News & Press: InSider

Executive Director's Message: ICIS and Street Safety

Tuesday, September 16, 2014  

Pete Tinsley, CAE
Executive Director

As part of our ongoing recognition of our 20th anniversary (as an association) and 35th for ICIS, I am pleased to share with you a funny story that our founding president, Bill King, shared with me recently. Although not as wild and crazy as times might have been in the wild West, this shows the kinds of activities that were taking place 35 years ago to plan conferences that eventually led to the formation of AIS.  Thanks to Bill and others, those were the important foundations which enabled us to grow and expand over the last 20 years. Today, of course, we have professional staff who manage the many aspects of our conferences and thus relieve our volunteers to focus on more academic pursuits.  Together, our future is bright.

We hope that you are making plans to join us for the 35th ICIS conference in Auckland. Registration has opened and already we see strong interest with registration numbers being ahead of this time last year. Be sure to secure your hotel reservations now to avoid disappointment. And, as always, reach out to any of our staff who can assist you as you make your plans.

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ICIS and Street Safety
William R. King
AIS Founding President    

ICIS was created in 1980 at an informal meeting held at UCLA. About 30 IS scholars, many of whom previously knew each other only through phone and mail contacts that were involved in reviewing papers for journals like MANAGEMENT SCIENCE and MIS QUARTERLY (the only exclusively-IS journal at that time), met and decided to hold an annual IS conference (then called CIS).

In the early days, the site for each ICIS was determined by an informal process among these founders: several would get together and decide whose turn it was to host the conference and then ask that person to do so. When Charlie Kriebel and I were told that it was our turn to hold ICIS in Pittsburgh, we dutifully did the leg-work of contacting hotels and people to serve in various roles, prepared a budget and put together a proposal. To our surprise, when we arrived at the meeting of the ICIS Executive Committee to present the proposal, we learned that a group from New York City had  prepared a competitive proposal. (This was the first time that there had been more than one proposal considered.)

Having invested  considerable time in preparing our proposal, we  quickly went from being reluctant damsels being courted by the committee to fierce competitors. When I presented our proposal, I contrasted Pittsburgh with NYC in various ways that were  generally unflattering to the Big Apple. After we had won the competition, several people from NY gently castigated me for comparing the safety of Pittsburgh streets to those of NY, which, at that time, were well known for high levels of street crime. They felt that I had been unfair in even bringing this up. I responded by saying that everything that I had said was true and with the old adage that "All's fair in love, war and conference sites."

On the first day of the Pittsburgh conference (1987), one of our well-known attendees went for an early morning run using a route recommended by the hotel. The path took him across several of downtown Pittsburgh's many bridges.  As he ran across one bridge, he had to pass a very wide woman on the very narrow bridge walkway. In doing so, he jostled her and was rewarded with her screaming and hitting him with her umbrella; she obviously thought that she was being mugged. 

Unfortunately, a Pittsburgh police officer was also on the bridge and so our conference goer, who was not dressed in his Sunday best and  had no identification other than a hotel key, was questioned by the cop. I was awakened that morning by a phone call from the police asking me, as the conference chair who had been identified to them by the suspect, to verify that this person really was a professor attending a conference and not a mugger.

When I told the story of our colleague's run-in with the police at the opening session of the conference, the New York City delegates declared that it was fitting retribution for me after I had used street safety a one of the arguments for bringing ICIS to Pittsburgh.


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