Alvin Simmons, Ph.D.
June 9, 2020
Having both a health pandemic and a social crisis ongoing at the same time, how should the Entomological Society of America move forward?
First, the ongoing social crisis, as amplified through a sea of voices, has forced communities across the United States and beyond to reflect on the unfairness and injustice that continue to permeate the fabric of civilization. Everyone is entitled to proper respect and fairness. As reflected in ESA statement last week, “Why Black Lives Matter to Entomology,” our premier professional Society stands secure when we stand together to support all members. So, let us all stand up, uplift, and include those of African diaspora and our other members of color even though there are some within our communities who cast eyes and actions of unfairness and injustice. We should all feel comfortable calling out anything that does not reflect on us as an inclusive 21st century scientific society. And, as a starting point for understanding the experiences of Black entomologists, this week ESA has made its 2015 publication Memoirs of Black Entomologists: Reflections on Childhood, University, and Career Experiences, free to download in PDF format.
Our membership is diverse and consists of members from 87 countries. It was also 50 years ago this month that the first Pride march for equality was held in the U.S. During the month of June, I encourage you to join in the national celebration of the annual “LGBTQ+ Pride Month.”
ESA is on a path to further embrace inclusiveness in our Society; changes are moving forward, and it is essential that we continue to strive to develop our members. We now have leadership within ESA that is more diverse than at any time in our history. For example, half of the current ESA presidential line (past president, president, vice president, and vice president-elect) are women and half are of African descent. To enhance diversity and inclusion within ESA, committees such as Diversity and Inclusion, Awards and Honors Canvassing, and Leadership Development have been empowered to help our Society to become ever more of what we would like for us to be. Each subject area of entomology is unique and is appreciated; each member of the entomological community is unique and is appreciated.
In regard to the ongoing health pandemic, with the easing of restrictions in many communities across the U.S. and around the world from the grips of COVID-19, I hope that you are beginning to feel a little less stress from this health crisis. I am delighted that we were able to announce last week that the 2020 ESA Annual Meeting in November will take place in a solely virtual format. (And I thank you for your patience in waiting for the announcement.) Insects adapt to changes; we certainly can, too.
Although we will not physically meet for this event, I can assure you that the virtual 2020 meeting will be both high quality and a rewarding experience for the participants. The Entomology 2020 Program Committee is actively adapting the program to fit a virtual format. One benefit for both live virtual sessions and on-demand sessions it that we will all have “front-row seats.” Another is that, for the on-demand sessions, we can “attend” all sessions without concern of having to choose among concurrent sessions. This virtual format also removes safety and health concerns and diminishes barriers of participants (including international) to be able to attend. Consequently, this meeting will be even more befitting of the theme “Entomology for All.”
Finally, one way of letting our voices be heard is through participating in the ESA election this summer. An excellent slate of candidates has been nominated for the variety of positions that are open. The slate of candidates will be announced June 19; please keep an eye on your inbox and on the ESA website for that information, and please take a moment to vote when the election period opens. I implore you to help increase the level of participation in this ESA election as compared with the past elections. Our Society moves forward by working together and by having a common purpose: Entomology. Let us all do our part to foster “Entomology for All.”
Safe and well wishes,
Alvin M. Simmons, Ph.D., FRES
President, Entomological Society of America
Charleston, South Carolina