Publication Date

February 1, 1988

Perspectives Section

AHA Activities

The Council of the Association held its customary double meetings at the beginning and end of the AHA annual meeting in Washington. The meetings dealt with a number of large issues as well as routine questions that make up the Association’s year-end menu of policy decisions. As members know, the elected twelve-member Council is the governing body established by our constitution to “conduct the business, manage the property, and care for the general interests of the association.” That charge also includes supplying direction to the three divisional committees and to the appointed officers of the AHA, including the executive director, the editor of the American Historical Review, and the controller.

During the all-day meeting on December 27, the Council focussed on three major policy issues: revised program committee guidelines, policies and procedures for implementing the Standards of Professional Conduct for the discipline, and long-range planning for the Association.

The revision of the guidelines for the annual meeting’s program committee can be found on page 3. This revision is an update of a twelve-year-old predecessor that contained obsolete material and did not reflect customs that have evolved and been blessed by Council and Research Division decisions. The Research Division committee oversees the principal business of the annual meeting—the presentation of the latest fruits of research to the profession as a whole—and recommended the new document to the Council.

The addendum to the AHA Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct, approved in May 1987, deals with the Professional Division policies and procedures to carry out the intentions and uphold the criteria expressed in the Standards. The addendum will be published in the March 1988 issue of Perspectives. The question of enforcement is a thorny one for professional and learned societies. In a litigious age, learned societies that do not have high-powered legal talent at their disposal must be careful not to infringe on the legal system and above all to protect the rights of individuals. If ethical standards are to be meaningful, enforcement actions in the form of moral or other persuasion need to be available.

The Council also decided to create a small ad hoc committee to study the Association’s long-range goals and objectives. The committee will be chaired by President-elect Harlan and includes Council member Richard Kohn, who originally proposed the project, and three members to be appointed by the vice-presidents of the three divisions. The committee will be responsible for: 1. to survey the profession and assemble data on its composition; 2. to evaluate the AHA’s goals and priorities; and 3. to examine the economic basis of the Association. Fourteen years have passed since the last major self-examination by AHA leadership took place; the last survey resulted in the replacement of the original AHA constitution of 1884 by the present document. While no major overhaul is contemplated, the Council decided that it was a proper time to see how well the AHA is functioning and how it is advancing the cause of American history and history in America that the act of Congress of 1889 prescribed as its purpose.

Council also acted on a number of less sweeping matters that were brought before it by the divisions and committees of the Association. It approved the recommendations of the Committee on Committees for appointments to fill vacancies on the standing committees and delegations of the AHA. The complete 1988 committee structure of the Association will also be printed in the March issue.

Three additional affiliations of specialized historical associations with the AHA were approved: the American Culture Association, the American Printing History Association, and the Public Works Historical Society with memberships of 1000, 1211, and 1400 respectively. These were warmly welcomed into this new and closer relationship by the Council.

The Council made three important decisions for future annual meetings. In consonance with its earlier decision to select a specialist in the late eighteenth-century French history to chair the 1989 bicentenaire program committee, it appointed Timothy N. Tackett of Catholic University to that important position. For our 1988 annual meeting in Cincinnati the Council named two able scholars from that city, Professor Roger Daniels, University of Cincinnati, and Dr. Gale Peterson, director of the Cincinnati Historical Society, to be cochairs of the vital Local Arrangements Committee for that meeting. While Local Arrangements Committee can make a successful meeting even under the most difficult circumstances, the Council is confident that 1988 will be a great occasion, coinciding as it does with the 200th birthday of the city. The Council also supplied guidance to the executive director regarding a site for the 1990 meeting. After Cincinnati we will go to San Francisco, and the Council indicated a preference for an East Coast site for 1990 in the New York-Baltimore-Washington corridor.