Recently I stepped down as co-chair of the Intertextuality in the New Testament Section. I had been on the committee for 12 years, six of which were as co-chair. That’s the maximum possible length of tenure. It feels good to pass the baton of leadership and service to Isaac Morales and David Moffitt, both excellent scholars in their own right. I’m looking forward to the sessions they and the committee will be planning in the years ahead.
To help with the transition, I gave them a month-by-month playbook of the duties of a section chair in the Society of Biblical Literature. I wrote it for them so they can plan ahead and be on top of the deadlines for the call for papers, session programming, and myriads of odd duties. My personal experience has been (this past pandemic year excluding, however, since it was atypically busy every month) is that the 2 months before the annual meeting and the January to March months following the conference are the most busy. The intervening months have tasks to be mindful of but the volume of work is not as heavy.
I thought it might be helpful for others who are considering the possibility of taking on the chair duties for the first time, and are likely to join as a steering committee member, to make the calendar of “things to do as co-chair” available for rising scholars and even mid-career folk. As I shared in a previous post, it’s much work but I learned so much and I found the experience invaluable.
Read below to see what you’re getting into as a co-chair and steering committee member. Enjoy!
Calendar of “Things to Do” as Co-Chair
Nov-Dec: Right after SBL is over (late November through December)
- Don’t forget to record the number of attendees per session at SBL; you’ll need the record for renewing the section every 6 years
- The call for papers opens in early January. For those who use social media, please advertise the call for papers of our session. It is very effective to drawing in more proposals. In the past, it has just been the chair who has done this but if the whole committee tweets/facebook posts any announcements, the more, the better
- While there is a due date sent by SBL in mid-December, technically, the chairs can modify the Call for Papers up until the last minute online through the website
- Finalize whatever was discussed in the business meeting and compose the call for papers for the next SBL annual meeting
- Prior to the public opening of the call for papers in early January, upload the call of papers on the SBL website
- The call for papers (CFP) will close sometime early March
- The closer the date of the CFP, the more the chairs will receive inquiries from potential presenters and full papers from fulltime presenters. Be sure to keep track of the full papers and communicate with the other chair so things don’t get lost
- Remind the steering committee to create space in their calendar that right when the call for papers ends, they need to devote that week to reading the proposals and voting on the proposals right away
March (Timing is of the essence this month; being late on anything below has consequences)
- The moment the call for papers end, the night of, or the immediate morning after, organize all of the proposals into a MS word document to send to the committee members. There is now a button where you can click it and the website will automatically collate all the abstracts/proposals for you so you can copy and paste them easily into your MS Word doc. You no longer have to copy each abstract individually any more!
- Immediately send out the abstracts to the committee members. Give them 3-4 days to deliberate. They should be expecting to devote these days to reading proposals since you reminded them of it in Feb.
- Tally up on the votes. Usually there are ties in points and you have to correspond with the committee to decide which to accept
- Accept/reject/wait — Once the committee decides on the papers, immediately go online to the SBL website and go through all the proposals and accept or reject the paper. You’ll see the status button under every abstract listed. BE AWARE: as soon as you change the status of a paper, immediately and automatically the website sends out an email notifying the presenter that his/her paper is rejected or accepted. Be careful because it creates much grief if you have to email the person and apologize for a mistake that was made
- Organize the accepted papers into the sessions planned for November
- You have to decide who will chair each session; don’t forget to schedule the business meeting for the 1st session
- SBL has some sort of deadline for session planning. I forget exactly when but the online program goes up sometime in July-August so the chair needs to input all the sessions into the SBL website prior to the public debut of the SBL annual programming online
- If you have an invited plenary session, about this time you’ll reminder the paper presenters of the due date to submit their papers so the respondents have time to read their papers (usually this is set in mid-October; you want to give the respondents at least 4 weeks)
- Not this year but next: if you have a plenary session planned for the following year (one year from the upcoming Nov meeting), ideally, before SBL, you invite one year in advance the plenary speakers. The earlier, the more likely they will not commit to speak for another session. It’s a bit tricky but in October and September is the best time to invite presenters, respondents, and panelists for the following year. If you wait until after SBL, then you might lose a potential presenter to another section that invites them first
- Make sure all the plenary papers have been submitted and sent to the respondents. Keep a copy of the papers for a record
- Remind the committee of when the 1st session is and that there will be a mandatory business meeting right after the 1st session
- Before SBL: write an agenda and email this out to the committee members
- Use social media to advertise the sessions
- After SBL: get the tally of attendees
- It’s late and should have been done in Sept/Oct but if you have not invited the plenary speakers for the invited paper session for next November, do it now before you lose them to another section
*** repeat the calendar from the top ***
Long-Term Term Tasks to Keep in Mind
Section Renewal Every 6 Years
- The Section term is 6 years before the co-chairs have to file a petition to renew the section
- About 6 months before the annual meeting of the 6th year, the chairs should plan to write out the application to renew the Section for another 6 years
- You will need to get letters of reference from other Chairs of other Sections. Usually, any sections with whom we planned joint sessions in the past are good candidates to ask for letters: Hebrews Section, Intertextuality and the Hebrew Bible, John’s Apocalypse in Cultures Ancient and Modern, and so on.
- The current chair should have all the files which the outgoing has. Always pass down the previous term’s application to any new co-chairs so they can use it as a template for their section renewal
Every 5 Years Publish a New Volume of Essays
- Every 5 years or so, the Intertextuality in the New Testament section publishes a volume of essays choosing some of the best papers read in the past 5 years and inviting a select few to contribute fresh essays
- Past volumes have been:
* Volume 1: Exploring Intertextuality, edited by BJ Oropeza and Steve Moyise in 2016
* Volume 2: Practicing Intertextuality, edited by Max Lee and BJ Oropeza for 2021
* Volume 3: edited by the then co-chairs and should be organized in 2025 for a 2026 debut publishing date
Every 2-3 Years Remind Current Members of Steering Committee Term Limits
- Steering committee members can remain on the committee for a maximum of 6 years
- A steering committee member after 6 years (two 3 yr terms) of service can only remain on the committee at this point if he/she steps into the co-chair position (a 3yr term that is renewable once for another 3 yrs)
- Recruit new members by contacting them first by email and ideally they can attend the business meeting of our section at SBL for a committee vote on their induction to the committee
Whew! That’s about it. Thank you for taking on these responsibilities! MJL