By Dan Kerr
February 2021 Newsletter
The Oral History Association’s Vision Statement: We envision a world where a deep humanistic understanding of the past, developed through a process of listening and mutual respect, shapes a more inclusive and equitable future.
The waning days of the Trump administration posed unprecedented challenges for the United States as a whole as well as for the Oral History Association. On Jan. 6 a mob of Trump supporters sought to overthrow our democratic form of governance, displaying symbols of hate while claiming to be patriots.
Less than two weeks later, the Trump administration issued the “The 1776 Report,” which attacked a half century of historical scholarship, called for a form of government indoctrination of American students and provided ideological justification for the failed coup. The OHA joined with dozens of other academic associations to sign onto statements issued by the American Historical Association denouncing both of these developments (January 6th Statement and 1776 Statement).
In considering OHA’s position on these statements, OHA Council and the Executive Office realized we need to make more transparent the process we have in place for making quick decisions on the issuance of public statements. Our OHA Policy on Public Resolutions states that ultimate authority to approve public statements rests with OHA Council. However, the language that follows assumes a lengthy process linked to our Annual Business Meeting. We hope to clarify this process with additional language that will be presented to the OHA membership this year that delineates how decisions are made outside of our annual meeting.
At any time, members can reach out to the Executive office or any Council member seeking support for public statements on issues that impact our field. If Council does not support intervention, members will have recourse to bring their proposal before our membership using the process laid out in the existing OHA Policy on Public Resolutions.
The Committee Restructuring Task Force, which seeks to realign committees so that we can more effectively push our strategic plan forward, has proposed that OHA develop a model where members can self-organize into officially recognized caucuses.
Such caucuses would provide a means for members to affect the direction of the OHA from the bottom up. Now is a great time to start thinking of the caucuses that you would like to form or be a part of. Other ideas that are being considered include the formation of a Development Committee and Advocacy Committee. If you have any suggestions for the task force to consider, please reach out to the Executive Office and these ideas will be considered by the task force.
After a lengthy search, the OHA now has a new treasurer, Troy Reeves. He will chair the Finance Committee, advise the OHA on all budgetary matters and be a non-voting participant in our monthly Council meetings. In anticipation that a Development Committee will be formally established this year, we have formed a Development Task Force that is chaired by Stephen Sloan. Troy Reeves and I will work closely with this task force as we seek to institute regular and standardized development practices within the OHA.
This work is critical as we begin the first stages of planning the transition of our Executive Office. Council approved the formation of an Executive Office Search Committee that will include Kelly Navies, LuAnn Jones and Zaheer Ali. We expect the OHA will issue a Request for Proposals by early summer. Please seriously consider pitching your own proposal to serve as OHA’s next Executive Director.
It is never too late to get involved with one of the OHA committees or task forces that are essential for advancing OHA’s mission. If you would like to get more involved, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.