March 8, 2020

To: All Persons Who Are Registered for or Who Planned to Attend the WSSA Conference in Portland, in April of 2020,

I, and the rest of the leadership of WSSA, are sure that each of you is aware that the Novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is creating much uncertainty in both the travel and hospitality industries. We also know that the rate of infection is increasing very rapidly, now through community contact, with unknown vectors. Additionally, the virus is creating significant problems not only for WSSA, but for conferences nationwide. Every day we see more and more conferences canceling their events. This remains a very fluid situation; however, according to public health experts, the expected apex of community transfer of the virus will be in late March through May. The Western Social Science Association is international in both perspective and attendance; many international travelers are already being denied entry visas to the United States, and many U.S. colleges and universities are cancelling funded travel.

Out of an abundance of concern for your safety, and to avoid any risk of infection related to the COVID-19 virus, the Western Social Science Association is cancelling the face-to-face portion of its scheduled conference and moving to a published proceeding within a virtual environment.

We know that you are concerned by how this will impact you, relative to the hard work each of you put into planning your travel, the costs related to that travel, and most importantly, the work you have put into your scholarly presentations.

The details of the change to the conference are being worked out at this time. The first result of this change is that the WSSA is proceeding with a virtual conference during the first or second week of May. This should give our scholars sufficient time to prepare their presentations, whether they are papers, PowerPoint presentations, or other documents, for the published proceedings. Details on this will be forthcoming.

This leaves you, our members, with a variety of choices and decisions.

  1. First, WSSA cannot provide refunds for airline tickets or other travel costs already incurred; however, we urge that you use this letter to assist in your request for a refund. We strongly urge that, in making the request, you invoke the clause in the purchase contract that refers to the “Impossibility” or “Act of God” exception. Most airlines have and respect this policy; we have included, below, a copy of the clause found in our contract with the hotel, as an example of the kind of language that should be found in your airline ticket purchase. If the airline will not give you a refund, we suggest that you request that the airline give you credit toward future travel.
  2. Second, please go ahead with the cancellation of your guest room reservations at the conference hotel or other hotels. The conference hotel has been notified of the cancellation of the face-to-face conference.

Now to your choices concerning conference participation. Your choices are:

  1. You can request that we completely cancel your participation, with a written request to Kate Herke at, no earlier than Friday, March 20, 2020, and no later than April 17, 2020, at midnight. In that case, we will refund 90 percent of the conference registration fee. The remaining 10 percent is necessary to cover the cost of the fees charged by the credit card companies for both the original registration transaction and the cancellation transaction.
  2. OR, If you wish to participate in the published proceedings and the virtual conference, WSSA will refund a smaller amount, retaining only $50.00 to cover the cost of labor by the WSSA staff and the cost of the vendor to create and run the necessary virtual conference platform. The same timeline as the request for a refund applies As soon as our virtual conference provider has created the space, we will place a weblink on the WSSA webpage creating a portal for your submission.
  3. As you know, WSSA is a non-profit institution; registration fees are applied not only to the expenses for the conference itself but also to our significant annual fixed costs, including but not limited to scholarships, grants and awards. Instead of requesting a refund, if you wish to, we would welcome you to donate your registration fee to the WSSA. Such a donation would help to help cover the non-refundable expenses already paid out for the conference, and the fixed expenses that arise even if the conference doesn’t happen. We are fully aware that many of our members may not be able to afford this option. We respect anyone’s decision to not donate, but we would deeply appreciate your generosity, if you choose to donate. If you do decide to donate, WSSA will issue letter of thanks, noting your donation for your records. An email to Kate Herke at at any time prior to April 17, 2020 will suffice.

Finally, we are moving forward as quickly as possible to create the published proceedings and virtual environment for the conference. This will take some time, probably about a week, working with the vendor. We are also preparing for the onslaught of requests concerning your choice of options noted above. We are going to hire additional staff to speed up this process, but we need a little time to get this in place.

Again, we are very saddened at having to make this decision; however, each day brings additional news of quarantines, travel restrictions, and new hot spots of infection, particularly those with unknown vectors of community transmission

Please know that the leadership of the WSSA is committed to our mission and to serving our members. We thank you, in advance, for your patience and understanding as we work through these troubled times.

With respect,
Larry A. Gould

Larry A. Gould, PhD
Executive Director
Western Social Science Association

The Western Social Science Association (WSSA) is committed to multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship, service, and collegiality.

The Western Social Science Association advances scholarship, teaching, service, and professional exchange across the social science disciplines. The Association’s mission is to foster professional study, to advance research, and to promote the teaching of the social sciences, as well as to promote social justice, equitable treatment, and the application of due process for all peoples. Founded in 1958 as the Rocky Mountain Social Science Association, WSSA now draws on scholars and others in over 30 disciplines, or "sections," from all over the world. WSSA convenes an annual conference, publishes the Social Science Journal, a juried quarterly research journal, and the WSSA News, the association’s newsletters.