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WSSA 2020 CONFERENCE WILL BE VIRTUAL NOT PHYSICAL, see full article for details

by WSSA Admin,
Published on March 6, 2020

The full text of this announcement can be seen by clicking "Read More", below.

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 following has been copied from the letter sent to the conference hotel:




“The performance of this Agreement is subject to termination without liability upon the occurrence of any circumstances beyond the control of either party – such as acts of God, war, acts of terrorism, government regulations, disaster, strikes, civil disorder, or curtailment of transportation facilities. – to the extent that such circumstances make it illegal or impossible for the Hotel to provide, or for the groups in general to use, the Hotel facilities.  The ability to terminate this Agreement without liability pursuant to this paragraph is conditioned upon delivery of written notice to the other party setting for the basis for such termination as soon as reasonably practical – but in no event longer than ten (10) days – after learning of such basis.”

Based upon the following information, we are invoking this clause for the following specific reasons:

  • Governmental regulations
    • Travel ban for scholars from China, South Korea and Italy as a result of the Novel coronavirus, or COVID-19;
    • Travel ban as a part of political unrest in Nigeria;
    • The as-yet-unknown extent of the negative impact of the Novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, on attendees while traveling to the conference or while at the conference;
    • Information that universities  in the United States are currently starting to restrict international travel and, in some cases, domestic travel;
    • The long incubation period of COVID-19, including the inability of government organizations to effectively test for the Virus;
    • Denial of entry to the United States for Canadians who have traveled outside of Canada in the last three months;
    • The projected denial of entry to travelers from other countries, Europeans in particular, who have traveled to an impacted country or outside of Europe in the last three months;
    • We are also aware that travel funding from many Universities is being restricted to essential travel only.  Travel to a conferences is not considered to be essential travel:
    • It is entirely possible that should an outbreak of the COVID-19 occur at our conference or in the Portland area, the attendees would be quarantined for a long period of time.
    • Acts of God
      • Novel coronavirus, or COVID-19;
      • Curtailment of transportation facilities – cancellation of flights from China, South Korea and Italy as a result of COVID-19;
      • Pandemic Hysteria leading to an abnormally high rate of cancellations due to a fear of contracting COVID-19;
      • The long incubation period of COVID-19; and
      • The increase in community contraction of COVID-19 through as yet undetermined vectors
      • Illegal or Impossible
        • Neither WSSA nor the Hotel can guarantee that attendees to the Conference will not be exposed to or contract coronavirus, or COVID-19, either while attending a large group conference or while traveling to or from the conference.
        • Time Limit

This is a very fluid issue, one in which our own government is not able to provide concrete details or answers to issues related to the impact of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.  WSSA was able to confirm the increasing trend in both cancellations and travel restrictions on Monday, March 2, 2020.  At this time, we contacted our attorney for advice and copied his response to you.