SEALS has historically looked to hold its annual meetings in Amelia Island, Florida because of its northern Florida location and accessibility to many of our member institutions. A few years before its 2014 meeting SEALS, contracted with Omni to hold the SEALS 2014 meeting at Omni’s newly purchased and renovated resort in Amelia Island. However, during that meeting very serious concerns were raised regarding the fact the name of the resort contains the word “plantation” and its association with slavery. By that time, SEALS was already under contract with the Omni for both its 2014 and 2016 annual meetings, and would have faced severe penalties for breaching the contracts.
Because SEALS views itself as an inclusive and welcoming organization, and desires to make all of its constituencies feel included and welcome, SEALS has raised concerns regarding the word “plantation” directly with the resort, and urged it to drop the word “plantation.” In addition, SEALS’ Board of Trustees voted unanimously not to contract again with the resort unless and until the word “plantation” is dropped from the resort’s name. While other groups have been pushing for elimination of the word as well, any decisions regarding that issue will be made by the Omni’s national office.
In an effort to promote change, SEALS plans to send a letter to both the Omni Amelia Island and the Omni’s national office expressing our concerns, and stating our decision not to contract again until the word “plantation” is dropped from the name of the resort. We are hopeful that the word will be dropped before this summer’s meeting, and we are doing all that we can to achieve that objective, but there are no guarantees. If it doesn’t happen, we have no choice but to go ahead with this year’s meeting at the Omni because of contractual commitments and severe financial penalties for breach. We will arrange an off-site housing option for those who do not wish to stay at the Omni.
One final note: unless and until there is change, we will not contract with the Omni again. We are in the process of finalizing sites for our ’18, ’19, ’20 and ’21 meetings, and we have informed the Omni that they are not under consideration because of the name issue.
Update: On August 26, 2016, the SEALS Board sent a second letter to the Omni to explain the Board’s dissatisfaction with the local hotel’s response to our concerns. That letter is linked at the top of this page.