The Association of American Law Schools has decided to move its 2018 conference on clinical legal education from Austin, Tex., to Chicago, the association said.
“AALS has decided to make the move and will not hold any other meetings in Texas because of actions by the Legislature to discriminate against individuals seeking to immigrate to the United States and against members of the LGBTQ community,” Paul Marcus, president of the group, wrote in a letter to the mayor of Austin.
Texas, and whether to hold academic conferences there, has been a subject of debate in recent months. A recently passed law allows discrimination against LGBTQ couples seeking to adopt a child, and its strict immigration policies have drawn outcry from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Adding to the debate, California added Texas to its list of states to which state-funded travel is prohibited. That means drawing participants from public California colleges to Texas will be much harder if institutions can’t foot the bill themselves, which threatens to derail some conferences financially.
The American College Personnel Association, which is set to host its 2018 conference in Texas in March, is staying in Houston, however. The travel ban, as well as the recent immigration and adoption policies, were not yet a known factor for many academic groups when they planned their conferences, a process that often happens years in advance.
In an FAQ section on its website, the ACPA said that organizing in Houston presents an opportunity to advocate against Texas policies on the ground and serve as a resource for academics and students who are subject to discrimination.
“Our decision is based on our desire to support our colleagues in Texas and to engage in advocacy efforts alongside them,” the ACPA said on its website.
The decision of whether to leave or stay has prompted further debate among various conference organizers about the appropriate response to hosting meetings in certain states: economic boycotting or on-the-ground advocacy. The debate is sure to stick around long after 2018's conferences, however. The ACPA has its 2020 conference set for Nashville, and Tennessee is another state listed on California’s travel ban. The 2019 convention is to be held in Boston.