Publication Date

May 11, 2020

Perspectives Section



Medicine, Science, & Technology

During the uncertainty of a global pandemic this spring, the AHA has continued to support historians and their work—protesting the destruction of archival records; urging funding for NARA, the NHPRC, and the NEH; and encouraging flexibility and understanding among institutions that employ historians in all fields.

AHA Expresses Concern over Deletion of Immigration Records

In a letter to the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) on February 27, 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 1,000 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 Supports Release of Grand Jury Records of Historical Significance

In connection with the amicus brief in Pitch v. United States, which was filed in September 2019, the AHA signed onto a letter on March 2 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 Encourages Funding for NARA and the NHPRC

On March 10, the AHA sent an Action Alert encouraging members to contact their congressional representatives to sign a letter requesting significant increases in appropriations for 2021 for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), which preserve and provide access to records and documents vital for historians and for a thriving democracy. That work is threatened by congressional budget cuts. In just the past two years Congress has reduced NARA’s already constrained annual operating budget by over $20 million even as its responsibilities have grown. The NHPRC’s allocation is less than half of what it was a decade ago.

AHA Encourages Congress to Support NEH during COVID-19 Crisis

On March 19, AHA executive director Jim Grossman cosigned 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 (NEH), including support for historians whose income is imperiled by current conditions in higher education and other history-focused institutions, professional development relating to teaching and other historical work, and other needs relevant to the COVID-19 crisis.

AHA Signs onto Statement Encouraging Temporary Adjustments to Faculty Review and Reappointment Processes during COVID-19 Crisis

On March 23, 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 Joins Lawsuit Challenging ICE Records Disposition

On March 26, the AHA joined the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations in a lawsuit against 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 Sends Letter to University System of Georgia Opposing Proposed Changes to the General Education Curriculum

In a March 27 letter to 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 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, in either history or political science, and that proper instruction in history can only be fulfilled by trained historians.

AHA Issues Statement Regarding Historians and COVID-19

On April 3, in a statement endorsed by several peer organizations, the AHA emphasized 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.

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Dana Schaffer
Dana Schaffer

American Historical Association