Recent legislation in the state of Florida has raised concerns among the AIChE community about whether to continue to hold the 2023 Annual Meeting and Annual Student Conference in Orlando, Florida. AIChE's professional and student membership is richly diverse, and our IDEAL statement indicates that "all who wish to be a part of the chemical engineering community should have equal opportunity to pursue and achieve success."
It is with much deliberation, consultation, evaluation, and contemplation that we will proceed with the meeting in Orlando. The meeting will include increased security and inclusion measures, along with a virtual component. The AIChE Board of Directors endorses and approves expenditures for these enhancements.
The AIChE Annual Meeting and Annual Student Conference are the premier educational forums for chemical engineers. Experts cover a wide range of topics relevant to cutting-edge research, new technologies, and emerging growth areas in chemical and related engineering. Solutions to 21st-century problems require innovation and creativity, which are accelerated through diverse teams and by ensuring that spaces are inclusive.
From a historical context, Orlando was selected as the 2023 Annual Meeting site seven years ago, and 2019 was the first year the Annual Meeting was held in Orlando. The 2019 meeting was overwhelmingly positive and successful, with attendees indicating their enthusiasm for the venue. Moving forward, our sites are contracted through 2029 with the upcoming locations of San Diego, Boston, Minneapolis, San Diego, Phoenix, and Boston. There are currently no plans to hold another Annual Meeting in Florida. In addition, a site selection task force is identifying criteria for future site selection. We also plan to incorporate contingency planning for site selection should unanticipated events occur.
To address the questions about Orlando, our Annual stakeholders identified more than 50 ideas to increase meeting inclusion and security. All options were considered and evaluated with criteria of security and inclusion, economic impact to AIChE, contractual obligations, timelines for changes, and logistics. Attending a professional conference is not only about gaining knowledge and networking but also about feeling secure, respected, and included.
The process of developing these enhancements involved holding nine listening sessions since May 17 with department chairs, student chapter advisors, volunteer leadership in Florida, our LGBTQ+ & Allies community, Operating Councils, graduate students, and other concerned members via an open invitation to all members. We are working with the Hyatt Regency, Orlando to take steps to provide a secure and inclusive environment for all attendees, and we are collaborating closely with Visit Orlando, which provides valuable resources and support for welcoming underrepresented groups. We will incorporate as many options as feasible that address two key areas:
Increased security, including a strict badge checking process, concierge service for those who require additional support, establishing an emergency hotline monitored 24/7, and providing information on local healthcare providers who prioritize non-discriminatory care.
Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion at the Meetings:
Elevating the visibility of AIChE's code of conduct and DEI efforts, daily programming related to DEI, assuring the venue will provide gender-neutral restrooms, providing a guide to inclusive local establishments outside of the venue.
Check here for frequent updates and details on these measures.
Considering the circumstances, it is important to note the positives about Orlando as a city, while acknowledging that it may not be in sync with the recent legislation passed in the state of Florida. In this regard, we will also partner with socialoffset.org to enable support of initiatives that address offsetting the effects of discriminatory legislation. Note that Orlando has been recognized for its commitment to inclusivity, earning the highest score possible in 2022 on HRC’s Municipal Equality Index.
Providing an excellent technical conference and for our attendees’ well-being are of primary importance. The AIChE professional staff and Board of Directors will continue to monitor Orlando. Thank you to all who have provided thoughtful input and for your patience, understanding, and active participation in helping find the best path forward for our organization. We will provide a conference that prioritizes security and inclusion, fosters education, promotes engagement, and delivers meaningful connections.
Darlene S. Schuster
CEO & Executive Director, AIChE