Published Date

September 17, 1972

This resource is part of The AHA Review Board: A Preliminary Report (1972).

In order to better meet the current needs of the AHA’s members, the Review Board makes a number of suggestions. Some of them will require constitutional revision; others can be implemented by administrative and policy decisions originating with the Council of the association. In making these recommendations, we have been guided by the following considerations: 1) There has been some lag in the reshaping of the association to meet the new needs of an association that has grown, diversified its activities, and entered an era of financial crisis. 2) There is need for greater continuity in the direction of the association’s affairs. 3) There is need for stronger financial and budgetary controls. 4) The Council should exercise greater responsibility for governing the association, while at the same time extending participation in the affairs of the association through structural revision.


3A. Proposed Constitutional Revisions

We recommend that a constitutional drafting committee be established by the Council as soon as possible to implement those of our recommendations that may be accepted by the association and any others that may be required in the light of the present report or in the light of legal issues that may be involved. The board thinks that the constitution should remain as concise as possible and should cover only those matters that are absolutely essential, while allowing for flexibility in particulars and adjustment to future developments and circumstances. Certain specific constitutional changes that we propose follow:


Article II

In place of the present vague statement, the following:

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historical studies through the encouragement of research, teaching, and publication, the collection and preservation of historical documents and artifacts, the dissemination of historical records and information, the broadening of historical knowledge among the general public, and the pursuit of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 in the United States.

Article IV

Section 1: The elected officers shall be a president, a president-elect, and three vice-presidents. The appointed officers shall be the executive director, an editor-in-chief, a comptroller, and an associate executive director.

Section 3: It shall be the duty of the vice-president for research, under the policy direction of the Council, to oversee the Research Division of the association, encourage the collection and preservation of historical documents and artifacts, and foster the dissemination of historical records and information through the publications of the association.

Section 4: It shall be the duty of the vice-president for teaching, under the policy direction of the Council, to oversee the Teaching Division of the association, collect and disseminate information on the training of teachers, and on new instructional techniques and materials, and to encourage excellence in the teaching of history in the public schools, colleges, and universities.

Section 5: It shall be the duty of the vice-president for the profession, under the policy direction of the Council, to oversee the Professional Division of the association, collect and disseminate information on employment opportunities, supervise relations with public and private agencies and other historical societies in the United States and overseas, receive and act on complaints from historians relating to restrictions on access to information, discrimination in graduate school admissions, employment, and professional pursuits based on sex, race, creed, or place of national origin.

Section 6: The appointed officers shall be appointed by the Council for specified terms of office (renewable) not to exceed five years.

Article V

Section 1: The composition of the Council shall become the three vice-presidents and nine other elected members. The executive director shall be a non-voting member.

Section 3: From the Council membership two committees shall be selected: 1) An Executive Committee of six, assisted by the executive director as a non-voting member. 2) A Finance Committee of six, assisted by the comptroller as a non-voting member. Meetings of the Council are to be called four times a year.

Article VII

Section 1: The Nominating Committee shall consist of nine members, each of whom shall serve a term of three years.

Section 2: The Nominating Committee shall nominate, by annual mail ballot, candidates for the offices of president, president-elect, three vice-presidents, the elected members of the Council, and the members of the Nominating Committee. The committee shall invite and consider suggestions from members of the association for candidates for each of the vacancies to appear on the ballot. It shall announce its nominations to the membership twelve months in advance of the respective terms of office.

Section 3: Nominations by petition must be in the hands of the chairman of the Nominating Committee nine months preceding the annual meeting. The full list of nominations is to be published six months prior to the annual meeting.

Article VIII

The Finance Committee of the Council shall meet at least once a year with the Board of Trustees of the association.

New: Article X

Copies of this constitution shall be made available to all active members of the association. This constitution shall be printed in the program of each annual meeting.

3B. Structure and Constitution

Most important, these suggested constitutional revisions reflect our proposal that within the association three broad, divisions be established to correspond to the three major areas of interest represented in the association. These should be a research division, a teaching division, and a professional division.

For each division there should be a standing committee, headed by an elected vice-president, with one other member of the Council serving ex officio. The committees should report to the Council but also to the membership at large. They should recommend to the Council the establishment of ad hoc committees when that is deemed advisable. They should create their own sub-committees for particular purposes. They should have specific adequate budget allocations. The divisional committees should produce a broadening of participation within the association and provide a means to inform the Council and the membership and to be informed by them. A staff associate should be assigned to each to act as its secretary and to take a special continuing responsibility for that area of activity. Other standing committees of the association not attached to a particular division should ordinarily have the executive director sitting ex officio and acting as staff associate.

Each of the three vice-presidents should be elected to serve for a three-year term, to be a member of the Council, and to preside over a division. The new vice-presidencies would help to provide continuity and would bring to the association a greater diversity of age, experience, and ideas than appears currently to be the case. Because the divisions would provide for specific attention to the business of the association, the president and president-elect, during their one-year terms, would have less in the way of administrative burdens and more opportunity for fulfilling the task of representing the historical profession as a whole.

We propose that the elected Council remain at its present level of twelve members; that is, it should consist of the three vice-presidents, and nine additional members. The present guidelines for nomination should remain in effect for all twelve.

We recommend that the Council be so organized as to function as a board of directors, with quarterly meetings and its own committee structure. The Council and its committees (Executive and Finance) should be directed by the elected members, working in close cooperation with the appointed officers and with other committees of the association. The volume of business before the association has grown so large, and the need for the Council to give continuing attention to its affairs so acute, that the Council must be prepared to give more time to these obligations.

In proposing that the Council’s own committees be composed essentially of elected members and not of appointed officers, we are guided by the following considerations: The burden of policy decisions rightfully belongs to representatives elected by the membership at large; execution of those decisions is the job of appointed officials. Appointed officials should continue to be consulted on every aspect of AHA matters, while benefiting from the clearer lines of decision-making and consultation with a more informed Council. It is the obligation of the Council, representing the membership, to supervise the administrative and financial affairs of the association and to set policy.

The new Finance Committee should act as a watchdog over the financial affairs of the association, set general guidelines on budget matters, discuss and help to prepare budgets which reflect the priorities of the association, make recommendations regarding the investment policies and income needs of the association, and meet at least once each year with the trustees.

In recommending the abolition of the office of treasurer and the vesting of financial administration in the hands of a comptroller reporting directly to the Council, the Review Board has been moved by the following considerations: The present lack of clear lines of authority makes the position of treasurer a difficult one. The association is fortunate to have had the devoted service of an unusual individual, but the association must provide a structure within which individuals can serve most effectively rather than count on such devotion and skill to come forth voluntarily again. A more rational pattern of accountability and administration that frees both officers and staff to concentrate on their special tasks must be found. With the increasing complexity of association business and the new era of financial crisis, the comptroller must have authority and his duties must be coherent. He should control expenditures as budgeted and have the independent obligation to inform the officers and Council, should the occasion arise, of financial problems and budgetary limitations as they are reached. The comptroller should have the responsibility of denying expenditures beyond the budget unless the Council or its committees give specific authorization.

The executive director occupies the chief executive position of the association. For this reason, we have sought to give this position a new title more commensurate with the duties involved. The executive director should be the chief staff officer of the Council and should have primary staff responsibility for the association-wide committees. He should serve as liaison officer between the association and other organizations and agencies. Moreover, he should be responsible for the operations of the association offices and all other tasks assigned to him by the Council.

The associate executive director should act as deputy for the executive director and share in the responsibilities of that office. The precise division and definition of tasks among the associate executive director and other (perhaps two) staff associates may vary and therefore may be revised from time to time in the light of individual capabilities and interests, the requirements of administrative efficiency, work loads, and the shifts in work and emphasis that will characterize association obligations at any given time. Such allocations should come within the province of the executive director, in cooperation with the Council.

Under the proposed constitution, the editor-in-chief of the American Historical Review would have direct access to the Council but not be a member of it. The reasoning behind this recommendation is that the editor already has heavy editorial and administrative responsibilities and should not be saddled with too many other tasks. The editor should sit as a nonvoting member with the Publications Committee (see section 6). The proposed change envisages no diminution of authority of the editor or of the proportionate role of the AHR and other publications in the activities and priorities of the association. The Publications Committee, with the function of supervising all publications activities of the association, would be composed of the three vice-presidents and three other members of the association appointed by the Council. Editors of other AHA publications would also sit with the committee and be responsible to it. An advertising and promotion manager, responsible for these aspects of all publications, would report directly to the committee.

The Review Board recommends that the Council set a mandatory retirement age for officers of the association at 65, with an option for earlier retirement at the individual’s choice at a given age to be decided.