Recent political events in Florida have raised concerns among some of our members regarding the decision to hold our conference in the state. We respect and understand these concerns and are committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all our members, regardless of their political affiliations or beliefs. Our organization is rooted in principles of diversity, open dialogue, and respect for differing viewpoints. We firmly believe that by engaging with one another in a respectful manner, we can foster greater understanding and unity within our community.
It is essential to recognize that selecting a conference venue is a complex decision influenced by numerous factors. When we initially chose Florida as the location for this year’s conference some five years ago, we considered various aspects such as accessibility, available facilities, local expertise, visits to local campuses (both public and private), and more. Our primary goal is to provide a platform where members can share knowledge, collaborate, and grow professionally.
For several reasons, we have chosen to keep the fall conference location in Florida. There are a few things we want to share about our decision and hope that members can see the positive impact and potential influence of our decision.
- While we acknowledge the political events that have unfolded in Florida, it is important to remember that our conference is not centered around politics. Instead, it focuses on advancing our field through education, research, and networking opportunities. By gathering in Florida, we aim to harness the existing resources and expertise within and beyond the state to benefit our members. Learning with and supporting colleagues from around the country is one of the greatest benefits IECA members experience in our network.
- IECA holds conferences in different parts of the country, in part to ease the travel burden on our cross-country and global membership. Additionally, we firmly believe that engaging with diverse communities and regions is vital to our growth as professionals. By holding our conference in Florida, we can connect with local members, researchers, and students who may offer unique perspectives and insights. This collaboration will enrich our understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by students, educators, and communities feeling marginalized. Regardless of their views on controversial state policies, IECA’s Florida-based members work within their state context to serve and support students.
- There’s a significant economic impact. The repercussions of canceling a conference primarily fall on low-wage travel and hospitality workers with limited effects on state policymakers or corporations. Also, IECA contracts with a conference hotel five or more years in advance. Canceling the event would incur a financial penalty of more than $700,000, which would severely impact IECA’s ability to provide services to members year-round.
- The city of Tampa has a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign and is led by the city’s first openly gay mayor (and Tampa’s first female chief of police), who is fighting statewide policies that some feel harm marginalized communities. We can best support these local efforts by meeting in and celebrating the Tampa area.
We also recognize that our decision to hold the conference in Florida may evoke strong emotions and opinions among our members. We encourage respectful dialogue and engagement, and we are open to hearing your concerns. Our intention is to provide a supportive environment where all members feel comfortable expressing their viewpoints. Let’s remember that the legislation of every state surely offends someone.
Thank you for your continued support. We look forward to welcoming you to an enriching and successful conference in Tampa this fall.