Professional Division 2010

Reported by Trudy Huskamp Peterson

The 2010 annual report of the Professional Division must begin by reporting the much too early death of Vice President David J. Weber. He played a strong role in the Division far into the year, writing e-mail messages from his hospital room and chairing the Division’s spring teleconference even though his strength was clearly ebbing. The Division was fortunate to have been led by such a kind, committed historian.

The other members of the Professional Division are Trudy Huskamp Peterson, appointed vice president by AHA Council to complete David Weber’s term; Kristin Ahlberg (U.S. Dept. of State); Sarah Maza (Northwestern Univ.); and Laura Isabel Serna (UCLA). The Division has benefited from splendid help by AHA staff members Sharon K. Tune and Debbie Ann Doyle.

In the Professional Division’s Annual Report of 2007, outgoing Vice President Anthony Grafton urged the Division to “concern itself above all with questions of diversity and access.”  That focus was clearly reflected this year in the activities of a working group on public history and two special task forces, one on disability and one on LGBTQ historians, and the preparation and publication of several new or revised documents of best practices and standards.

1.  Working group and task forces 

Working Group on Evaluating Public History Scholarship. Established in June 2007 as a joint working group of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the National Council on Public History, the working group produced a report titled, “Tenure, Promotion, and the Publicly-Engaged Academic Historian,” aimed at helping departments evaluate public history work during hiring, promotion, and tenure review. All three organizations adopted the report this year; the AHA mailed copies of the report to all history department chairs with a copy for deans and administrators included in that mailing.  The report is a landmark in the development of public history in the academy.

Task Force on Disability. Established in 2008 by the AHA and the Disability History Association, the task force conducted surveys in the autumn of 2010 to assess the issues facing historians with disability when they are in graduate school, on the job market, seeking promotion and tenure, and in teaching, research and service-related activities. Separate surveys, all of which were voluntary, were directed towards department heads and directors of graduate studies, graduate students with disabilities or health conditions, and professional historians with disabilities or health conditions. The final report of the task force is expected in June 2011.

LGBTQ Historians Task Force. Established in 2009 by the AHA and the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender History, an affiliate society of AHA, the task force in 2010 completed a review of all existing AHA policy statements to ensure that they adequately address gender issues and prohibit discrimination. The task force is expected to present its final report by the AHA annual meeting of 2012.

2.  Guidelines for professional practice

The Division produced various documents on best practices in the profession. “Planning your Path to Tenure: What New Faculty Members Should Ask,” written by Sarah Maza and Elise Lipkowitz, appeared in the September 2010 issue of Perspectives on History, anda “Note on Graduate Student Health Insurance” by Leisa Mayer appeared in the October 2010 issue. Laura Isabel Serna prepared an advisory document on best practices for phone and video interviews, which was shared with the Task Force on Disability and the Graduate and Early Careers Committee and is submitted for Council review.

With the increasing number of postdocs in history, as shown by the number of postdocs advertised in Perspectives on History, the Division discussed the application process for postdocs, particularly the practice in some institutions of charging application fees. The Division recommended to Council that language be added to the AHA Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct discouraging application fees for postdocs.

3.  Other matters

The issue of childcare at annual meetings is a matter of concern to the Division. A short survey was distributed through the e-mail newsletter Fortnightly News to determine the impact of the availability of childcare on participation in annual meetings. Following the survey, which garnered 146 responses, the Division recommended to the Council that a pilot project of limited subsidies for childcare be established for the 2012 annual meeting.

Kristin Ahlberg reviewed the AHA’s existing guidelines on part-time and adjunct employment and recommended they be consolidated and revised. Assistant Director Rob Townsend reported to the Division on the status of the survey by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW) on contingent faculty members, instructors, and researchers.  Because the CAW findings may be pertinent to any revisions of the AHA guidelines, the Division postponed further work until the CAW report is available in the spring of 2011. 

Sarah Maza is working with the Committee on Women Historians on a survey to examine the disparity in time for promotion to full professor for female and male faculty.

Finally, as is true each year, the Division discussed and responded to a number of informal queries by members of the profession.