Update on the Adam's Mark Hotel from SAA President Hickerson

March 6, 2000

Dear SAA Members,

I am writing to you today on behalf of SAA's Council and officers to report further on issues relating to the site of the SAA 2000 Annual Meeting and allegations of racial discrimination against the Adam's Mark Hotels. First, I want to express our appreciation for the guidance provided by many of SAA members. Your comments have reflected broad understanding of the various factors germane to our deliberations and also acute sensitivity to the ethical issues facing our organization and its members. I want to express our particular appreciation to the leaders of the Archives and Archivists of Color Roundtable, Kathryn Neal and Thomas Battle, who are working closely with Council members, Wilda Willis and Karen Jefferson, to develop special programming enhancing our ability to address diversity issues in our profession. Also, SAA staff members have responded aggressively in developing new options for review and in negotiating our position with the Denver hotel. Thank you.

In reporting, Council has decided to focus only on those issues directly reflecting SAA actions and planning. At this point, many organizations are responding to issues generated by the suit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the Adam's Mark hotel chain, and conflicting reports and predictions are becoming increasingly common. I will not attempt to summarize or interpret the actions of others but will concentrate on SAA-specific information. At this point, I want to report on five areas of development: response to Council's initial proposals; the addition of a plenary speaker focusing on diversity issues in the workplace and in our organization; response by the General Manager of the Denver Adam's Mark Hotel to SAA's concerns; SAA's contract with the Denver Adam's Mark Hotel; and current developments.

Response to Council's initial proposals has been strongly supportive. While reflecting consternation, anger, and dismay, both individuals and groups presently agree that SAA should maintain its current plan to hold the 2000 annual meeting at the Denver Adam's Mark, recognizing that to do otherwise could endanger SAA's financial future. There has been enthusiastic support for plans to respond to these regrettable developments by developing additional emphasis on diversity issues, both within this meeting and in future planning. It is evident that some members are considering staying elsewhere during the meeting, and the location of alternative lodging will be broadly disseminated.

The original meeting agenda has been modified to incorporate an additional plenary session. This session is scheduled for mid-morning on Saturday, and Kathryn Neal, Wilda Willis, and Karen Jefferson are coordinating the selection of a speaker. They have concluded that an expert on workplace and professional issues will be a more valuable contributor to our proceedings than a speaker addressing societal issues broadly. They have identified several leaders in the field, and we hope that a final selection can be announced soon. Related developments include the scheduling of buses for a special tour of the Museum of the Black Cowboy. I am also pleased to report that Anne Thurston, executive director of the International Records Management Trust, based in London, has agreed to provide our closing plenary address. In the Millennium New Year's Honours List, Dr. Thurston, was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for "Services to Public Administration in Africa". Her comments on the challenges of modern record-keeping in Africa and Asia will expand our understanding of the archival endeavor in developing countries.

Negotiations are being conducted with the general manager of the Denver Adam's Mark, Andre van Hall, by Susan Fox and Debbie Nolan, SAA's executive director and meeting planner. In recognition of the difficulties being faced by SAA and as a sign of good faith, Mr. van Hall has agreed to the following:

  • To donate the costs of lodging during the Annual Meeting for the winners of the Harold T. Pinkett Minority Student Award and the Oliver Wendell Holmes Travel Award for Overseas Archivists to Attend the SAA Annual Meeting;
  • To pay the cost of a mailing to all SAA members a letter from me explaining this situation and SAA's actions, accompanied by a letter from Mr. van Hall assuring fair and equal treatment to all guests;
  • To sponsor the SAA tour of The Black American West Museum and Heritage Center.

Negotiations are continuing.

Members have requested knowledge of the financial details of SAA's contract with the Denver Adam's Mark Hotel and potential penalties. SAA typically picks up approximately 3,000 room nights at an annual meeting. If we do so, there is no charge for the use of meeting spaces throughout the meeting. Following are the meeting room rental fees if we do not make our room block:

  • If we pick up 2,194 room nights or more the meeting space is complimentary;
  • If we pick up 1,901 - 2,195 room nights, the rental is $13,000;
  • If we pick up 1,609 - 1,900 room nights, the rental is $18,000;
  • If we pick up 1,315 - 1,608 room nights, the rental is $23,000; and
  • If we pick up 1,315 room nights or less, the rental is $41,000;

This is a lenient attrition penalty clause. If SAA cancels the meeting, however, we are liable for 3000 room nights times the average rate, $100, which would mean an approximate penalty of $300,000.

In conclusion, I will report on two recent developments of significant import. The NAACP has called for a national boycott of the Adam's Mark Hotel, requesting that its members and other organizations withhold business from the Adam's Mark Hotel & Resorts chain amid allegations of racial discrimination. It has also been reported this past week that the HBE Corp., the owner of the Adam's Mark Hotels & Resorts, is seeking a settlement in the racial discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice and that it had submitted a proposed agreement. SAA Council is actively monitoring these developments and many others. SAA's leadership and members care greatly about these issues, and our actions will be significantly influenced by the judgements and actions of others, but we must also strive to focus our attention on the answers that are right for SAA and its membership.



H. Thomas Hickerson
SAA President