AHA's Council Seeks Ratification of Resolution Adopted at Business Meeting
Staughton Lynd, February 2007
Editor's Note: The AHA Council decided to seek ratification of the "Resolution on United States Government Practices Inimical to the Values of the Historical Profession" that was adopted at the AHA business meeting on January 6, 2007. In this connection, we are publishing the text of a letter addressed to AHA President Barbara Weinstein and Executive Director Arnita A. Jones, and an explanatory note by them on the procedures that are being adopted.
Dear President Weinstein and Director Jones,
Greetings. I don't believe I have had the opportunity to meet either of you personally. As you may know, I am both an historian and a lawyer. I have been a member of the Steering Committee of Historians Against the War for three and a half years, and am a member of the American Historical Association. At the business meeting on January 6, 2007, I was the second to speak in support of the HAW resolution. However, I write as an individual.
My letter is prompted by Barbara Weinstein's message to Margaret Power, January 9, 2007, and Arnita Jones's message to David Applebaum of about that same date.
I first want to express appreciation for the cordial tone of both messages and for the forthcomingness of the Council, acting through you both, in explaining what happened at your January 7 meeting.
However, there is a serious problem. Under the AHA Constitution, Article VII, Sections 3-5, "acceptance," "nonconcurrence" and "veto" are alternative and mutually exclusive responses to a resolution passed by an AHA business meeting. There is no such thing as contingent acceptance. A resolution "accepted by the Council" shall be "binding on the Association."
Ms. Jones transmits "the exact text of the AHA Council's decision." That text begins: "At its January 7, 2007, meeting, the AHA Council accepted the resolution on U.S. Government Practices Inimical to the Values of the Historical Profession...." I believe that whether the word "accepted" is construed as by a lawyer or as by an historian, it makes the resolution binding on the Association.
Of course the Council decision goes on to say: "... the Council believes its acceptance should be ratified by a majority of those voting in an e-mail ballot of the membership."
How, if at all, can these elements of the decision be synthesized?
It seems to me that what may be most critical is the message by the Council that accompanies the e-mail ballot. Article VII contemplates that in the event of nonconcurrence, the Council "shall publish its opinion of each measure with which it does not concur" and submit the measure to a mail ballot, presumably accompanied by the text of the Council opinion.
So my question in this instance is the following: How is the membership to learn that the Council has not "nonconcurred" but, instead, has "accepted" the resolution subject to membership ratification? Does the Council expect to circulate an opinion together with the ballot? Will the Council's message include words to the effect that the Council has "accepted" the resolution, whatever words may follow that statement?
I hope you feel that this message seeks a way through a difficult procedural moment with good will and respect for all involved.
I would appreciate publication of this letter, together with your response, in the forthcoming issue of Perspectives.
With all best wishes,