Erik St. Martin
May 27, 2022 3 min read

Important Conference Announcement

You may have noticed that the team at Gopher Academy has been unusually quiet lately. In April, we contacted the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort to discuss the cancellation of our conference at their property. This has been an intense and complicated process, so we wanted to take the time to share what led to our decision and plans moving forward.

When we contracted with the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in 2019, our team was excited to sign a multi-year agreement with their property because Gopher Academy wanted a family-friendly destination for our attendees. At the time, we couldn’t think of a better location for Gophers and their families to gather. None of us could have predicted what the next few years had in store for all of us and how Florida’s government could not have made that thought any further from the truth.

The nonchalant manner in which the state responded to the pandemic left us and many community members feeling very uneasy about convening in Orlando. In light of this, last summer we asked the hotel if we could move our 2022 dates to a future year, in the hopes that conditions would improve, but the hotel responded with a decisive “no”. With contractual obligations in place, we continued our focus on creating the safest environment we could for the Gophers who still chose to attend. Unfortunately, over the course of the past several months, it has become apparent that Florida no longer represents the safe and family-friendly destination we envisioned when we first selected the location.

As you are likely well aware, on Monday, March 28th, Governor DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, and on April 14th, a law banning abortion at 15 weeks was enacted. In light of these recent events, Gopher Academy can no longer support the notion of convening in Florida. While the financial and legal repercussions are still unclear, we feel a strong moral and ethical obligation to ensure that the location of GopherCon aligns with the values of our community.

With all this said, we are excited to announce that GopherCon is officially moving to Chicago and the beautiful Marriott Marquis at McCormick Place, an inclusive setting for Go’s diverse community. The conference will kick-off on Thursday, October 6th with pre-conference workshops and Community Day, followed by two full days of programming and sponsor exhibition on Friday, October 7th and Saturday, October 8th. We will also feature our educational talks online for our global audience, as previously planned.

While we recognize this may cause an inconvenience for some, we hope the majority of our community supports this decision. If you have booked accommodations at the resort, your room will be canceled automatically with no associated charge. We are still in the process of ironing out the logistics for this move, so once we’ve locked down the details, we will be reaching out to our scholars, current ticket holders, and potential speakers.

Thank you for supporting us in making GopherCon a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for everyone.