Historians and COVID-19

April 6, 2020
 

The American Historical Association and several peer organizations in a new statement urge institutions that employ historians to be flexible and humane during COVID-19. The statement calls for clarity regarding any changes to faculty review, reappointment and tenure processes, and for only optional delays to individual personnel actions, such as tenure clocks. Non-tenure-track faculty members should be compensated for previously contracted spring, summer and fall course offerings, and universities should consider "extending the duration of funded support to graduate students as well as offering whatever support possible to graduate students who have suffered serious financial losses relating to the impact of the pandemic." Libraries, museums and archives should similarly be as flexible as possible, according to the AHA.

"Everything has a history and historians are especially well suited to explain social and cultural challenges met in crisis situations, epidemics and pandemics among them," the statement says. "Like our colleagues in related disciplines, historians can also explore the challenges public health authorities, governments and nonprofit institutions face in mediating possible conflicts between individual rights and the good of the greater society."

The document concludes, "When a neighbor asks, 'Is it worth sacrificing the economy for a few hundred thousand lives,' it's time for a humanist to enter the discussion. This important, and difficult, conversation too has a history."

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