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Historians Pledge Action on Harassment

February 22, 2018
 
 

In a new report to members of the American Historical Association, Mary Beth Norton, AHA president, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University, pledged action on sexual harassment -- including developing a procedure that could expel offenders from AHA events. While the association “has long been on record as decrying sexual harassment in employment,” Norton said, that “statement clearly needs expanding and updating.”

Norton said leaders within the association have been discussing the matter since the fall and recently decided to survey members about their experiences with harassment at past conventions. The association also held a session on harassment within the field at its annual meeting in January, during which members requested that AHA develop “best practices” to guide historians and their employers. It has therefore become clear, Norton said, that “rather than one statement, the AHA needed to adopt several: one on sexual harassment, setting forth principles and complaint procedures for our conventions and other meetings we organized, and others on such topics as hiring and mentoring, outlining principles and best practices in contexts over which we have no direct control.”

Members of AHA’s governing council have agreed on the basic outlines of a new procedure to promote appropriate behavior at association events, Norton said, and attendees should be required to consent to related guidelines during registration. An ombuds team also has been created to receive complaints about harassment at meetings. Possible sanctions against offenders include expulsion from the event. The statements and new procedure for addressing harassment will be drafted by an AHA Council committee. “We anticipate approval by the Council in June and full implementation at the 2019 AHA annual meeting in Chicago,” Norton said. 

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