Professional Organizations and Political Engagements: An OAH Discussion

OAH forum Professional Organizations and Political EngagementsIn advance of its upcoming annual meeting, the Organization of American Historians held an online forum on “Professional Organizations and Political Engagements.” Current and former members of the OAH Executive Board discussed the various complex issues related to requests for a scholarly society to support causes that might or might not be part of the mission of their organizations. The discussion will continue at a plenary session at the OAH annual meeting on Friday, April 20, 4:30 p.m.

AHA President William Cronon and Executive Director Jim Grossman were among the participants in the forum, which also included Jon Butler, Albert Camarillo, William Chafe, David Hollinger, Alice Kessler-Harris, Nancy MacLean, and Vicki Ruiz.

Topics explored in the forum included:

  • Core principles by which organization leaders can be guided when they, or a substantial segment of their membership, believe that a particular cause is worthy of support.
  • Issues that an organization could or should support even if such support carries some financial risk.
  • The idea of a “division of labor” among the various organizations to which scholars belong.
  • The concept of “fiduciary responsibility” as an aspect of decision-making by governing boards of scholarly membership organizations.

The forum engaged both abstract issues and such concrete examples as deciding whether or not to break hotel contracts because of labor disputes or other objections to a venue. Readers are invited to contribute their thoughts on this discussion online.

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