AHA Activities

Proposed Revisions to the AHA Constitution

AHA Staff | May 12, 2016

According to Article X of the AHA Constitution, amendments to the Association’s Constitution may be proposed by the Council, a petition to the Council by 100 or more members in good standing, or a resolution at an annual business meeting. Any amendment shall be reported to the membership with arguments pro and con, if appropriate, and included in the next annual vote for election of officers and committee members. Any amendment receiving a plurality of the votes cast in the election shall be adopted.

At its June 2015 meeting, AHA Council adopted the following proposed revisions to the Association’s Constitution. Voting on the proposed changes to the AHA Constitution will begin in June 2016.

In the following text, proposed changes appear in bold. We have also included possible “pro and con” statements or explanations about the proposed revisions in italics. The “pro” statements were compiled from staff and Council discussions, supplemented by comments received in an online member forum (available online, member login required, at historians.org/2016revisions). The “con” statements were synthesized from comments submitted to the online member forum. Please note that we did not include all objections because they were either not germane or because they addressed matters in the AHA bylaws (available online at historians.org/constitution), which will be revised if the constitutional changes are approved. Some of the revisions did not generate any negative comments.

Article I: Name

The name of this society shall be the American Historical Association.

Article II: Purpose

Its object shall be the promotion of historical studies through the encouragement of research, teaching, and publication; the collection and preservation of historical documents and artifacts; the dissemination of historical records and information; the broadening of historical knowledge among the general public; and the pursuit of kindred activities in the interest of history.

Article III: Membership

Membership in the Association shall be open to any person interested in history on the payment of one year’s dues. Any member whose dues are in arrears shall be dropped from the roll. Members who have been so dropped may be reinstated at any time by the payment in advance of one year’s dues. Only members in good standing shall have the right to vote or hold office in the Association. The Council may elect honorary members of the Association, and such honorary members shall be exempt from payment of dues.

Article IV: Officers

Section 1: The elected officers shall be: the president, the president-elect, the immediate past president, and three vice presidents. The appointed officers shall be: the executive director, the editor of the American Historical Review, the controller treasurer, and such other officers as the Council considers necessary from time to time for the proper operation of the Association.

Pro: This change establishes the treasurer as an officer of the Association. The position of treasurer was created in the AHA bylaws in June 2013 to enhance the Council’s fiduciary oversight. The controller will continue as an AHA staff member, but will be replaced as an officer by the treasurer.

Section 2: The president shall be elected for a one-year term. It shall be his or her duty to preside at meetings of the Council and at the business meeting and to formulate policies and projects for presentation to the Council to fulfill the chartered obligations and purposes of the Association. After his or her term the president shall become the immediate past president for a one-year term.

Pro: This change reflects the current duties of the president, as well as standard approaches to governance in other associations and nonprofits. Governing boards focus on policy; staff focus on management, programs, and implementation.

Section 3: The president-elect shall be elected for a one-year term. He or she shall be a member of the Council. If the office of president shall, through any cause, become vacant, the president-elect shall thereupon become president.

Section 4: The vice presidents shall be elected for staggered three-year terms. Each shall serve as a member of the Council and as chair of a division of the Council (as described in Article VI). It shall be the duty of each vice president, under the direction of the Council and with the assistance of the executive director, to formulate policies and projects for submission to the Council on behalf of his or her respective Division.

Section 5: The executive director shall be the chief administrative officer of the Association. It shall be his or her duty, under the direction of the Council, to oversee the affairs of the Association, to have responsibility for the continuing operations of the Association, to supervise the work of its committees, to assist in the formulation of policies and projects for submission to the Council, to execute instructions of the Council, and to perform such other duties as the Council may direct.

Section 6: The appointed officers shall be designated by the Council for specified terms of office not to exceed five years and shall be eligible for reappointment. They shall receive such compensation as the Council may determine.

Article V: Council

Section 1: There shall be a Council constituted as follows:

(a) The president, president-elect, immediate past president, and three vice presidents.

(b) Nine members who have been elected to one of the divisions of the Council.

(c) One member elected at-large to the Council with no divisional responsibilities.

Pro: With the addition of an at-large position, Council intends to re-establish graduate student representation on Council, which was initiated by the Nominating Committee in 1993, but which has not consistently been applied in elections. An at-large position, rather than one designated to a specific division, would enable graduate student participation at a reduced, and therefore less burdensome, level of commitment. If this amendment is accepted, the Council has approved a corresponding bylaws change to reflect that the at-large Council member will represent the interests of graduate students in the Council, play a leadership role in organizing the participation of graduate students in AHA activities, and disseminate information about AHA activities and initiatives to graduate students in history.

Con: Graduate student participation on the AHA Council might detract from the student’s work toward completing his or her degree. No other constituency has a designated slot.

(c d) The executive director, editor of the American Historical Review, and controller treasurer as nonvoting members.

Note: This corresponds to the change proposed in Article IV, Section 1.

Section 2: The Council shall conduct the business, manage the property, and care for the general interests of the Association. The Council shall fix the amount of dues and the date on which any change of dues becomes effective. It may appoint such committees as it deems necessary. The Council shall call an annual meeting of the Association at a place and time it deems appropriate. It shall report to the membership on its deliberations and actions through the publications of the Association and at the business meeting.

Section 3: To transact necessary business between meetings of the Council, there shall be an Executive Committee composed of the president, president-elect, immediate past president, and three vice presidents.

Article VI: Divisions

Section 1: The Council of the Association shall have three divisions: a Research Division, a Teaching Division, and a Professional Division. Each division shall act under the direction of the Council, and be comprised of a vice president and three other members elected to that division.

Section 2: It shall be the duty of the Research Division to help promote historical scholarship, to encourage the collection and preservation of historical documents and artifacts, to ensure equal access to information, and to foster the dissemination of information about historical records and research.

Section 3: It shall be the duty of the Teaching Division to collect and disseminate information about the training of teachers and about instructional techniques and materials, and to encourage excellence in the teaching of history in the schools, colleges, and universities.

Section 4: It shall be the duty of the Professional Division to promote integrity, fairness, and civility in the practice of history, to collect and disseminate information about employment opportunities, and to help ensure equal opportunities for all historians, regardless of individual membership in the Association.

Article VII: Business Meeting

Section 1: The Council shall call a business meeting, open to all members of the Association in good standing and to others who receive permission from the Council, to convene at the time of the annual meeting. Such guests’ participation would be limited to the purpose designated by the Council (e.g., provision of expertise); they would not be permitted to vote.

Pro: Although nonmembers have traditionally not been permitted at the AHA business meeting, the present wording of the Constitution does not explicitly preclude nonmembers from attending. This proposed change clarifies the conventional practice that only members may attend the meeting, but it allows the Council to grant occasional permission to nonmembers to attend in a nonvoting capacity.

Con: The change provides guidelines for, but does not specify, the intent of granting nonmember participation in the meeting, which could be interpreted in unforeseen ways by future Council members. Allowing the Council, rather than the president, or chair of the meeting, to determine nonmember guests might create a bureaucratic challenge. Democratic governance would put the decision to permit a visitor in the hands of the meeting by majority vote.

Section 2: The business meeting may consider resolutions and proposals submitted by the Council or by a petition of the membership concerning the affairs of the Association, receive reports of officers and committees, instruct officers and the Council, and exercise any powers not reserved to the Council, Nominating Committee, and elected or appointed officers of the Association.

Section 3: All measures adopted by the business meeting shall come before the Council for acceptance, nonconcurrence, or veto. If accepted by the Council, they shall be binding on the Association.

Section 4: The Council may veto any measure adopted at the business meeting that it believes to be in violation of the Association’s constitution, the law, or financially or administratively infeasible. The Council shall publish an explanation for each such veto.

Section 5: The Council may vote not to concur in any measure adopted by the business meeting. Within 90 days of such vote, the Council shall submit the measure to a vote of the entire membership with an opportunity for the proponents of the measure and the Council to set forth their respective positions. If approved by a majority of the members voting, the measure shall be binding on the Association.

Article VIII: Committees

Section 1: There shall be a Nominating Committee consisting of nine members, three of whom shall be elected each year. In the event of a vacancy, the president shall appoint an interim member to serve until the next annual election.

(a) The Nominating Committee shall nominate annually a candidate for president, and two candidates for each of the following: president-elect, a vice president, each position on the divisions, each position on the Nominating Committee and Committee on Committees, and any elected position that is vacant.

(b) Nominations may also be made to any of the foregoing positions by petition supported by the signature of not less than 100 members of the Association in good standing indicating the position for which the petition is intended. Nominations by petition must be received by the chair of the Nominating Committee not less than 60 days prior to the distribution of ballots.

Section 2: There shall be a Finance Committee comprised of the president, president-elect, and not less than one additional member of the Council selected by the president. In addition, upon nomination by the president, the Council may appoint additional persons to the Finance Committee provided that at all times a majority of the committee is composed of elected Council members. The Finance Committee shall monitor the financial condition of the Association, supervise the performance of any financial advisors or consultants, and report periodically to the Council.

Section 3: There shall be a Committee on Committees consisting of five members. The president-elect shall serve as chair and four members shall be elected to staggered three-year terms. The committee shall nominate AHA members to serve on appointive committees of the Association, subject to approval by the Council.

Article IX: Elections

Section 1: There shall be an annual election for the offices of president, president-elect; a vice-president; and members of the divisions, Nominating Committee, Committee on Committees; and the unexpired term of any elected position that is vacant.

Section 2: The annual ballot shall be distributed to the full membership of the Association at least six weeks before the annual meeting by June 1. No vote received after the due date specified on the ballot shall be valid. Election shall be by plurality of the votes cast for each vacancy. The results of the election shall be announced at the business meeting and in the publications of the Association. In the case of a tie vote, a coin flip shall determine the winner.

Pro: This change codifies the current balloting and voting calendar. An earlier voting date provides more time for successful candidates to plan travel for Council meetings.

Con: An even earlier balloting date would prevent flexibility if election issues arise.

Section 3: The Nominating Committee shall act as the supervisor of any election and all issues relating to any election shall be referred to it for final decision. The Nominating Committee Association staff shall keep all records of elections in a secure place for a period of not less than one three years.

Pro: AHA retention policies and facilities enable AHA staff to keep elections records more easily than committee members.

Article X: Amendments

Amendments to this constitution may be proposed by: (1) the Council, (2) petition to the Council of one hundred or more members in good standing, or (3) resolution at an annual business meeting. Any amendment shall be reported to the membership with arguments pro and con, if appropriate, and shall be included in the next annual vote for election of officers and committee members. Any amendment receiving a plurality of the votes cast in the election shall be considered adopted.

Article XI: Bylaws

The Council may adopt bylaws may be altered, amended, or repealed at any meeting of the Council by a resolution adopted by a two-thirds majority of the Council, provided that any such changes are not inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution on any matter of concern to the Association.

Pro: This aligns with nonprofit best practices on amending bylaws and provides more stringent requirements for making alterations to the AHA bylaws.

Article XII: Interim Procedures

On the adoption of this constitution, the Council shall have the power to decide the details of the transition from the existing organization to that embodied in this document.

Most recent change in Constitution: January 2008

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