As members of the Chair Succession for the ACS Division of Chemical Education (DivCHED), we have recently become aware of concerns from members regarding the location of the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE) in Summer 2024 to be hosted at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. We want to acknowledge the concerns that members have expressed about the impact of Kentucky’s anti-choice laws and anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric. We honor that members are, understandably, experiencing a range of emotions and reactions regarding these issues. We also acknowledge that some members are facing real financial constraints if they live in a state that will not reimburse travel to Kentucky.
The bid proposal to host the BCCE at the University of Kentucky was developed more than four years ago. We thank our colleagues, led by General Chair Allison Soult, who generously volunteered their time to craft a competitive proposal and are working tirelessly to welcome the chemistry education community to Lexington, KY. We also want to recognize that the city of Lexington where the 2024 BCCE is scheduled to take place passed a fairness ordinance in 1999 and has earned a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index. As it happens in many places around the US, legislative decisions in a state are not necessarily aligned with the views of all its citizens and the ordinances passed in all its cities. Recent election results indicate that a majority of voters in Kentucky do not support extreme measures.
The identification of possible host sites, development of proposals, and site selection by the Biennial Conference Committee and the Executive Committee of DivCHED require work for years in advance of the actual conference itself. Political landscapes may change in unanticipated ways from the time a proposal is submitted and a site is selected to the time the conference is held. Contracts have been signed with the University of Kentucky. Thus, we have legal and financial obligations to the hosts that we cannot disregard. Additionally, finding BCCE hosts is not simple since these institutions assume a significant investment of time and resources in advanced planning and preparation. Biennial Conferences on Chemical Education are organized and supported completely by volunteers. Developing and hosting a BCCE is a huge, multi-year commitment for the organizers and the host site. We are grateful to the limited number of groups that express willingness to provide this service for our members.
Given the many complex and competing factors that need to be considered, we find it unfeasible to change the 2024 BCCE location. The leadership of DivCHED recognizes that we cannot resolve the current situation to the satisfaction of all our members. However, we will be working with the host institution to see if they have the capacity to offer options for virtual participation. Even though this is outside of the scope of the original contract and will require additional resources, DivCHED is committed to providing the necessary financial support if sufficient technology is available at the University of Kentucky to support virtual participation.
We value your voices and your advocacy. During this coming year, the leadership of DivCHED will be holding public discussions about ways that the BCCEs can continue to evolve to meet the needs of our members in the future and help build strong chemical education communities across the US.
DivCHED Chair Succession
Vicente Talanquer, Chair
Kimberly (Linenberger) Cortes, 2022 Chair-elect
Stacey Lowery Bretz, Immediate Past Chair
Resa Kelly, 2023 Chair-elect