I’m an avid reader of your blog — thanks for all your hard work! I thought I’d pass this information along to you in the event you are hearing about similar cases.
A friend of mine was supposed to come to Tokyo from the U.S. for an academic conference next week. There would be around 800 mostly North American participants — good business for hotels and lots of tourism money in general in these tough economic times. Last week, the GOJ started pressuring the host university to cancel the conference. The host, Josai University, managed to negotiate the following conditions to have the conference:
1. Detailed location/contact info for participants during conference and 10 days after
2. Temperature taken every day of the conference; those with 100.4 F given additional test and possibly quarantined
3. Fill out health declaration every day
4. Wear masks every day
5. Participants are required to pay all quarantine and medical costs
Needless to say, many did not want to attend under these strict conditions, and the conference ended up being canceled:
So the GOJ in the end got its desired result.
Anyway, while I think that of course diligence is required in containing the flu epidemic, I find it a little disconcerting that the GOJ is coming down so strictly on NJs, especially in academic activities. I’m not even sure how legal it is for the GOJ to dictate terms and conditions of their private conference.
Perhaps this one case isn’t worth mentioning, (or perhaps I’m just upset because now I don’t get to see my friend!!) but if many things like this start to happen, it might be worth examining.
URGENT — SCMS CONFERENCE CANCELLATION
It is with a very great regret that we are announcing the cancellation of the SCMS conference in Tokyo scheduled for May 21-24, 2009.
Late last week we learned that the Government of Japan and the Chiyoda District Government had requested that Josai International University cancel the conference due to concerns about containing the H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) virus. That request, and the conditions that were subsequently imposed under which the conference might occur, resulted in daily discussions among the officers of SCMS, members of the Board of Directors, the Society’s legal counsel, and representatives of Josai.
We have determined that proceeding with the conference under the conditions ordered by the government presents too many risks for our members and the Society. These include the personal risks to individual members (including possible quarantine, additional expense, and considerable stress), potential liability to SCMS, as well as pressures on the Society’s small infrastructure. Moreover, the survey conducted yesterday (564 of 748 registrants replied) indicated that almost one-third of those responding chose to withdraw from the conference. Many of those who said that they would still attend indicated that they would do so out of a sense of obligation or said that they would spend minimal time at the conference. It was also clear that some registrants who did not respond to the survey, but who communicated in other ways, were waiting for more information before making a decision.
We are extremely grateful for the efforts of JIU, on behalf of SCMS, for negotiating with the national and local governments to create conditions under which the conference could move forward. But it is clear that members felt that those conditions would not be conducive to a satisfactory conference experience. The high cancellation rate – with more likely – presented us with a depleted program rather than the robust intellectual and social experience our members have come to expect of the SCMS conference.
• You are urged to cancel your hotel reservations and flights immediately, unless you plan to travel to Japan for pleasure. You should contact your airline to arrange for credit on your airfare. We will be working with Japan Travel Bureau to reduce or eliminate hotel cancellation penalties.
• Conference fees will be refunded, or individuals may request that their registration fee be used for the 2010 conference in Los Angeles. More details will follow.
• We are working on plans to retain as much of the Tokyo conference as possible as a part of our Los Angeles conference. We will provide more information as soon as possible.
• We will be creating a forum on the SCMS website for individuals to register their comments.
• If you have already arrived in Japan and need assistance, please contact the SCMS office staff as soon as possible. Others can expect their e-mail messages and phone calls to be answered in the order that are received as soon as the staff can respond.
This has been a severe trial for the SCMS leadership, and we realize that the uncertainty caused by this global health situation has created great confusion and anxiety among our members.
We are extremely disappointed that we have had to make this decision, especially in light of the tremendous amount of planning and work that our members, the SCMS staff, and our exhibitors committed to this conference. Again, we offer our heartfelt gratitude to the Chancellor of Josai and Josai International Universities, MIZUTA Noriko, Dean EN Fukuyuki, SHINOZAKI Kayo and the rest of the staff at JIU who generously offered his or her services above and beyond any duties, responsibilities, or obligations and on top of their already considerable responsibilities at JIU.
We are saddened that we will not be able to meet in Tokyo, but when the dust settles, we look forward to a combined Tokyo/Los Angeles conference to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, which will represent the very best of who we are and what we do.
Patrice Petro, President
Anne Friedberg, President-Elect
Stephen Prince, Past-President
Eric Schaefer, Secretary
Paula Massood, Treasurer
Scott Curtis, Member of the Board
F. Hollis Griffin, Graduate Student Representative
Michele Hilmes, Member of the Board
Priya Jaikumar, Member of the Board
Victoria Johnson, Member of the Board
Charles Wolfe, Member of the Board
Michael Zryd, Member of the Board