Dear JASNA Members,
With a heavy heart but a lightened conscience, I have provided notification of JASNA’s intention to cancel the 2020 Annual General Meeting and terminate our contract with the Hilton Cleveland Downtown under the terms of the force majeure clause. The co-coordinators of the Cleveland AGM, Jennifer Weinbrecht and Amy Patterson; Vice President of Conferences, Linda Slothouber; and JASNA’s Executive Committee concur with me in this difficult decision.
Force majeure is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary, as “an event or effect that can be neither anticipated nor controlled. It is a contractual provision allocating the risk of loss if performance becomes impossible or impracticable, especially as a result of an event that the parties could not have anticipated or controlled.
We believe the conditions presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are covered by the force majeure clause in our contract and it is impossible to hold our conference without undue risk to public health, affecting individuals who would attend, the Ohio venues they would visit, and the communities to which they would return.
In this time of massive uncertainty, it has been my job to sort through a number of probabilities and possibilities. According to epidemiologists, COVID-19 will probably circulate for another year or more, though it is possible that the level of spread we are seeing now will decline in the coming months. We can be hopeful for a treatment, but it seems certain that a vaccine cannot be developed and distributed by October. So much has changed in the last two months that it would be useless to try to predict what the situation will be in five months, but my decision has been guided by two inescapable certainties: First, that large gatherings are linked to high rates of virus transmission, and second, that the age profile of JASNA’s membership (and AGM attendees in particular) puts many of us in the high-risk category.
I’m sure you’ve read the news articles highlighting conferences, sporting events, and celebrations that were held in the early months of this year that, in hindsight, clearly should have been cancelled to stop the spread of the virus. None of us wants to look back and wish that we had been more careful. As president, I will not take that chance. I cannot and I will not put our members at risk.
For those who made reservations at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown, a deposit of one night's room and tax was taken at the time of reservation and will be refunded as long as you cancel your room within 24 hours of your planned arrival date.
This decision is, no doubt, disappointing news to everyone who has seen the 2020 AGM team’s promotional materials and become eager to explore Jane Austen’s Juvenilia. I am happy to say that the Ohio North Coast Region has agreed to put their AGM plans “on ice” and bring them out in a future year. We are also working to provide some virtual content during the AGM weekend. More details will be forthcoming.
On behalf of everyone in JASNA, I offer heartfelt thanks to Jennifer, Amy, and all of their team members who have worked with tireless enthusiasm to bring Austen’s juvenilia to life and show us that Cleveland does indeed rock.
Thank you for your continued understanding and support as we navigate this difficult period.
Be well, stay well.