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Advocacy, Departments & Institutions


State & Local (US)

On December 8, 2017, the Association sent a letter to Professor Carlo Montemagno, chancellor of Southern Illinois University, articulating concern about the proposed reorganization of the Southern Illinois University’s administration that would eliminate the autonomy of the History department.

December 8, 2017

Professor Carlo Montemagno
Chancellor, Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901

Dear Chancellor Montemagno:

The American Historical Association is gravely concerned about the projected administrative reorganization of Southern Illinois University that would result in the elimination of the History department as an independent entity, and its absorption into a broader School of Humanities.  The elimination of the History department and its leadership would severely weaken the ability of historians at SIU-Carbondale to maintain their research and pedagogical standards, thus harming the practice of history at your institution.

The AHA is America’s largest and most prominent organization of professional historians, with over 12,000 members engaged in the teaching and practice of history at colleges and universities, secondary schools, historical institutes, museums, and other institutions.  Our role as an advocate for the study of history in all aspects of American intellectual life does not at all preclude support for initiatives that break down disciplinary boundaries and promote interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary work.  These are worthy goals and we encourage (and have promoted) efforts in this direction.  Interdisciplinarity is not the absence of disciplines, however, but rather their interaction.  A thing must exist and have intellectual integrity if it is to interact effectively with another thing.  Eliminating departments will weaken, not strengthen, interdisciplinarity.

Our concern extends also to the roles of the department leadership.  The AHA offers particular resources to our department chairs because of their central role in promoting and nourishing teaching, learning, and research in history.  SIU’s chair has access to the AHA’s online community of department chairs, a particularly active group that enables sharing of data, problem-solving, and conversation about issues ranging from logistics to curriculum.   The Director of Graduate Studies in SIUC’s History Department not only has access to a comparable venue, but has been among a small group of DGS’s participating in a Mellon-Foundation funded AHA initiative to rethink the purposes and structures of PhD training.  It is not at all clear whether these resources would remain available to SIU’s history leadership if the department is folded into some larger entity.

As experienced administrators we certainly understand the pressure of budgets, and do not underestimate the financial necessities you confront.  This projected reorganization, however, would have serious and deleterious consequences for the practice of historical work at SIU-Carbondale.


Tyler Stovall, President

James Grossman, Executive Director

Cc: Randy Dunn, president, Southern Illinois University (