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Written by  Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, California Institute of Technology

 

There are six good reasons why the EHA should abstain from  supporting the AAUP Statement:

First, the EHA is an association for the promotion of research and teaching of economic history. It is not a political organization either inside or outside of academia. Supporting this plausibly valuable document as an association opens the door to members seeking EHA support for a continuum of more or less worthy causes.  We simply have better things to do.

Second, the EHA is composed of members with a wide range of opinions on many topics.  If a significant minority of the EHA members do not support the statement, it does not seem proper to say that the Economic History Association as a whole supports the statement.  People’s definitions of significant minorities might differ, but I would argue that anything more than 10 percent opposition would be enough to not have the majority dictate the positions on which the EHA takes a stand.

Third, the EHA has a significant international membership with many members having positions far removed from the United States and the AAUP.   Would we be even considering supporting the tenure statement of the Australian version of AAUP?  Everyone knows the answer is no. I think we should avoid being parochial.

Fourth, one of the beauties of the American academic system is its fully decentralized structure.   If we agree that there should be no common standard in the teaching of economic history, then we might also want to allow each university to choose its tenure standards and processes.  Presumably those universities who want to attract and retain the best scholars will want to have good standards and processes. Those that do not care will simply not listen to us.

Fifth, I have been on all sides of the tenure issue as a junior faculty member, a voting tenured faculty member, a member of tenure review committees and now as a dean of sorts. The one thing I have observed is that a good process depends far more on the faculty’s commitment to the process rather than any institutional dictum whether it is from the university or from AAUP.

Sixth, the statement has no teeth. If fails the basic test of an institution because no university has ever been thrown out of AAUP because it failed to adhere to the 1940 declaration.  Let us support things that matter.