Professional Division 2005

By Anthony Grafton

In the last year, since the Professional Division withdrew from efforts at adjudicating particular cases, its members have concentrated on making the structure of the profession more transparent and on formulating clear, accessible standards for conduct. Though our documents are directed at all members of the profession, and at all ranks, we have paid special attention to clarifying the duties that chairs, department officers and senior faculty owe to those whom their actions affect, and to affording greater transparency and better information to those who are making their way up the professional ladder.

To further this end, individual members of the division have drafted, and the division as a whole has reviewed, documents for publication in Perspectives and on the web about the search for jobs, both in the governmental world of public history and in colleges and universities; about transparency in presenting the likely outcomes of graduate study in particular departments; and about the tasks and duties of chairs (for which we were able to find excellent resources already on the web). Further documents now in preparation will deal with the role and treatment of adjunct and contingent faculty in history departments; the range and nature of job interviews for historians that take place at conferences other than the AHA; the ways in which job offers should and should not be conveyed; the tenure process; and the rank of associate professor.

The division plans to pay special attention to the complex question of adjunct and contingent faculty. Working with the standing committee on adjunct and contingent faculty, it will survey their situation to examine their role in teaching and to learn about their life and work as well as to gain some sense of the directions in which this substantial segment of the profession is moving. This is a complex and demanding task, since it will be necessary to do justice to the very wide range of positions that fall under the general labels adjunct and contingent. But the general direction of change over the last three decades gives clear cause for concern. Though matters have improved in the last 10 years, the proportion of adjunct and contingent positions in the academic work force passed 40 percent some time ago, and is trending upwards in response to the economic pressures on colleges and universities. As the division investigates these matters, it will seek to inform the profession accurately about the state of affairs. Once data have been gathered, the division will seek to work with other humanities organizations to persuade colleges and universities to treat adjunct and contingent faculty fairly.

Finally, the members of the division have examined a number of matters that affect historians in their professional lives, and have found ways to improve clarity about such technical matters as the advertising of positions, to ensure that employers follow AHA principles. Since the events of September 11, 2001, the AHA and its sister organizations have found themselves called upon repeatedly to intervene on behalf of historians and other scholars who have suffered official interference in travel, research or teaching. The division has drafted a set of principles, which, after approval by Council, will appear on the AHA website, and which will state explicitly the general principles that underlie such public interventions. As usual,the division will sponsor and cosponsor a number of sessions at the 2007 meetings in Atlanta, starting with the annual session on the job search and including forums on careers in history, public history, disability history, and transparency in graduate education.

Anthony Grafton (Princeton University) is the vice president of the Professional Division.