From the AHA Activities column in the March 2013 issue of Perspectives on History

AHA Job Ads and AAUP Censure

Professional Division, March 2013

Periodically the AHA Professional Division receives queries about the Association's policy of indicating when job advertisements are from institutions under sanction by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). This policy has a long history in the AHA, but are we executing the policy in a way that reflects the best interests of our discipline?

The AAUP defines as its core purposes as protecting academic freedom, and "ensuring meaningful faculty participation in institutional governance." In response to specific complaints, the AAUP investigates, and, if it deems it warranted, places the offending institution under censure. For example, the AAUP might look into charges that a faculty member has been fired or otherwise punished for his or her political beliefs or research findings, or that an administration has terminated faculty for budgetary or other reasons without following established governance procedures. The AAUP will lift the censure of a college or university that has addressed, to the satisfaction of the AAUP, the particular issue investigated.

On its website the AAUP states, "Censure by the AAUP informs the academic community that the administration of an institution has not adhered to the generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure jointly formulated by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities and endorsed by more than 200 professional and educational organizations." The AHA endorsed the AAUP-AACU "1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure" in 1961, and put that endorsement into practice in 1977 by indicating the censured status of its advertisers. The current "AHA Policy Statement on Employment in Advertising" states that "The AHA accepts advertisements from academic institutions under censure by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), but clearly identifies their status." Job postings by censured institutions state that "This institution is on the AAUP censure list. Refer to www.aaup.org/AAUP/about/censuredadmins for more information." The purpose of the notice is to alert a potential job seeker to the fact that an institution is under AAUP censure, and not necessarily to discourage her or him from applying for a job there.

Some history departments believe that they are unfairly stigmatized by the notice. Among their arguments are the following, depending on the circumstances: The original offense did not involve the history department, but rather some other unit of the institution. The original offense, though not resolved to the satisfaction of the AAUP, took place many years ago. The principals involved in the case are no longer at the institution, or perhaps no longer living.

In fact, the AHA recognizes no statute of limitations on these cases; in other words, as long as the institution keeps in place certain policies deemed contrary to the AAUP's standards of academic freedom and/or faculty governance, or otherwise fails to rectify the root cause of the original complaint, the censure stands, and so too does the AHA notice.

Proponents of the notice counter that, in this difficult job market, job seekers will be deterred only infrequently—if at all—from applying to a history department that is part of an institution under AAUP censure. Some argue that, as an organization that has endorsed the principles of academic freedom and tenure as defined by the AAUP, the American Historical Association has an obligation to its members to alert them to the fact of AAUP censure; in these perilous times of assaults on tenure and draconian budget cuts, the AHA must uphold the standards outlined by the AAUP and the many other professional organizations that have endorsed those standards. In this view, the notification serves a useful purpose; it is an incentive for any institution to resolve issues for which it has been sanctioned. In other words, the stigma associated with the notice is entirely appropriate.And there is an added complication. Of course, departments are free to take their job ads elsewhere, and post them with organizations or on sites that do not mention AAUP sanctions. However, the AHA seeks to serve its members by listing as many job postings as possible in an open and transparent way. By discouraging certain postings, for whatever reason, the association risks publishing only an incomplete list of employment opportunities in the discipline.These arguments raise a number of questions related to possible changes to the advertising policy: Should the "AHA Policy Statement" be revised to note that the AHA includes the notification whether or not the history department was implicated in the original offense? Should the notice accompany a job ad if the history department of the censured institution played no role in the original offense? If the principals involved in the case have all passed from the scene? If the offense was 20 or 30 years ago? Even if no resolution is in sight? The Professional Division welcomes members' comments on this policy.

Questions for the Professional Division?

The AHA Professional Division invites your questions for a forthcoming column on professional issues and professional ethics. Quandaries, conflicts, and dilemmas that arise in research, teaching, writing, publishing, and departmental politics are welcome. Anonymity will be preserved, if so desired. Send your questions for the Professional Division with the subject line "PD Column."

The AHA's Professional Division is Jacqueline Jones, vice president (Univ. of Texas, Austin); Sara Abosch (Dallas Holocaust Museum/ Center for Education & Tolerance); Mary Louise Roberts (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison); Andrew J. Rotter (Colgate Univ.). AHA Deputy Director Robert Townsend contributed to this article.