Publication Date

September 1, 2013

Perspectives Section

Letters to the Editor

Perspectives on Historywelcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should follow our guidelines. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters' contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.

On "AHA Job Ads and AAUP Censure"

To the Editor:

As historians, AHA members, and the current and a past chair of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors, we write in response to the article "AHA Job Ads and AAUP Censure” published in the March Perspectives. The article calls for member comments on a possible revision of the AHA’s longstanding policy of indicating when job advertisements are from institutions under censure by the AAUP.

We urge that this policy remain unchanged.

AAUP's censure list dates back to the 1930's. It is one of our profession's most hallowed and effective means of defending the principle of academic freedom. It is not easy for an institution to be placed on the AAUP's list of censured administrations. The violations must be serious and their impact grave. The AAUP places institutions on the list only after extensive investigation, review, and discussion and only as a last resort after all other options for resolution of the underlying conflict have been exhausted. Moreover, it is important to note that the censure is imposed on the administration, not the institution or its faculty. (For more information about the censure process, the list of censured administrations, and links to the relevant reports, go to AAUP's What Is Censure? page.)

The Perspectives article notes that sometimes the original offense "took place many years ago" and that those "involved in the case are no longer at the institution, or perhaps no longer living." While this may be true in some cases, administrations that remain on the list for a long time continue the policies that led to censure in the first place. The AAUP's staff regularly contacts administrations of listed institutions to invite cooperation in removing them from the list. The requirements for doing so include redress to affected faculty members and revisions to institutional regulations to bring them into accordance with AAUP-supported standards. Rather than asking the AHA to remove or modify its notice that their institution is on the censure list, history professors at institutions that have been on censure for many years should be asking their administrators why they have not made an effort to work with the AAUP to effect removal.

The Perspectives article also points out that frequently, the original offense did not involve the history department. But, as previously noted, the AAUP censures administrations not faculty or departments. That an institution’s historians may not have been the direct victims of such violations, strikes us as largely irrelevant. After all, history departments are not islands, and department members are not isolated from their colleagues in other disciplines. An administration that violates procedures in one department may well do so in another in the future.

Finally, the Perspectives article notes “an added complication.” Because departments are not required to advertise openings with the AHA, they may take their ads elsewhere. Hence, insofar as indicating AAUP censure may discourage postings, “the association risks publishing only an incomplete list of employment opportunities in the discipline.” This strikes us as a particularly dangerous argument because, whatever the intent, it suggests that the AHA should be as much concerned about advertising revenue as it is about academic freedom.

Moreover, the AHA, in fact, already publishes "an incomplete list" of job openings in history, and this has little to do with the AAUP's censure list. Many tenure-track openings are not listed by the AHA, as institutions turn elsewhere, for whatever reason, to pursue candidates. But far more important is the large number of part-time and full-time non-tenure track openings that are not included among the AHA's job announcements. Indeed, in history as in higher education as a whole, a majority of employment openings are now no longer on the tenure track, and these are usually part-time and adjunct. While some of these openings may be listed by the AHA, most are not, as departments tend to hire such faculty members on a local basis, not infrequently by word-of-mouth methods that both the AAUP and the AHA have worked so hard to bring to an end. When it comes to ensuring fairness and equity in employment, this strikes us as a bigger problem for the Professional Division than any difficulties produced by the AHA's notification that a listing institution is on the AAUP's censure list.

—Henry Reichman
Professor Emeritus of History,
California State University, East Bay
Chair, Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure

—Joan W. Scott
Harold F. Linder Professor,
Institute for Advanced Study
Member and former Chair (1999–2006), Committee A
on Academic Freedom and Tenure

The Professional Division responds:

In response to recommendations from the Professional Division, the AHA Executive Council approved a revision to the statement at its June meeting that follows each job placement ad from an institution on the AAUP censure list, both in the print edition ofPerspectives on History and online. This new statement clarifies that the censure applies to the administration of the institution (and not to individual departments), and changes the link to reflect the AAUP’s new web address for the list. The statement previously read, “This institution is on the AAUP censure list. Refer to AAUP's Censure List for more information.” It will now read, “The administration of this institution is on the AAUP censure list. Please refer to”

A longer statement can be found in the AHA's ad policy statement, which is posted online and in every issue of Perspectives. In addition to the clarifications noted above, Council acted upon the Professional Division’s recommendation and approved language that retains the focus on the AHA’s policy for dealing with these ads. This statement now reads, “The AHA accepts advertisements from academic institutions whose administrations are under censure by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), but requires that this fact be clearly stated. Refer to for more information.”

The Professional Division is grateful to Professors Reichman and Scott, and to other AHA members who participated in this discussion. By updating and modifying the language of our ad policy statement, the AHA draws its members' attention to those institutional administrations under censure by the AAUP, and thereby reaffirms its commitment to the principle of academic freedom.

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