From the Executive Director
Washington Notes, December 1993
Samuel R. Gammon, December 1993
The Professional Division Committee met in Washington in mid-October for a two-day session. Since it undertook several years ago to consider complaints of alleged violations of the AHA's Statement in Standards of Professional Conduct, the Professional Division has been the busiest of the three divisions, looking into well over thirty cases brought before it. Since the Statement is designed to be a combination of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes for historians, the possibilities of finding grounds for complaint of less than perfect compliance are infinite. In addition to the formal cases it has taken on, the division has also considered informally a large number of inquiries, which have been resolved without formal proceedings.
The Professional Division was able to meet with long-time member Albert J. Beveridge III, who has served as our legal advisor in considering such thorny issues as due process and orderly procedures for the committee to follow in taking up and considering cases. At the behest of the Council, the division discussed with Mr. Beveridge issues of workload, jurisdiction, and procedures and will be formulating a report to the Council. It also looks forward to receiving guidance from members in response to Vice President Drew Gilpin Faust's November Perspectives article asking advice from the membership at large.
In addition to broad policy discussions, the division considered developments in two prior cases and acted on five new cases as well as three informal inquiries about possible cases.
The Professional Division also laid plans for undertaking a study of and formulation of policies for institutional use and treatment of part-time and temporary faculty. While the standing, treatment, and use of these special faculty is not an issue limited to the discipline of history, it is nevertheless one which the division is determined to take up.
The Joint Committee of Historians and Archivists met in Washington on October 24–25. Bringing together representatives from the Society of American Archivists, the OAH, and the AHA, these semi-annual meetings provide a unique forum for comparing notes and planning actions by the member bodies on a wide range of matters of concern to both disciplines' members, historians, and archivists. An important part of the meeting is the chance to sit down with Page Putnam Miller, the NCC director, who is the advocacy arm for all three organizations. The second day of the meeting was devoted to discussions with representatives of the Librarian of Congress and with the Acting Archivist of the United States, long-time member Trudy Huskamp Peterson.
While the Library of Congress is making progress on addressing its serious problems of security and has coincidentally reduced appreciably the incidence of Not-On-Shelf replies to requests from users, it is clear that there is no prospect of any early modification of its present closed-stack policy. The library is aware of the serious problems this poses for researcher-users and is forthcoming on striving to make special arrangements for these procedurally handicapped users within the framework of current LC policies.
Many of the library's other problems—such as hours of operation—are derivative from funds limitations, and it was agreed that closer and more frequent contact between LC officials and users could assist our advocacy efforts with the appropriations process on behalf of the library.
Discussions with the archivist concentrated on the problems of government security classification, the prospect of relief through a new Executive Order, and how that impending document might be made radical enough to escape the Cold War mentality of existing classifying machinery. Discussion also addressed the archival appraisal process, which determines what will be kept for the future and on the as-yet dimly perceived shape of the electronic archive of the future.
Two public events that took place in October were immensely gratifying to historians. The National Endowment for the Humanities and its newly installed chair, historian Sheldon Hackney, celebrated this year's choice of five winners of the Charles Frankel Awards, which were presented by President and Mrs. Clinton later in the day, along with thirteen National Medals of the Arts. We are gratified to note that four of the five Frankel Awards went to historians: Ricardo E. Alegria, John Hope Franklin, Hanna Holborn Gray, and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. As the final icing on the historical cake, word was released a few days later from Sweden that this year's recipients of the Nobel Prize for Economics were both economic historians!