On Age Discrimination

Eric R. Terzuolo, April 2009

Editor's Note: Perspectives on History welcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should ideally be brief and should be sent to Letters to the Editor (or mailed to Letters to the Editor, Perspectives on History, AHA, 400 A Street SE, Washington, DC 20003-3889) along with full contact information. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters' contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.

To the Editor:

Thank you for publishing the AHA Professional Division’s 1996 Advisory Opinion Regarding Age Discrimination in your December 2008 issue. With a doctorate from Stanford, three books plus numerous other publications to my credit, and teaching experience ranging from small liberal arts colleges to major public universities, I nonetheless am accumulating letters and e-mails of rejection at an alarming rate, with not so much as the offer of an interview.

I am in my 50s and get the (alas undocumentable) feeling that age is hurting my chances. My case admittedly may not be representative, since I have other potential strikes against me. Having taught political science and international affairs courses, I may be carrying an interdisciplinary taint. Perhaps the 21 years I spent with the U.S. Department of State are a negative. (American colleagues, though not European ones, have been known to give me the “I know you were really a spy” treatment.)

I am convinced, however, that the issue of age discrimination in the historical profession merits more sustained attention, especially given the ever-growing number of baby boomers seeking “encore careers.” Perhaps the AHA could provide a forum for a sustained conversation among members on age discrimination, to develop a clearer picture of the situation and articulate the many diverse interests at stake.

—Eric R. Terzuolo
adjunct faculty member, University of Rome 3
Sant’ Anna School of Advanced Studies,
Pisa and John Cabot University, Rome