September 23, 2021 – In light of our recent announcement to keep the 2021 SHPE National Convention in person, we think it is important to reiterate SHPE’s intentions and priorities.
Our number one priority is, and always will be, the well-being of the Familia as a whole. We care deeply about the health of our members, the ongoing pursuit of our critical mission, and the future stability of the organization. Some could argue, the world needs the unique brilliance of Hispanics in STEM now more than ever, and we will not do anything to put that into jeopardy.
The National Convention is so much more than a big, splashy gathering. As a flagship event, it is our mission embodied. It connects thousands of our members to future employers while equipping them to succeed once hired. It is no exaggeration to say it is both life-changing and world-shaking. As far as our mission is concerned, the National Convention is not an elective.
Since “the show must go on,” so-to-speak, we are singularly focused on keeping our members safe. With guidance from the CDC, the proven effectiveness of the vaccines, and the scientific consensus over basic safety precautions, we are confident our Familia can stay healthy while we stay in-person as planned.
Here are a few facts we took into consideration when making this decision:
- Over 90% of our registrants as of now are vaccinated. This is an enviable statistic for any event and demonstrates the incredible reverence our SHPE membership has for science and public health.
- Masks work, and they will be required in all indoor spaces.
- Social distancing will also be facilitated in all workshop and session rooms.
- Disinfecting of workshop rooms in-between sessions and overnight electrostatic cleaning of rooms will happen throughout the entirety of the week.
- Traffic flow and room capacity will be carefully managed and monitored.
- The additional extensive steps being taken by our Convention Team can be reviewed on our website, under “Safety.”
Additionally, we want to remind everyone that due to the considerable size and length of this event, our venues are chosen up to four years in advance. In fact, our contract with the Orange County Convention Center was signed in April 2017, long before the word “pandemic” became a household concern. This is just to say, Orlando was not selected as a locale for any reasons having to do with COVID-19 and subsequent state policies (or lack thereof). It just so happens that Florida is the location for this November.
Obviously, no one is thrilled with trends occurring in Florida and across the U.S. with regards to COVID. But after working with the Convention Center staff over the past year, we couldn’t ask for a more concerned, considerate host. They have gone above and beyond to offer and accommodate our extensive safety protocols. We truly do feel secure in their hands.
Lastly, you might be asking why we don’t just move the Convention to a fully virtual platform, like we did last year. Well, if you recall, in 2020 both the venue and our suppliers allowed us to rescind our contract at no cost due to the National Emergency. But this year, because Florida is emphatically open for business, canceling would mean losing over 50% of our event budget. Additionally, trying to go virtual at this time would cost us upwards of $1 million. This would put a significant strain on the organization financially and could take us years to recover. So, while this isn’t the main reason for our overall decision, it would be irresponsible to not consider its impact.
We believe in science. And it is because of, not in spite of, science that our 2021 National Convention is possible. This was not an easy nor a simple decision. But we think it is the right one for the overall well-being of our SHPE Familia.
See you in November,
The SHPE Board & Staff