Publication Date

February 1, 1993

Perspectives Section

AHA Activities

As has been its custom for many years, the Association’s governing Council met twice at the end of the year, on either side of the annual meeting. The Council, like the United States Senate, is a continuing body with the terms of one-third of its members expiring each year. The Council meeting on December 27 is the last session for outgoing members, and newly elected members who can arrange it attend the meeting as observers, before filling their plenipotentiary roles on the Council at its meeting on the morning of December 30.

The newly elected president-elect for 1993, Thomas C. Holt, University of Chicago, the new vice president for the Professional Division, Drew Gilpin Faust, University of Pennsylvania, and two new Council members, Donald A. Ritchie, Senate Historical Office, and Mary Elizabeth Perry, Occidental College and UCLA, were welcomed aboard with pleasure by their colleagues and by the staff with a voluminous agenda book, reflecting a busy and important menu of issues.

The Council first reviewed a number of its own executive committee’s decisions. The Council’s executive committee makes decisions for the Council on matters of urgency that arise between the semiannual Council meetings. Those actions are invariably—but not mandatorily—approved by the Council at its next regular session. Another routine but important Council action taken was the approval of the nominations of the elected Committee on Committees to fill the many vacancies on AHA standing, ad hoc, and prize committees. The Council decided to create temporarily one new position on the Beer Prize Committee in order to provide better field coverage.

On matters brought to it by the Professional Division Committee, the Council approved in principle a draft revision of the section on plagiarism in the AHA’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct and asked also that the next reprint of the booklet include a quotation from the act of Congress of 1889 that chartered the Association.

The Research Division, which oversees AHA’s many book prizes, brought to Council a draft revision of a two-decade-old policy statement on AHA prizes, which the Council approved. It then accepted a number of changes in existing prizes. A request from the Canadian Historical Association to modify the terms of the Corey Prize, the joint prize in Canadian–U.S. history, was quickly accepted. Focusing then on the heavy responsibilities that our Canadian colleagues have assumed for hosting the 1995 World Congress of the Historical Sciences at Montreal, the Council agreed that a special one-time grant to the CHA should be made from the special fund for promotion of Canadian and U.S. history. Finally, the Council endorsed the recommendation of both the Professional and Research Divisions that the AHA approve the concept of creating an electronic “bulletin board” to be named H-Net, for historians, while reserving the question of access to AHA publications for separate discussion, after the network is launched.

On Teaching Division Committee concerns, the Council expressed vigorous support for the division. It approved a new guideline for future Program Committees calling for session commenters to give consideration to the effect of all program topics and/or papers on the teaching of the subject addressed. That policy had been tried out by the 1992 Program Committee with encouraging results. On a more controversial front, the Council heard with concern the report of problems encountered by the AHA representatives and other historians in dealing with the National History Standards project being implemented by the National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA. The Council directed that AHA’s—and other historians’—grave reservations be vigorously pursued with the center and with its principal funding agency, NEH, warning of the possibility of AHA withdrawal from the project if necessary.

The Council’s review of our advocacy position with the director of the NCC, Dr. Page Miller, is reported separately, together with several important resolutions setting forth AHA positions.

The Council reviewed the composition of the Nominating Committee, which is one member short, following the sudden resignation of one of its members. The Council directed that the availability of several potential successors be established urgently, so that a one-year appointment might be made, to participate in the choice of the 1993 electoral slate for the AHA and pending filling the vacancy in the 1993 election process.

Other business items addressed by the Council included the renewal of the appointment of the Association’s controller for a five-year term to begin next June; approval of a gender-neutral revised text of the Association’s bylaws, the conversion to a mandatory requirement for the Nominating Committee of the long-honored practice of nominating for the presidency-elect of the Association every five years representatives of non-American and non-European fields of history.

The Council concluded its December 27 meeting with a further consideration of the problem facing the Association at its next annual meeting—January 6–9, 1994, in San Francisco—created by the existence of an exacerbated labor dispute between one of our contracted “overflow” hotels, the Parc 55, and Local #2 of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union. The Council agreed to continue to monitor the situation closely until its May meeting. If the dispute should be settled by early summer, so much the better. Otherwise the Association will, on the annual meeting housing form, notify all members of the state of the dispute, so that members may make individual determinations whether by their housing choice to give support to one side or the other. The Association would refrain from scheduling any meetings in the hotel’s facilities under that circumstance.

In its meeting on December 30 the Council acted on a number of urgent matters. It agreed to reflect the concerns of AHA affiliate, the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History, and of other historians by expressing concern to the governor of Colorado over recent action by the state’s voters to weaken antidiscrimination protection of homosexuals. It decided to recommend an initial three names to the Clinton administration for the position of chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities—Stanley N. Katz, ACLS; Mary Beth Norton, Cornell; and William N. Chafe, Duke.

The Council also directed that letters of protest be directed to the government of Israel through its embassy in Washington and through the American Embassy, Tel Aviv, on behalf of Abed Elfattah Oweisi, a teacher in Middle Eastern history at Hebron University, who is one of the deportees now marooned between Israel and Lebanon.