Publication Date

December 1, 1989

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

Members will find elsewhere in this issue the brief announcement of the results of the Association’s 1989 elections. This year, at the request of the Nominating Committee and with the blessing of the Council, the ballots have been collected at AHA headquarters for transmission to a commercial vote-counting firm. It made a seventeen-pound Federal Express shipment and one the staff sweated over until confirmation of the shipment’s safe arrival came by telephone. The thought of ballots getting lost or destroyed in transit was too awful to contemplate!

We are pleased that the total number of voters this year was 4059, a five-hundred-vote increase over 1988’s poll.

The gratifying increase in balloting may be in part due to the preference poll of the question on the ballot about the annual meeting date. Over two thousand members expressed a preference for a change in meeting dates to the first weekend in January after New Year’s Day, while only a little over twelve hundred members cast votes for maintaining the century-old custom of meeting the last week in December. The other eight hundred voting members are presumably equally happy with either option and ignored the question altogether. Although the Council is not legally bound by the results, it may well decide to try out the clearly preferred January dates. Since the AHA is contractually bound to December 27–30 in San Francisco this year, in New York City in 1990, and in Chicago in 1991, the timing of such a change would have to be established in light of the availability of sites thereafter. We will keep members informed.

All three divisions of the Association held committee meetings in a four-week period of October and early November, and we are happy to sum up for our readers the important matters dealt with by these key, elective bodies responsible for the profession’s research, professional, and teaching interests.

The heavily burdened Research Division met first this year. It had reviewed a total of sixty-six proposals for Schmitt grants—a large number for the modest sum of $5,000 available, but understandable since this is only the third competition for this new program. Nine awards were made to four women and five men working in various projects of European, Asian, or African history, predominantly at the non-tenured level for those in academic positions. A number of items of business concerned the terms of the many book prizes under the Research Division’s care, and the Division made plans for next year’s consideration of honorary memberships in the AHA,. These are awarded every other year to distinguished foreign historians who have been helpful to historians from this country. The division also decided to discuss further with the American Council of Learned Societies the timing of its travel grant competitions.

A long and lively discussion took place in the Research Division’s preparation of a “wish list” of things they would like the AHA to pursue if money were no object. The Division also reviewed AHA policy with regard to use of its copyrighted material and confirmed our practice of charging $200 per use to commercial enterprises. The sum is split evenly between the AHA and the original author.

On completion of its own business agenda, the Research Division then met jointly with an ad hoc committee appointed by the Council last spring to review all of the Association’s publications as to utility, timeliness, and cost-benefit considerations. Two publications in which the Research Division has a particular interest are Recently Published Articles and the annual Writings on American History which were discussed at length. Both committees agreed to report on these publications to the Council at its meeting in San Francisco.

While the Research Division is indeed heavily burdened, the Professional Division which met on October 27, is developing a new ailment hitherto unknown to medical science. Called “reader’s cramp,” it is caused by reading too many pages of material relating to cases of alleged violation of the AHA’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct. We regret to say that many of these cases concern plagiarism and a lamentably large number of accusations turn out to be well founded. Every case involves massive documentation and the need meticulously to compare parallel texts or special consultant’s review reports.

A total of five cases of alleged plagiarism were decided by the Committee, after a great deal of preliminary correspondence and investigation had been completed. In three of the cases it was the unanimous finding of the Committee that unauthorized and impermissible appropriation of others’ work had indeed taken place, while in the other two cases the finding was that plagiarism had not occurred. Participants on both sides in each case are being notified, and the Division expects to report on these cases in more detail in a future issue. However, its experience already convinces it that the line between a case of competing scholars, ploughing the same turf and using the same sources, and a case of misappropriation can be readily identified by dispassionate third parties.

Other Professional Division cases involved such matters as access to documentary holdings, uncollegial conduct, improper recruiting practices (two cases), and publisher-author relations. In each case a finding was reached and the parties advised.

The Professional Division also responded to the Council’s directive that it come up with a “wish list” of what it would like to do if we should strike oil underneath 400 A Street. The Committee then spent considerable time making certain clarifications in its policies and procedures for implementing and enforcing the Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct, particularly as regards publicity about the cases after they are completed.

The Teaching Division convened on November 3–4 both to transact its own business and to meet with a representative group of Latino historians regarding the flow of minorities into the history-training pipeline. It reached a decision on the selection of the 1989 recipient of the Eugene Asher Award for Distinguished Teaching that will be announced at the annual meeting and adopted a couple of clarifying rules for the award and procedures for selection. The Committee also assembled a list of secondary school history faculty members and two-year college history faculty members to bring to the attention of the Association’s Committee on Committees and Nominating Committee for consideration for appointive and elective posts in the Association. It also began the design of an institutional services program to be made available to secondary school faculty, shaped to supply their special needs and interests. Like the other two Divisions reported on above, the Teaching Division also assembled for the Council’s consideration a “wish list” of things it would like to see done, if resources can be found. The Division then considered and adopted drafts of annual meeting teaching sessions to be forwarded to the 1990 Program Committee and began the task of reviewing and updating the AHA’s 1982 Guidelines for Certification of History Teachers.

On November 4, five outstanding representatives of the Latino historical community joined the Teaching Division for a full day of rewarding discussion. The meeting focused on initiatives that the AHA can take to increase the access and flow of members of this community into the educational pipeline that supplies the history profession at all levels. Proposals ranged from changes within the AHA to improve the climate for minority scholars to ambitious programs for early recruitment at the secondary-school level.

Besides the important business of the three principal committees of the Association, October/November saw two other meetings whose importance merits attention in this column. On October 14, AHA staff were pleased to be included in a luncheon meeting of the Virginia Society of History Teachers at its annual meeting at George Mason University. The AHA’s executive director was asked to talk about the Association’s many activities in the teaching field and its especial interest in restoring the long-lost unity of teaching among all stages of the academic and educational process. On November 2–3, staff participated in the annual Ford Foundation doctoral and postdoctoral fellows conference at the National Academy of Sciences.