AHA Advocacy 2020

  • ACLS Joint Statement on the Key Role of the Humanities (August 2020)

    The AHA has signed a joint statement authored by the American Council of Learned Societies on the key role of the humanities during the COVID-19 crisis. Offering “an urgent reminder of the vital contribution made by the humanities and social sciences to the public good,” the statement, signed by many societies as well as the leaders of academic organizations, libraries, and research centers across the country, urges universities to avoid making devastating cuts to humanities programs. Instead it calls on leaders of all institutions of higher education “to uphold the central importance of the humanities and the social sciences as you make important decisions that will shape the institutions under your stewardship for years and perhaps generations to come.”
  • AHA Letter Registering Concern over Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice (September 2020)

    The AHA recently sent a letter to the Québec Ministry of Culture in regards to the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice archive and library in Montréal. The AHA expressed “grave concern for the future preservation, maintenance, and accessibility” of the historically significant archives and collections at Saint-Sulpice, following the recent firing of the professional staff charged with overseeing these collections.
  • AHA Sends Letter in Support of Women's History Museum (September 2020)

    The AHA has sent a letter to Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) expressing support of S.959, the Smithsonian Women’s Museum Act, which would authorize the creation of a National Women’s History Museum as part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. “The AHA is proud to support this bill,” the letter states, “and in the process affirm the central role women have played in the shaping of American history.”
  • AHA Statement on Department Closures and Faculty Firings (July 2020)

    The AHA issued the Statement on Department Closures and Faculty Firings urging administrators to “respect the established principles and procedures of faculty governance and consult with faculty from all disciplines at their institution” before making budgetary decisions. The AHA emphasized that “history education must retain its vibrancy and institutional integrity” and that closing or decimating history departments “comes at immense cost to students and to colleges and universities themselves, and to society as a whole.”26 scholarly societies have cosigned this statement.
  • AHA Issues Statement on the Recent "White House Conference on American History” (September 2020)

    The AHA has issued a statement on last week's “White House Conference on American History” deploring the tendentious use of history and history education to stoke politically motivated culture wars. As of October 14, 46 organizations signed onto the statement.
  • AHA Signs onto Comments Opposing DHS/CBP Proposals Permitting Records Destruction (September 2020)

    The AHA has recently signed onto two comments posted to the National Archives and Records Administration website in response to a proposed records schedule that would classify a set of Customs and Border Patrol records as "temporary," which would allow their destruction in as quickly as four years.As proposed, the Department of Homeland Security would be permitted to destroy "records developed to track and monitor complaints that are or will be investigated by DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties regarding alleged violations of civil rights and civil liberties." The proposal also includes only 25 year retention for additional records that include documents related to sexual assaults in prison. These records are comparable to the schedules identified in a lawsuit filed in March by the AHA along with the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. As is often the case with records schedule retention policies the issues are complex, even arcane. Historians have the professional authority to argue for longer retention because of the value of such records for historical research.
  • AHA Signs onto Amicus Brief in Ahmad v. Michigan (October 2020)

    Along with the Association of Research Libraries and other partners, the AHA has signed on to an amicus curiae brief in the Michigan Supreme Court case Ahmad v. University of Michigan concerning “the use of a public records request to circumvent a deed of gift” of private papers to the University of Michigan Library. The brief asserts that an early release of the papers, which would violate the deed of gift, would set a dangerous precedent resulting in individuals destroying their personal papers rather than making them available to historians and other researchers.
  • AHA Urges Retraction of Executive Order Prohibiting the Inclusion of “Divisive Concepts” in Employee Training Sessions (October 2020)

    In response to the president’s recent executive order prohibiting the inclusion of “divisive concepts” in employee training sessions, the AHA has issued a statement urging the retraction of the order because it is “neither necessary nor useful.” “Rather than banning ‘divisive concepts’ from any educational venue,” the statement explains, “historians seek to draw public attention to these concepts so that they can be discussed, debated, and ultimately challenged.” As of October 20, 29 organizations signed onto the statement.
  • AHA Issues Letter Defending AHA Member’s Right to Free Speech (October 2020)

    The AHA recently wrote to the president of Collin College on behalf of AHA member Dr. Lora Burnett, requesting that the college respect "the right of historians to express their opinions as private citizens without fear of institutional discipline."
  • AHA Issues Letter Expressing Grave Concern for Russian Historian (October 2020)

    The AHA recently sent a letter to the chairman of the Supreme Court of Karelia expressing “grave concern” for Yuri Dmitriev, a Russian historian sentenced for 13 years by the Karelian Supreme Court for what the Delegation of the European Union to Russia has referred to as “unsubstantiated” charges “triggered by his human rights work and his research on political repression in the Soviet period.” The AHA wrote to “respectfully urge the Supreme Court of Karelia to order the release of Mr. Dmitriev.”
  • AHA Endorses Senate Resolution Recognizing the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial (July 2020)

    The AHA endorsed a resolution introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren recognizing the forthcoming centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. “Everything has a history, including white supremacy and the many forms of violence, coercion, and cultural practices that have legitimated and enforced it,” said AHA executive director Jim Grossman. “What happened in Tulsa was extreme, but not unusual. It is part of our nation's heritage. We must acknowledge that heritage, learn from it, and do whatever each of us can to ensure that it is just that-heritage, rather than continuing practice.”
  • AHA Statement on Historical Research during COVID-19 (July 2020)

    The AHA has issued a statement urging universities to make a series of specific accommodations for faculty and students whose research has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Sustaining historical research during the COVID-19 crisis,” the statement argues, “requires flexible and innovative approaches to the conduct of research itself as well as to how we gauge productivity.” Recommendations include deferral and extension of research funding awards, increased access to online databases, support for research that does not require on-site research, and incorporation of virtual scholarship in professional evaluations.46 scholarly organizations have co-signed this statement to date.
  • Resolution Regarding Affiliations between ICE and Higher Education (June 2020)

    The AHA has issued a resolution acknowledging credible allegations of serious and systematic violation of human rights committed by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and US Border Patrol and encouraging higher education institutions to consult with historians and our colleagues in other relevant disciplines before entering into arrangements with both agencies.
  • AHA Letter Condemning Tenured Faculty Layoffs at Canisius (July 2020)

    The AHA sent a letter to the president and members of the board of trustees of Canisius College expressing grave concern about the college’s dramatic restructuring of academic departments, drastic reduction of the curriculum in history, and termination of three tenured faculty members. The AHA urged the college to reconsider its course of action, asserting that the college’s plan “diminishes the quality of a Canisius degree” and “identifies the college with employment practices that have no place in American higher education.”
  • AHA Signs on to AAS Statement on the 2020 Hong Kong National Security Law (July 2020)

    The AHA has joined several scholarly societies in signing the Association for Asian Studies’ Statement on the 2020 Hong Kong National Security Law. The statement expresses concern over the People’s Republic of China’s curtailment of Hong Kong’s freedom and expresses concern that such a law would inhibit academic exchange.
  • AHA Letter Opposing New ICE Obstacles to Students from Foreign Countries (July 2020)

    The AHA has written a letter to the deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement strongly objecting to "modifications" declaring that foreign "students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States." Whether driven by nativism or an agenda to pressure higher education to reopen campuses, this ruling is likely to have a devastating effect on hundreds of thousands of foreign students and the colleges and universities they attend.
  • AHA Statement on the History of Racist Violence in the United States (June 2020)

    The AHA has issued a statement urging a reckoning with the United States’ deplorable record of violence against African Americans, a record that stretches back centuries. The killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers stands within this sordid national tradition of racist violence. It is past time for Americans to confront our nation’s past, using insights from history to inform our actions as we work to create a more just society. 95 scholarly organizations have co-signed this statement to date.
  • AHA Joins Call for Further CARES Funding for Higher Ed (June 2020)

    The AHA has joined 33 other societies in a letter to Congress requesting additional relief for higher education hit hard by challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter outlined the struggles that universities, especially HBCUs; community colleges; underfunded public institutions; and tuition-dependent nonprofit private colleges have faced in the wake of this crisis, and asked for greater investments in higher education to provide for the common good.
  • AHA Statement Regarding Historians and COVID-19 (April 2020)

    The etiology of the novel coronavirus is at once scientific and historical. In a statement endorsed by several peer organizations, the AHA emphasizes the importance of historical thinking in understanding the current crisis and urges all institutions that employ historians to be flexible and humane in considering the needs of their employees and constituencies.
  • AHA Sends Letter to University System of Georgia Opposing Proposed Changes to the General Education Curriculum (March 2020)

    In a letter to Dr. Tristan Denley, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer for the University System of Georgia and chair of the General Education Redesign Implementation Committee, the AHA opposed proposed changes to the general education curriculum. The letter from the AHA asserts that the legislative requirement for instruction in the history and government of the United States and Georgia cannot be fulfilled by taking only one course, either in history or political science, and that proper instruction in history can be fulfilled only by trained historians.
  • Statement Encouraging Temporary Adjustments to Faculty Review and Reappointment Processes during COVID-19 Crisis (March 2020)

    The AHA signed onto a statement from the American Sociological Association regarding faculty review and reappointment processes during the COVID-19 crisis. The statement encourages institutions of higher education to consider appropriate temporary adjustments to their review and reappointment processes for tenured and contingent faculty, including adjusting expectations for faculty scholarship, limiting the use of student evaluations of teaching, and extending tenure timelines. The AHA also urges all higher education institutions that employ contract and/or part-time faculty to compensate fully for courses already contracted for summer and fall offerings.
  • AHA Encourages Congress to Support NEH during COVID-19 Crisis (March 2020)

    On March 19, AHA executive director Jim Grossman co-signed a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees requesting emergency funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities that would include support for historians whose income is imperiled by current conditions in higher education and other history-focused institutions, professional development relating to classroom and other historical work, and other needs relevant to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • AHA Joins Lawsuit Challenging ICE Records Disposition (March 2020)

    The AHA has joined the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations in a lawsuit against the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) challenging NARA’s approval of ICE’s records disposition, which authorizes ICE to destroy several categories of records documenting mistreatment of immigrants detained in ICE custody.
  • AHA Supports Release of Grand Jury Records of Historical Significance (March 2020)

    In connection with the amicus brief in Pitch v. United States, which was filed in September 2019, the AHA signed onto a letter to the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the United States Courts proposing a revision to Rule 6(e) to specify that the courts can release grand jury records based on historical significance. The proposed amendment would make clear that district courts have authority to order disclosure, in appropriate circumstances, of grand-jury materials of historical significance, and it would provide a temporal limit for secrecy regarding grand-jury materials that are stored as archival records at the National Archives.
  • AHA Expresses Concern over Deletion of Immigration Records (Feb 2020)

    In a letter to the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) on February 27, 2020, the AHA expressed concern over reports that EOIR had omitted close to 1,000,000 records from its September 2019 anonymized data release. The missing records include more than 1000 applications for relief filed by immigrants in the course of Immigration Court proceedings, which are not exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • AHA Sends Letter to French President Emmanuel Macron with Concerns about Unclear Procedures for Declassification of Archives (Feb 2020)

    In a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, the AHA expressed concern that the change in policy to declassify documents at Vincennes and other repositories in France has rendered many documents inaccessible. The AHA encouraged the development of a clear, efficient, and effective procedure for declassification so that historians and other researchers can access materials of ongoing public importance.
  • Response by David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States

    David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, sent this response to the AHA's letter objecting to the alteration of a photograph on exhibition and praising NARA staff for acknowledging this serious lapse in judgement.
  • Letter of Concern about Risks of NARA Policy Regarding Electronic Records (Jan 2020)

    In a letter to David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, the AHA voiced concern about the NARA policy that directs all agencies to manage all permanent records electronically by December 2022. The AHA argued that hasty implementation of the policy, with a lack of dedicated funding, will impair NARA's mission and have dire consequences for researchers.
  • Letter of Concern about the Proposed Closure and Sale of the NARA Facility in Seattle (Jan 2020)

    In a letter to Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and members of the Public Buildings Reform Board, the AHA expressed concern about the recommendation for the closure and sale of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in Seattle.
  • AHA Statement Condemning the Use of Historical Sites in Warfare (Jan 2020)

    The American Historical Association condemns the use of historical sites anywhere in the world as targets for destruction and as shields for protection. The use of historical sites in warfare is a violation of international law.
  • Letter to National Archives and Records Administration Regarding Alteration of Photograph (Jan 2020)

    The AHA sent the following letter to the Archivist of the United States objecting to the alteration of a photograph on exhibition and praising NARA staff for acknowledging this serious lapse in judgement.