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ASLH Conference Update

For those who are considering attending this year's meeting of the American Society for Legal History but are not ASLH members, you may have missed the recent update from ASLH President Lauren Benton. We excerpt it here:

We continue to plan to hold our in-person annual meeting in New Orleans on November 4-6, 2021, and I am writing to tell you about the Society’s efforts to mitigate risks of attending the conference during the pandemic.
I first want to note that our talented program committee has developed a terrific program. Please take a moment to look through the program draft. I know you will be as excited as I am about the prospect of learning about this new research, attending the plenary lecture, and having the opportunity to catch up with legal history colleagues.
The fast-changing conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with the delta variant on a rampage, present unusual challenges. The Society places the highest priority on maximizing the safety of conference attendees. With that goal in mind, the ASLH Board has approved several important policies for the meeting, the most important of which is that attendees at pre-conference or conference events will be required to provide proof of vaccination. In addition, the Society pledges to follow CDC guidelines on social distancing and masking at the conference.
I ask that you read the information and FAQs below carefully. We are still some months away from the meeting, and conditions can change quickly. I will work with the other ASLH officers and our ad hoc committee to seek to monitor the situation, to pass along changes in mitigation measures, and to update you about the evolving nature of risks that will remain despite our best mitigation efforts. It remains possible, of course, that we will have to cancel this year’s meeting. I very much hope that doesn’t happen.
I invite you to email me directly if you have specific questions that aren’t answered below or wish to pass along any suggestions.
Thank you for your understanding and for your support of the ASLH.
Best regards,
Lauren Benton
ASLH President, 2020-2021

Further information:

Proof of vaccination

  • Registrants will be asked to provide proof of vaccination when they pick up their badges and other registration materials. Because many colleges and universities are allowing exemptions for medical or religious reasons, the Society will allow attendees who do not show proof of vaccination status to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before their arrival at the conference. Any participant with such a test but without proof of vaccination will need to wear a mask at all times.


  • The policy for wearing masks will conform to CDC guidelines in place at the time of the conference. It is possible, and even likely, that we will be requiring all attendees to wear masks at all events. Current CDC guidance is for masks to be worn by everyone attending indoor events in areas of high transmission. At present, Orleans Parish is rated by the CDC as an area of high transmission. We will continue to monitor CDC data for New Orleans Parish and keep members informed (through messages like this one and posts on our website) with regular updates about the masking policy.

Hotel and university vaccination and masking policies

  • The hotel (InterContinental New Orleans) is currently reporting that 70% of its staff have been vaccinated. We have requested that only vaccinated staff interact with our conference attendees, and the hotel has indicated that it will seek to comply with our request. Hotel management also informs us that all hotel staff will be required to wear masks. Tulane University (where the plenary lecture will be held) currently has a masking requirement in place for all events on campus. Tulane also requires vaccinations for faculty and staff.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Will I be able to cancel conference and travel reservations and receive refunds? 

  • The latest date by which ASLH meeting registrations may be canceled with full refunds issued is October 14, 2021.  Rooms at the InterContinental New Orleans can be booked at the conference rate until Thursday, October 12, 2021, and reservations may be cancelled without charge up to 72 hours prior to date of arrival (see important details about timing on the hotel website). Please check with your air carrier about their cancellation and change policies. Most airlines have adopted flexible change policies during the pandemic. The ASLH does not endorse any travel insurance policies but you may want to consider purchasing travel insurance that covers COVID-related issues.

Why doesn’t the ASLH just hold another online conference?

  • If the ASLH were to cancel its in-person conference right now, we would be required to pay very significant penalties to the hotel under our contract. The Society is able to invoke the force majeure clause of our contract to avoid this penalty only under specific conditions. Paying penalties for canceling without force majeure would shift resources away from some of the Society’s valuable programs, publications, fellowships, and professional development opportunities.

Why can’t I just present remotely?

  • While this might seem easy in theory, the technological logistics of pulling this off are complex and costly. Rooms would have to be equipped with screens, complex a/v packages, and hard-wired internet, all of which would add very significant costs. In addition, offering a remote option might encourage a majority of members to stay home, and the Society also faces penalties if we fail to meet contractual room and food and beverage minimums at the hotel. Finally, many of our members, particularly early career scholars, count on the opportunities for networking uniquely available at in-person meetings.

Will any of the content from the meeting be available online?

  • We cannot provide live streaming of any events (see the reasons above). We will post and circulate information about prizes and awards soon after the conference. We are exploring the possibility of making some limited content (perhaps one or two exemplary panels) available in audio form. Additional information will be posted as it becomes available.

How will the experience of attending the meeting differ this year?

  • We are doing all we can to make this meeting the same valuable venue for exchanging research and ideas to which we’ve all become accustomed. We do not expect masking and social distancing, if required, to interfere with panels and lectures. If masking requirements make it impossible to serve meals, we will hold the awards ceremony without food. Your registration includes the cost of the annual luncheon, so we would work with the hotel to provide attendees with box lunches if we cannot serve food.

-- Karen Tani

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