AMS released a statement on September 3, 2021 regarding concerns from AMS members about the location of the 102nd Annual Meeting, scheduled to be held in the host city of Houston, Texas in January 2022. As leadership of the AMS, we recognize and acknowledge that the statement failed to address the complexity of the current situation in Texas and left many members of our community unsettled. Since then, several AMS members expressed further concerns about the location of the Annual Meeting in Texas related to recently adopted Texas state laws and policies, particularly sharp curtailment of voting access, abortion rights, and other civil rights; safety concerns due to recent expansion of firearm open carry privileges; and ongoing concerns related to COVID-19 pandemic safety.
AMS Council, along with AMS staff and other non-voting Council members (e.g., Commissioners), thoroughly deliberated these concerns along with a number of other factors (described in more detail below). AMS Council ultimately voted to proceed with the hybrid approach for the 102nd Annual Meeting that includes both a remote component and an in-person component in Houston, with full participation either in-person or remotely by presenters and attendees. The in-person option will continue to be contingent on the COVID-19 situation. While we recognize that the Annual Meeting experience will not be exactly the same for remote attendees as it will for in-person attendees, AMS staff and volunteers are working hard to plan a meeting that is safe, valuable, and engaging for all. We sincerely hope that if you are unable to join in person, do not feel comfortable traveling to Houston, or have other concerns about the Annual Meeting, that you will join us remotely.
More Details on the Decision on Hybrid Format of the 102nd Annual Meeting (including in-person in Houston and remote): At the Fall Council Meeting, the AMS Council weighed the pros and cons of moving the Annual meeting to an all-virtual format, and engaged in intensive discussion over the concerns raised by some of our members. Several issues were weighed and considered in making this decision:
Concerns related to Texas laws: Deliberations reflected that AMS members hold differing values, political ideologies, and opinions with respect to the Texas policies. While we are all affected by these issues as a society, the Council acknowledges that some of our members—particularly those from communities of color that have been historically marginalized and minoritized, and women and LGBTQ+ members—are disproportionately impacted by these laws. As such, many of our members are experiencing significant stress and anxiety as a result of the laws and policies that jeopardize their sense of equity, inclusion, well-being, and/or safety; this can be a heavy burden and an important one for our whole community to acknowledge and understand.
Local vs. State perspective: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, during a meeting with AMS President Mike Farrar and Claudia Gorski, AMS Director of Community Engagement, made a compelling case that engagement with the city of Houston is not equivalent to an endorsement of Texas laws. In his letter to the AMS, Mayor Turner states that “Houston stands apart from these (state) policies and your (AMS) presence here can send a strong message about the policies and issues we all care about”. The Mayor’s letter summarizes an important view from the perspective of Houstonians: “Given the impact of weather and climate extremes on the people of Houston and the alignment of my climate and environmental policies with your mission, I can’t think of a more ideal city for the AMS to engage with than Houston”.
Health Concerns Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic: The AMS Council, staff, and the 102nd Annual Meeting Health and Safety Task Force continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation in Houston. While we are encouraged by the recent trend of declining COVID-19 cases in Houston, they remain higher than many regions in the country, so we will continue to keep a close eye on trends over the next few weeks. We are also working hard to create a healthy and safe in-person meeting experience. While we are relying on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, local health agencies regarding travel and events, we also plan to employ other, stronger safeguards, including vaccination and mask wearing requirements in our meeting spaces (e.g. Convention Center and hotel meeting rooms). These safeguards are outlined in our Commitment to Care statement, with more details to come as we finalize plans.
Negative impacts from loss of in-person component: Council acknowledged the drawbacks to meeting completely virtually, including challenges of an all-virtual format in building and sustaining community, and highlighted the opportunities afforded to both in-person and remote attendees from the planned hybrid approach. Additionally, Council noted that a fully virtual meeting would forego the opportunity to engage local community members involved in environmental security and weather/climate resilience activities, and would also remove the option for those AMS members who choose to attend for the personal connection with colleagues and in-person mentoring for students and early career professionals.
Financial considerations: While there would be a sizable financial loss to the Society by cancelling the in-person component at this time, it was not a driving issue in the deliberations.
What’s Next?: Finally, Council notes that most of the issues of concern are not unique to Texas, so issues and concerns related to meeting locations will not end with Houston in 2022. As such, the AMS is now in the process of building a set of criteria for choosing future meeting locations that align with all of our Strategic Goals, including “to cultivate a talented, diverse, and enthusiastic workforce in the professions served by the AMS.”
After deliberating over all these factors, the Council ultimately decided to continue with a hybrid Annual Meeting, to include both a remote option as well as an in-person component in Houston. While this decision was challenging, it is one that was made after full consideration and with the best interests of the AMS and the weather, water and climate community in mind. We hope you can join us for the 102nd annual meeting in a manner that is comfortable and safe for you.
Posted on 6 October, 2021
We recognize that some have expressed concerns about having the 102nd AMS Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas, this coming January. Some of those concerns arise due to the resurgence of new strains of covid-19 and others are due to policies that have been adopted by the state of Texas. AMS is executing this meeting as a fully hybrid experience to help address concerns of having an in-person meeting at this time and in this location, and we encourage everyone in our community to participate in the knowledge that it will be a rich experience for presenters and attendees whether they are in Houston or participating virtually.
With respect to the policy concerns that some have expressed, we hear and appreciate those concerns. Because Houston is a diverse community that has felt the impacts of several weather-related disasters in just the past few years, we feel it is important that the AMS engage with that community, and we expect our presence there and our messaging with those communities during the annual meeting to be beneficial and of value. We are already working with local Houston officials to have this be more than just another meeting that happens to be in this city. We plan to take advantage of this location to show the value of our science and to promote science-based policies, as well as policies that contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Posted on 3 September, 2021