Thursday, January 20, 2005

Response from Liz Brumfiel to Walter Goldschmidt

Dear Colleagues:

President Brumfiel has requested that I post her response to Walter Goldschmidt's earlier message.

For those of you who were not in Atlanta, this email reiterates and in some cases clarifies positions that President Brumfiel made there and deserves the same attention as Dr. Goldschmidt's letter.



Dear Wally,

Thank you for your letter of a couple of weeks ago. It clearly expresses your ongoing concern for the well-being for the AAA, and that is heartening.

As I understand it, your letter makes four points, two of which I agree with and two of which I disagree with.

The first is that since I am the current President of the AAA, I am the one who is responsible for the preservation of the organization. I certainly agree with that! I assure you that I have thought hard and worked diligently since I took office fourteen months ago to make the AAA a better organization, one that serves the needs of all its members. This has been particularly true during the past three months, as we faced the challenge of a lock-out of workers by the San Francisco hotels. I am painfully aware of my responsibilities to the organization and its members.

The second point you make is that the AAA is currently in crisis, on the verge of disintegrating. I must respectfully disagree with this assessment. Reading through the Section News of the January 2005 AN, it seemed to me that there is widespread recognition that the Executive Board operated in good faith when it voted to move the meeting to Atlanta. This was true even of sections that went ahead and held their own session in San Francisco. There is also widespread concern about the information available to the Executive Board when it made its decision and the flow of information from the EB to the membership and from the membership to the EB. These are definitely matters requiring serious attention and reform, but they do not constitute a crisis.

The third point you make is that the AAA officers and staff ought to undertake a detailed and public review of the events leading up to the decision to move the meeting to Atlanta. I must also disagree with this position. Such a review would undoubtedly yield conflicting accounts, leading to further accusations and dissention. It would also cost both the AAA officers and staff a great deal of time and energy, time and energy that are better spent in more forward-looking efforts to solve our problems and provide better membership services. I think we know enough about what transpired in October to agree that in situations like this, AAA officers and staff need to begin to react earlier and to consult more extensively with the membership. This was a very painful lesson, but I am confident that we have learned it.

The fourth point you make is that the AAA ought to undertake reforms that will ensure that the events of last October will not be repeated. I agree entirely! For this reason I am creating two Commissions. The Labor Relations Commission is charged with 1) providing information to the AAA Executive Board and staff as they negotiate contracts that promote collective bargaining and the right to organize while protecting the Association from liability and the disruption of its scheduled annual meetings, and (2) seeking alliances with other scholarly associations for the above purposes. The Governance Commission will see reforms in the relationship between the AAA Executive Board and the Sections and to facilitate communication and feedback mechanisms within the AAA as a whole between annual meetings. Both of these Commissions come at the suggestion of membership proposals in response to the Executive Board decision.

I think that the AAA has come though a difficult time fairly well intact. Let us strive to make 2005 a great year for the organization!

With best wishes,



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