Chapter 3: SPA Secretary-Treasurer

The secretary-treasurer (ST) is a voting member of the SPA board of directors and works closely with the SPA president and other board members to accomplish the society’s business. In addition, the ST has three major responsibilities (the details of which are outlined below


First, the ST is the main fulcrum of communication between: a., the SPA president, president-elect, and the SPA board of directors and committee members; b., the SPA board of directors and the general membership of the society; c., the SPA and the AAA; and d., the SPA and members of the public at large (including other anthropologists who may not be members of the AAA or SPA, editors and/or publishers of the society’s award winning books and publications, deans and department chairs at academic institutions, graduate and undergraduate students, and generally, with anyone with might have a question to ask the SPA). The ST uses all means of communication to accomplish this job including electronic mail, hard mail, fax, telephone, and in person communication.

NOTE: In the past five years electronic mail has become increasingly more important to the society at all levels of communication. In late 1994, only about half of SPA board and committee members were on email, whereas, by the end of 1998, all of the board and committee members were on email. By 1999, a list server was set up for communicating with and among the general membership. SPA business that used to take days or weeks to resolve by hard mail can now be addressed much more rapidly by the board, and on the whole more members, including those who reside outside of the U.S., can be active participants in the society.

Second, in conjunction with the SPA president and board of directors, the ST plans and submits the annual budget to the AAA, and receives and monitors a monthly budget report sent out by the AAA. The ST is also responsible for gathering reimbursement requests from those who may require them and submitting these requests in writing with appropriate documentation to the AAA.

Third, the ST is the main historian of the society and has the responsibility of keeping and maintaining all records (in both hard copy and electronic form) for the society. The records include (among other items): minutes of the society’s board and business meetings, lists of the society’s present and past board and committee members with their terms of service, brief progress reports from board members on their various tasks, and lists of the society’s various prize winners.


The ST is appointed by the SPA president and board of directors, and generally serves a four year term in office. Unlike other appointed SPA board positions, the SPA bi-laws permit the SPA board to reappoint the same person to serve a second, consecutive four year term should the board decide to do so. During the course of the term, the ST will work with three SPA presidents. (The first year of the ST’s term will be the final term year of one president; the second and third year’s of the term correspond to a full term of a new president, i.e., the former president-elect; and the final year of the ST’s term will coincide with the first year of another new president’s term.)

The ST assumes office at the general business meeting of the SPA held during the annual meeting of the AAA, which normally occurs in Nov. or Dec. of a year. Note, however, that the years of the ST’s term are marked or counted from the beginning of the new year, or January, but actually proceed from Nov./Dec. to Nov./Dec. four years later. There is no specific oath of office or official procedure for taking office. Normally, the new ST assumes the office after the outgoing ST has been thanked for their service and the new ST is introduced to the membership. This process could occur at either the beginning or end of the business meeting. If it does occur at the beginning of the business meeting, then it is the new ST’s responsibility to assume minute taking for the remainder of the meeting. Special attention should be paid to taking minutes on suggestions from the membership regarding upcoming topics for invited sessions at the next AAA meeting, as well as the SPA biennial meeting when appropriate.

Both the president and outgoing ST help to orient the new ST to the job. The new ST attends any SPA board meetings that are held during the annual meeting. If the board holds a meeting at the AAA prior to the ST’s assumption of office, the ST (along with other new board members and/or officers) attends the board meeting as a guest, and the responsibilities of minute taking remain with the old ST. The new ST assumes full minute taking responsibilities at their first board meeting after taking office.

There is no formal procedure for thanking officers, board members, or others who have served the SPA. However, an informal custom has developed of giving a gift to the outgoing president and the outgoing ST. Purchasing the gift for the president is the responsibility of the ST (in conjunction with ideas from the board), and purchasing the gift for the ST is the responsibility of the president. The gift does not have to be expensive, and in general, is more a token of appreciation for service. Examples of past gifts include books and jewelry, but the gift could be a plaque or any token of appreciation that is appropriate for a given person. The price of the gift can be legitimately charged to the society, and may be taken from the ST’s budget or miscellaneous funds.


Monthly Ongoing Tasks:

  1. Monitor SPA budget as reported from the AAA. Simply review the document and make sure everything seems in order, and no mistakes in accounting have been made. Call anything that looks odd to the attention of the president, who also receives a copy of the monthly budget report.
  2. Answer any letters or inquiries that are received. Depending on how these are received, they may be answered by hard mail or email.
  3. Perform any tasks the president requires in preparation with the SPA biennial meeting.

January — February

  1. Prepare a directory of all SPA officers, board members, and new committee members that includes names, addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses, and term designations. (This information is usually gathered from appropriate persons at the AAA meeting in Nov./Dec. of the preceding year.) Send copies to all persons on the directory, and to the AAA. It is the joint decision of the president and ST whether these should be hard mail or electronic copies. Send an electronic copy to the SPA-Web site manager for posting. Establish an email list for board members, and perhaps separate email lists for committee members.
  2. Write (hard copy) letters to outgoing board members and committee members thanking them for their service to the society. Inquire whether they might need a letter to their deans or chairs reporting their service to the society, and write letter if appropriate.
  3. Write letters welcoming new board and committee members to the society that explain their terms of service and their responsibilities. Include the directory, the SPA bi-laws, and any other relevant information they may need to do their job, such as copies of the standard prize announcements (if they are on a prize judging committee, etc.), and committee work requirements. Ask board and committee members to keep in close touch and to report their whereabouts should they have plans to leave the country for fieldwork especially during vacations or sabbaticals.
  4. Contact the SPA-AN editor at the beginning of Dec. or at the latest the beginning of January to make sure prize announcements are planned for the SPA column. Copy usually must be submitted six weeks prior to publication. The latest for prize announcements to appear is the Feb. issue. (although they can also appear subsequent to Feb.).
  5. Contact the SPA Program Committee for the AAA annual meeting, and make sure they are in the process of soliciting proposals and abstracts from SPA members for the AAA annual meeting. Keep in close touch with this committee, as they will have to submit proposals to the AAA for SPA invited, organized, and volunteered sessions during the March-April period in line with AAA deadlines. It is the responsibility of the Program Committee to submit appropriate paperwork to the AAA in accordance with AAA deadlines.
  6. In conjunction with the SPA president, submit appropriate paperwork to the AAA for nominations and elections to the SPA board. This generally occurs on an every two year basis when elections for president-elect and two board members are held. Incidentally, the AAA has noted that candidates who submit pictures with their paperwork have a better chance of being elected than those who don’t.
  7. Contact the Ethos Editor/s and remind them of the names of new board members so that the title page of Ethos with SPA information can be appropriately changed in a timely manner. This can be done when the Ethos editor is sent their copy of the new yearly directory or separately.

March — April

  1. Begin preparations for the AAA meeting according to the schedule set by the AAA, and in conjunction with the SPA president. It is the ST’s responsibility to fill out AAA forms for the society requesting special events scheduling and to return the form to the AAA. These events include scheduling all board meetings (normally, either one or two) and the annual business meeting held during the AAA meeting. When two board meetings are held during the AAA meeting, the usual schedule is: board meeting, general business meeting, board meeting.
    1. At the time of scheduling these events, the ST also needs to order refreshments for the board meetings (appropriate for the time of day the meeting is held, and can include breakfast, lunch, or dinner charged to the society), and to decide in conjunction with the president whether to order a no host bar for the general business meeting. (Note: for many years the society did have a no host bar at the general business meeting, but during the presidency of Robert Munroe it was eliminated because so few members attended the business meeting that it cost more than it was worth. However, this should be evaluated on a year by year basis in light of how many members the president thinks will attend the meeting.)
    2. In scheduling events with the AAA, the ST needs to keep in mind events from other societies that may conflict with SPA events, and ask, particularly for the SPA general business meeting, that other events not conflict. Other societies with overlapping membership with the SPA include Cultural Anthropology, and the Society for Medical Anthropology. The American Ethnological Society also has a certain overlapping membership with the SPA, but they are so large, their request usually predominates.

April — May 

  1. Begin to contact the SPA prize committees; submitted papers to the Condon prize (annual basis) and to the Stirling Prize (biennial basis) are usually due around May 30. Submissions are sent to the ST, and it is the ST’s job to make sure submissions are in conformity with the current rules. The ST sends submissions (without authors names) to the appropriate committee, and monitors the committee’s progress in making prize decisions.
  2. Remind the Boyer prize committee that it is their task to establish a short list of eligible entries by mid-June.

May — June 

  1. In conjunction with the SPA president and discussions of the SPA board at the previous annual meeting (of Nov./Dec.), begin to prepare the SPA budget for submission to the AAA. The official budget for the forthcoming year is due about June 30. The budget has to include all categories of income and spending from the most trivial to the most important. These include items like the annual cost of producing Ethos, including expenses for the editors, allocation of prize monies, estimated income from membership dues and royalties, and all the regular as well as special spending that may go on in a given year. The ST does their best to estimate the cost of these expenses, and prepares the budget for submission to AAA. It is good to let the president review the proposed budget before submission, and it should actually be prepared in close conjunction with the president.

July — August

  1. During this period the ST needs to use their judgment in keeping in close touch with the SPA prize committees to remind them and press them for prize decisions. Ideally, all prizes should be awarded at the end of August or beginning of September at the latest, but this is variable. What needs to be kept in mind (and what committees need to be reminded of) is that award recipients need time to plan their trips to appropriate meetings to receive their prizes, and this has to include at least a one-month leeway time at the minimum. Remember also that some prize winners may come from overseas (or outside the U.S.) and so may need more time to plan their trips. It is an important goal of the society to have recipients at the meetings to receive their prizes, so that appropriate attention may be called to their awards. The schedule for awarding various prizes is as follows:
    1. Condon prize — awarded to an undergraduate paper every year at either the biennial SPA meeting banquet or the general business meeting of the SPA held at the AAA annual meeting. The prize includes travel funds to the meeting which the ST has to arrange.
    2. Boyer prize — awarded every year to the most outstanding paper or monograph length work in psychoanalytic anthropology, and presented at the annual business meeting of the society held at the AAA meeting. ST needs the social security number of the recipient, as well as their address to give to the AAA in order to prepare a check to be presented at the meeting.
    3. Stirling prize — awarded every two years at the banquet of the SPA biennial meeting. The ST needs the social security number of the recipient, as well as their address to give to the AAA in order to prepare a check to be presented at the meeting.

    NOTE: checks can always be arranged after the formal presentation of the award, but this is really not desirable, as it is nice to present the award recipient with the actual check for their award at the time of presentation and recognition.

  2. Toward the end of August, notify the SPA nominations committee of the need to be considering any upcoming nominations the society may need along with appropriate requirements. In election years, this includes nominations for the offices of president-elect (for which six nominations are required by the SPA bi-laws), as well as nominations for two board positions. The nominations committee should also provide the SPA board suggestions for nominations for the various prize committees as vacancies become open.
    1. General guidelines for prize committee appointments: for the Condon committee, members should have a close relationship to undergraduate anthropology education. For the Boyer committee, members should have expertise in psychoanalytic anthropology. For the Stirling committee members should be outstanding SPA members of scholarly distinction.

September — October 

This is a busy of time of year for the ST as the ST must begin preparations for the annual SPA meeting at the AAA, as well as the biennial meeting in years when that is held. The following is a general outline of what must be done.

  1. For upcoming board meetings of the SPA: prepare minutes of previous board meetings and take copies to the board meetings; in conjunction with the president, prepare agendas for upcoming board meetings and distribute appropriately before the board meeting and at the board meeting (take revised agenda copies to meetings); prepare budget report for business meeting and/or board meetings.
  2. In conjunction with the SPA president, prepare an annual report of the society’s activities to be read at the general business meeting of the society held during the AAA annual meeting and to be submitted to the AAA. The report should be prepared in accordance with any rules or requirements that come from the AAA, and should detail all of the society’s activities in the previous year including: the activities of the committees in relation to prize awards, the activities of the journal Ethos, including the number of submissions and the disposition of submissions, the activities of the program committee, the activities of the Newsletter Editor, the activities of the book board with a report on their disposition of submissions and solicitations, a report on the biennial meeting when appropriate including attendance and the program, any other activity the society has engaged in, and anything else the AAA would like included in the report. The report should be read a loud at the general business meeting of the SPA held during the AAA annual meeting, and copies should be distributed to the membership as well as submitted to the AAA.
  3. Prepare an “information directory form” to take to the board meeting and to distribute to board members. Collect any information necessary for preparing the new board directory.
  4. Write letters of congratulations to SPA prize winners informing them of the details of their award and when the award will be presented. Write follow up letters to the chairs or deans of their departments informing them of the society’s award. Also, inform publishers of book length manuscripts when this is appropriate (i.e., particularly for the Boyer Award). In addition, write letters of information to those who submitted papers but did not win awards (i.e., for Condon and Stirling Prizes).

November — December

  1. Attend the board meetings and general business meetings of the society during the AAA meeting and/or the biennial meeting. Prepare documents for distribution (agendas; directory form; minutes to board; budget report to board and membership; annual report to membership, board, and AAA; and any other necessary materials) and bring to meetings.
  2. Attend AAA treasurers’ meeting at the annual AAA meeting. This meeting is for treasurers’ of the societies and is usually a breakfast meeting held on Saturday morning (although the ST should check time) of the AAA meeting. (The ST usually receives a written letter of invitation from the AAA detailing the time and place of the meeting.) During the meeting the AAA outlines the general procedures for treasurers including the schedule for preparing the budget and requirements for requesting reimbursements.(At times the society has discussed separating the office of the secretary from the office of the treasurer, but in the past the SPA has always decided against this, primarily on the grounds that there is not enough treasury work for a separate officer. Some units of the American Anthropological Association do separate the two offices, and this may still be something the SPA would want to consider in the future, particularly should the membership of the society grow substantially.)

Summary and comment

The SPA ST, in conjunction with the president and board of directors, is involved in all aspects of accomplishing the business of the SPA and in representing the SPA to its membership and the general public. The ST does all tasks, beyond those outlined above, requested by the president and the board of directors. There are a number of specifics involved with the job, as can be seen from the preceding account (the dates of which may have to be checked against current practices and requirements). Although some of the work may seem tedious, the business of the society cannot be accomplished without the dedicated efforts of the ST, and this work is very important to the society. The main reward of the job is the opportunity not only to represent the society, but also to interact with its members and the public at large at all levels.

In the twenty year history of the society (1979 – 2001), previous secretary-treasurers have included: Richard Shweder, Sara Harkness, Susan Seymour, Carmella C. Moore, and Teresa O’Nell, among others.