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2020 Cancellation FAQs

SCMS 2020 Cancellation – FAQ’s

The FAQs will be dynamic insofar as they will feature more and more information as the Home Office is able to create more infrastructure for fee refunds and, as we encounter unanticipated questions from members. We will update the FAQs as we are made aware of more questions that need answering and issues that need our attention.

Why did SCMS decide to cancel?

As the SCMS leadership monitored the worldwide developments related to COVID-19 over the past few weeks, we realized that the cons of holding the conference greatly outweighed the pros. With many countries and regions recommending self-quarantine and many institutions strongly advising staff, faculty and students to restrict travel, it quickly became evident that it would not be practical to continue with our annual conference. In addition, we felt strongly that it was not ethical to put our members at risk by holding a mass gathering that required travel from many corners of the globe and through many airports, or to make them susceptible to quarantine.  Because SCMS is a non-profit, the decision could not be made by one person or be taken lightly. The SCMS Board of Directors met in an emergency Zoom session to discuss the pros and cons of cancellation and any possible alternatives, including running the conference with large numbers of attendee cancellations or postponing. The Board of Directors decided to survey the members to get their opinions and better understand primary concerns. After examining member responses to the survey, which were majority in favor of cancellation, and after considering up to date information about the virus, as well as information about university advisories on travel and other factors, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to cancel the conference in the face of this major public health crisis. This was decided despite the enormous economic toll cancellation will have on SCMS operations.

Why cancel now and not wait until closer to the date of the conference?

The COVID-19 situation has developed rapidly over the past two weeks. While it is true that things may improve between now and April 1, most scientific advice indicates that they will not. 

To plan a conference takes a great deal of effort by a whole team of people over an extended period of time. To take this apart, as well, takes careful deliberation and consideration of the many pros and cons of cancellation. We felt that if we were to cancel, it would be best for our membership to have ample time to change plans, adjust schedules, seek refunds on plane tickets, etc. 

Why not hold the conference and allow virtual participation for those who cannot attend?

While it seems that virtual participation would be an easy solution, it is much more complex and costly than people realize. For one thing, in order to have virtual participation go smoothly, we need much greater bandwidth than our usual wifi contract. This is true even when one presenter wants to present at a live conference via Skype or Zoom. With the likelihood of hundreds trying this, the system would be overwhelmed. The only way to make it work would be to keep full registration fees from those presenting virtually, and, even then, the costs would be well above the income. Another reason is that we could not guarantee that there would be people physically in rooms – an entire panel presented virtually would have no one to handle equipment. Further, we would not be able to set up a system whereby people could watch sessions virtually, other than during their own Zoom or Skype presentation, so it would create a one way conversation and detract from the interaction of a conference. Finally, if a large number of people did not attend, we would not meet the requirements of the hotel to use a certain number of rooms and thus we would breach our contract, losing a great deal of money.

Why not postpone and hold the conference later this year?

There are very few hotels in the U.S. able to host such a large event. And with such large numbers, it would be difficult to find a time that would work for all our attendees. Even if the current hotel could accommodate us at a later date, we do not know when concerns over COVID-19 will make travel palatable for members. This makes it practically impossible for SCMS 2020 to be rescheduled later this year. 

Will paid attendee registrations be refunded?

All conference registrations will be refunded in full to all registered conference attendees. Click here to read the complete policy.  If you would like to 1) transfer your SCMS 2020 registration fee to SCMS 2021 in Chicago, or 2) donate your registration fee to the General Fund to assist SCMS in offsetting the significant cancellation expenses, please see this page for information about how to do so.  Please use our response form if you have additional questions.

How will registration cancellations affect SCMS? 

Despite the fact that SCMS staff will work with the hotel and vendors to mitigate our expenses, the Society will nevertheless suffer substantial financial losses. Therefore, we encourage those members that are financially able to consider donating their registration fee rather than requesting a refund. We greatly appreciate you considering this option at this difficult time.

What happens if I defer and my newly proposed paper isn't accepted next year, can I still request a refund at that time? 

Because acceptance is not guaranteed, if you opt to propose a new paper for next year, we would advise you not bank your registration from this year, as it will be difficult for us to process 2020 refunds after the acceptance period for the 2021 conference. We would kindly ask that you request a refund or donate your registration costs.

Can I also receive a refund of my Membership dues?

Unfortunately, no. Membership dues are non-refundable as they are what support the ongoing operations and initiatives of the organization. For new members who recently joined, please take a moment to review the additional benefits offered with your SCMS Membership.

Will attendees and exhibitors be refunded for airline tickets?

Unfortunately, SCMS is unable to refund attendees and exhibitors for any airlines tickets purchased.  Please contact your airlines as soon as possible to inquire about refunds/cancellation policies. Here is a list of COVID-19 Flight Waivers and Refund Policies by airline. 

I want to rebook my flight for the 2021 SCMS conference. What are the dates and location of the meeting?

SCMS 2021 is scheduled for Chicago, Illinois at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park from March 17-21, 2021.

I am a travel grant recipient. How can I handle the airline ticket?

If you have made your reservations, please arrange for the cancellation of the airfare. A letter regarding cancellation can be found here and can be sent to secure a refund of the airline ticket purchase. Should you incur penalty costs or cannot obtain a refund, please fill out this form.

Can I transfer my travel grant to 2021?

Unfortunately, travel grants are non-transferrable to 2021.  SCMS offers these grants on a need-based system and we understand the needs of our membership change yearly.  Should any travel grant recipients have penalty costs or incurred travel expenses and cannot obtain a refund, please fill out this form.  The Society will honor your grant, not to exceed the amount awarded.

How should we handle cancelling our hotel reservations?

Individuals should cancel their individual hotel reservations. SCMS will also cancel hotel blocks at the main conference hotel as well as the overflow hotels. 

If you booked through Room With A View (our overflow service), you should receive a cancellation confirmation via email from your selected overflow hotel within 24 hours of our notice of cancellation. If you don’t receive one, please email

If your reservation was made outside of the SCMS room block via a travel site or at another hotel, you must cancel your individual reservation directly with the hotel or the specific booking site. 

Will exhibitors be refunded?

Yes, SCMS 2020 exhibitors will receive a full refund for all exhibit reservations. Some exhibitors have expressed their desire to transfer their reservation to SCMS 2021. Exhibitors and advertisers will receive a separate follow-up email outlining the exhibit and advertiser refund policy. Please contact if you have additional questions. 

How does this affect cancellations made prior to the initial SCMS Coronavirus announcements?

Individuals incurring cancellation fees prior to the updated refund policy in connection with COVID-19 will receive a refund of the remaining 20% in administrative fees. Refund requests can be made here.

Will we be able to present the same papers next year?

If your entire panel/workshop/roundtable wishes to go ahead and present the same panel/workshop/roundtable next year, you may resubmit and be automatically accepted. We will have a way to identify those resubmissions. If your panel does not want to go forward, but you wish to resubmit your individual paper, we will automatically accept those and place them with other open call papers for new panel formations. If you choose to resubmit, you may not submit any other proposals. As usual, you may only do one role – panelist, chair, workshop presenter or roundtable presenter – at the 2021 conference. You will need to renew your membership whether you are resubmitting or offering a new proposal.


What if I do not want to give the same paper next year?

If you do not want to present the same paper, you are not obligated.  You may wish to submit a new proposal for new work. In the meantime, please feel free to share your paper with your fellow panelists, or arrange a Zoom meeting where you can discuss papers with your panel. We hope that you can engage in conversation about your work even without the official conference. For those wishing to host their panels online, SCMS will provide a Forum where people can publicize their topics, times and locations.


What happens to my seminar?

Since seminars have already begun exchanging materials, we think it makes sense for seminar members to find a way to have a discussion on their own, rather than hold the seminar next year. You may wish to have a conversation by email, or have a Zoom meeting of all participants and auditors. While we normally avoid having seminar chairs repeat from year to year, if you were scheduled to chair a seminar this year, you will be eligible to propose a new one on a different topic next year. You will not be guaranteed acceptance, however.


How should I record my participation in SCMS20 on my CV?

If you are a presenter, we would recommend that you enter the following: “Paper Title," Society for Cinema and Media Studies, Denver 2020. Paper accepted, conference canceled due to COVID-19.

If you proceed with a virtual gathering of your panel, we suggest this: "Paper Title," Society for Cinema and Media Studies, Denver 2020. Paper accepted, conference canceled due to COVID-19. Paper presented via virtual panel gathering on Zoom [or other platform], [month] 2020.

I am coordinating a Caucus/SIG meeting or event at the conference and have incurred expenses. Will I get reimbursed for things we had planned?

Please cancel any events that you’ve planned. Many businesses and vendors will cooperate if you explain the cancellation of our conference due to the virus epidemic. Please conserve funds wherever possible. If, however, your SIG or Caucus has given an award, we will honor that. If you made a travel grant and the recipient was only able to get a partial refund, again, we will honor the grant. Reimbursements will have to be processed on a case-by-case basis and we are still defining how we will go about all of it. Please be patient with us and check back in a couple of days for additional information. 

I was awarded a dependent care grant. Will I still be able to collect those funds?

If you have already purchased airfare or made lodging arrangements based on your grant, please try to secure a refund (try to cancel them for a refund). If you incur penalty costs or cannot cancel, please fill out this form, the Society will honor your grant, not to exceed the amount awarded.

I won an award.  What happens to that?

You will receive your award by mail. We will make sure to include your names and prizes in the conference program next year and to make mention of you at the 2021 Awards Ceremony. 

How is the SCMS home office staff coping with and responding to the cancellation of the conference? 

Our staff is quite small (3 people in the home office and 2 contractors), which means it will take some time to work through the logistics, finances, corporate communications, and other details involved in cancelling a large annual event in the midst of a global pandemic. We appreciate your patience, kindness, and understanding.

Contact Us

Society for Cinema and Media Studies
640 Parrington Oval
Wallace Old Science Hall, Room 300
Norman, OK 73019
(405) 325-8075