March 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 3

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ASA Forum for Public Discussion and Debate

Conventions in New Orleans

I was surprised and disappointed by the Q&A in the January 2011 Footnotes in which the ASA Executive Officer responded to the question, "Why doesn’t the ASA hold its annual meeting in New Orleans?" writing, "Because the meeting is held during hurricane season, we cannot risk holding the meeting in New Orleans." I question the empirical basis for this assertion and raise social justice issues about this decision as well.

I joined the sociology faculty of the University of New Orleans in 1972 and live in the city of New Orleans. I know full well the economic, social, and emotional impact of natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina devastated my home, university, and adopted city. But there are risks for ASA to schedule its annual meeting in any city. This year’s meetings had to be moved because of labor problems. The terrorist attacks in 2001 prevented me from attending a professional meeting that I had helped to plan.

While I understand the concern with meeting in a city where natural disasters could jeopardize the meetings, that is true in many places and eliminating New Orleans because of the possibility of hurricanes is not supported by the empirical evidence. Overall, the likelihood of a hurricane in New Orleans is very low, especially in June, July, and August. Looking at more than 150 years of hurricane data, half of the New Orleans hurricanes occurred in September. Since 1950, only five hurricanes have approached New Orleans in August. Only one of those, Danny (1985), occurred between August 1 and August 15, and it was a Category 1 hurricane. There were three other hurricanes in August during the last 50 years, but all occurred in late August. ASA traditionally meets in early August.

I also urge the association to consider the social justice argument for ASA meeting in New Orleans. New Orleans has rapidly recovered from the devastation caused by the failure of the levee system following Hurricane Katrina. The hospitality industry is back and accommodations—hotels, restaurants, family activities, and adult activities—are better than ever. New Orleans is a relatively poor city and many of our citizens work in the hospitality industries, which is vital to the economic vitality of our city. I would also point out that the Southern Sociological Society meets in New Orleans every three years and those meetings attract the largest attendance of all our meeting sites.

I urge ASA to reconsider the decision not to meet in New Orleans. Further, I ask you that you not publish statements about the risks of people and organizations coming to New Orleans during hurricane season since such statements are not supported by the empirical data and have the potential to harm New Orleans and its citizens.

Dennis R. McSeveney, University of New Orleans

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