whether sexual orientation or gender identity status can be afforded discrimination protection by local ordinances in North Carolina remains an open question. Certainly, the ethics behind the issue are broader than decisions about location. There are no federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (Moreau, 2019). While the Civil Right Act of 1964 and federal regulations has frequently been used to confront and clarify discrimination status, the results have been mixed. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws expressing prohibiting discrimination, and three other states have some form of workplace protections. Twenty-six states covering 48% of the population do not have laws that protect sexual minority people.
The Forum for Conversation: Conference Location
The Forum for Conversation: Conference Location, held Friday, September 13 from 8:00-9:30 pm (Location TBD), is intended to provide opportunities at the Symposium for attendees, including the board, to discuss the issues related to hosting the Symposium in North Carolina. The board envisioned this forum as a place where attendees could discuss the location decision of SMTE, but also open the discussion regarding these issues as a whole within the profession, considering, for example, how other music education groups are hosting conferences that are prohibitive due to cost, location, or discriminatory laws. Daniel Hellman and Karin Hendricks will facilitate the session, and intend to glean information from attendees according to the following questions:
- How would you redefine or clarify the complexities surrounding this issue, as addressed by the SMTE board?
- What other complexities have not been addressed by the SMTE board?
- What more information do members of SMTE (and music educators more broadly) need to make decisions concerning conference location?
- What specifically would you request that the SMTE board consider or do when making decisions about the 2021 conference location?
- What should the Board do when faced with conflicting issues for a conference location (such as access vs. affordability, or similar conflicts)?
Members of SMTE who are not in attendance at the conference may participate through online chat technology by contacting Jay Dorfman at email@example.com
The aforementioned questions will also be available via anonymous survey at the following link: https://bostonu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8w4JWwNzP6g2uJ7
Or by using the QR code below:
ACLU v North Carolina M. D. N. C. (2019). Available https://www.acluofnorthcarolina.org/
Beitsch, R. (2017, August 15). Supposedly symbolic, state travel bans have real bite. Available https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/08/15/
Kennedy, M. (2019, July 23). North Carolina reaches settlement in long battle over bathrooms and gender identity. Availablehttps://www.npr.org/2019/07/23/744488752/north-carolina-reaches-settlement-in-long-battle-over-bathrooms-and-gender-ident
Moreau, J. (2019). Can you be fired for being gay? Answer depends largely on where you live. Availablehttps://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/can-you-be-fired-being-gay-answer-depends-largely-where-n962711
Stern, M. J. (2017, March 30). The HB2 “Repeal Bill” is an unmitigated disaster for LGBTQ right and North Carolina. Availablehttps://slate.com/human-interest/2017/03/hb2-repeal-bill-is-a-disaster-for-north-carolina-and-lgbtq-rights.html
The use of “handicap” is taken directly from HB 2. The wording from Part III, section 3.1 states, “It is the public policy of this State to protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to seek, obtain and hold employment without discrimination or abridgement on account of race, religion, color, national origin, age, biological sex or handicap by employers which regularly employ 15 or more employees.”
California Bill AB 1887 bans travel to Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.