Letters to the Editor

Age Discrimination in the EIB

Stanley Nadel, March 1993

I noted with dismay that the September 1992 Perspectives contained an employment ad for a tenure-track position which stated that candidates must have received their Ph.D. no more than three years ago. As the AHA Professional Division has recognized, such practices are often tantamount to de facto age discrimination. Where else, in what is supposed to be a merit-based system, do we find experience and achievements discriminated against? Surely it would make far more sense to say that applicants must have three or five years of teaching experience and publications beyond the Ph.D. than to say that they can have no more than that. The only real argument for doing otherwise is to seek out younger candidates—i.e., practice illegal age discrimination.

I am painfully aware of the widespread nature of this practice, but the AHA at least should not support it. We, the survivors of the "lost generation of scholars," are being betrayed by this practice. We did what we were told to do. We held on to part-time and temporary positions, learned to teach well and published substantial amounts (I myself have published a book with a major university press and about ten journal articles while having taught at nine different institutions). Now we are being cut out from consideration because we have done too much and had the misfortune to finish our Ph.D.s during the lean years of the 1980s. That is simply not fair, and there are quite a few fine historians who now face being squeezed out in this fashion.

On April 4, 1992, the OAH adopted the following resolution:

The Organization of American Historians wishes to express its concern over the fact that in the difficult job market of the 1980s some fine historians were unable to gain tenure track positions through no fault of their own. To overlook them now and disregard their accomplishments, while opening new positions to their juniors would be unfortunate. The OAH encourages its members and their colleagues to give such candidates full and fair consideration for new openings, and we urge all concerned to avoid discriminating against candidates because of their age, experience, achievements or non-traditional employment pattern.

I would hope for no less from the AHA. Ads like the one which appeared in Perspectives not only aid and abet this discriminatory practice, they send a signal to all the members of our profession that such discrimination is an acceptable practice. Please refrain from publishing any more such ads and please join me as I urge all my fellow historians to refrain from this practice (on either the formal or informal level). Do not consign the survivors of the "lost generation" to the dustbin of the historical profession.

Stanley Nadel
Visiting Assistant Professor
Winona State University

Editor's Note: We thank Dr. Nadel for pointing out an editorial oversight. As our policy statement enunciates (on p. 18 of this issue), discrimination is not allowed, in any form.