As the 2015 East Central Writing Center Association Conference gears up this weekend, Board members want to assure all our members and conference participants that they will be welcomed at the conference, at the conference host institution (the University of Notre Dame) and city (South Bend), and at local venues, including hotels, restaurants, bakeries, stores, etc.

Despite recent, problematic legislation signed by Indiana’s governor, many citizens, businesses, and higher education institutions within the state have loudly denounced the discriminatory nature of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. ECWCA Conference attendees concerned about whether they, any members, or others will face or witness discrimination related to the RFRA during the conference should realize that prospect is highly unlikely. The city of South Bend has its own anti-discrimination ordinance, the majority of Hoosiers continue to remain friendly and inclusive, and Indiana social justice groups have, at this moment, not been able to uncover any individuals actually being refused service on the basis of the RFRA.

ECWCA members have called local hotels to ask whether anyone might be refused service based on the RFRA, and the hotel staff members have been adamant about their commitment to inclusiveness as well as highly respectful of the question. Because of our experience with local hotel staff members and because conference planners believe the South Bend ordinance will ensure the inclusiveness of local restaurants, gas stations, bakeries, stores, etc., we have not contacted additional South Bend businesses.

The ECWCA Board will also discuss adding a statement in our conference planning guide to encourage a commitment to holding our conferences in inclusive cities and states.

You should know that the 2015 conference planners, Board members, and other ECWCA members—including Indiana writing center directors—began considering appropriate responses to the RFRA, as well as strategies for ensuring ECWCA members’ comfort and civil rights, before the RFRA was passed, and we intensified our efforts once the governor signed the act. We determined the most productive response our group could offer includes ensuring that members will not be denied service by local venues and that the conference serves as one opportunity for conversation and critical thinking about ethics, civil rights, inclusivity, and positive roles for state and federal legislation.

We look forward to having one of the largest ECWCA conference yet and to your support of or questioning of our choices regarding our inclusive conference.

On behalf of the ECWCA Board, Conference Planners, Indiana Writing Center Directors, and ECWCA Members,

Kim Ballard
2015 ECWCA President
kim.ballard@wmich.edu