Publication Date

April 30, 2024

Perspectives Section


Post Type

Advocacy, AHA Announcements

In early 2024, the AHA wrote to four state legislatures to oppose proposed legislation that would eliminate and politicize tenure, encroach inappropriately on social studies standards, and interfere in teacher training. The AHA also signed on to a letter from a coalition of nonpartisan organizations opposing such legislation in Florida, wrote to South Carolina State University opposing planned eliminations of majors, and wrote to the president of China on the behalf of a detained scholar of Uyghur studies. Additionally, at the business meeting in January, the membership approved the resolution “In Defense of the Right to Learn.”

Resolution Passed at the 137th Business Meeting

At the 137th business meeting of the AHA on January 6, 2024, the AHA membership approved the resolution “In Defense of the Right to Learn.” The resolution was accepted by the Council on January 24, 2024.

AHA Sends Letter to Nebraska Legislature Opposing Bill to Eliminate Tenure

On February 9, the AHA sent a letter to the Nebraska state legislature opposing LB 1064, a bill that would eliminate tenure in state universities and colleges. “If passed [LB 1064] will severely diminish the ability of the state’s public universities to recruit and retain the quality of faculty required for first-rate teaching and research,” the AHA wrote. “Any public university in the state would immediately become an employer of last choice among scholars who desire an environment amenable to high-quality teaching and research.”

AHA Sends Letter to Indiana Legislature Opposing “Intellectual Diversity” Tenure Bill

On February 20, the AHA sent a letter to members of the Indiana House Education Committee opposing SB 202, a bill that would “create a policy for granting tenure and terminating the appointments of tenured faculty based on how well that faculty member has fostered ‘intellectual diversity’ within the classroom.” The bill, the AHA wrote, “inserts the will and judgment of politically appointed boards of trustees into the fundamental work of university faculty” and “would create conditions of uncertainty for faculty, presenting situations where their jobs are on the line for the infraction of not having enough arbitrarily decided ‘variety’ in their ‘political or ideological frameworks’ . . . mak[ing] it easier for public interest groups and politicians—of either party—to weed out faculty with whom they disagree.”

AHA Sends Letter to Iowa Legislature Opposing Bill on K–12 Social Studies Curriculum

On February 22, the AHA sent a letter to the members of the Iowa House of Representatives opposing HF 2544, a bill that “directly encroaches on the authority and expertise of the members of the Iowa State Board of Education, sidestepping statutory minimum requirements for the educational program and bypassing the state’s mandated process for developing social studies standards.” The proposed legislation, the AHA wrote, “is a Frankenstein’s monster constructed out of disembodied portions of five out-of-state model bills” that “leaves no room for input from teachers, administrators, historians, or parents.”

AHA Sends Letter to Florida Legislature Opposing Harmful K–12 Teacher Training Bill

On February 27, the AHA sent a letter to Florida legislators opposing HB 1291/SB 1372, a “heavy-handed and inappropriate intervention in college curricula, classroom instruction, and professional learning.” The proposed legislation, the AHA wrote, “would require educators teach a history that is incomplete, tendentious, and politically driven rather than based on evidence and consistent with professional standards. . . . SB 1372 establishes a mechanism for censoring classroom teaching and learning, and hence stands in stark opposition to academic freedom and true intellectual diversity.”

Coalition of Organizations Submits Letter Opposing Florida SB 1372

On February 28, the AHA, as part of a nonpartisan coalition of organizations, signed on to a letter opposing Florida SB 1372. This letter expressed “serious concerns that the bill is not constitutionally viable, is overly vague, and is an example of viewpoint discrimination that is contrary to free speech and expression. . . . This bill could create a new generation of history teachers who are unsure how to teach material about slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, or women’s suffrage.”

AHA Sends Letter to South Carolina State University Opposing Plan to Cut Majors

On February 29, the AHA sent a letter to leaders at South Carolina State University expressing grave concern about a plan to cut majors in history, African American studies, and social studies teaching at the university. “Cutting a core liberal arts degree like African American studies or history is short-sighted. Civic leaders from all corners of the political landscape have lamented the lack of historical knowledge of American citizens,” the AHA wrote. “Cutting social studies education is an especially irresponsible move at a moment when teachers are being prohibited from teaching the truth about slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, or the continuing centrality of racism in American public culture.”

AHA Sends Letter of Concern about Missing Chinese Scholar

On March 7, the AHA sent a letter to President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China expressing “concern for the fate of Professor Rahile Dawut, a scholar of Uyghur studies who has apparently been sentenced to life in prison and whose specific whereabouts are unknown.” Professor Dawut, missing since 2018, has “been detained and sentenced in connection with her peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom” in a situation that, in addition to raising concern for Dawut’s well-being, “raises questions about the ability of intellectuals in China generally to conduct scholarship safely and freely.” The AHA urged President Xi to secure Professor Dawut’s immediate and unconditional release.

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Becky West
Rebecca L. West

American Historical Association