History needs a Brian Croxall.
I’m not actually referring to Brian himself, but the fact that History needs someone who truly understands the life in which most graduate students and recent PhDs find themselves. He’s “a former adjunct who now works off the tenure track” that was also just elected to an at large seat on MLA’s Executive Council. I think it’s a great move for the MLA who, from my perspective over in a history, have done more to deal with issues of the job market and adjunctification than the AHA (though I’m sure others may not feel the same way). From my view, the AHA has exposed themselves as out-of-touch and ineffective in actually addressing change, though very good at forming committees. I don’t think the AHA represents me as a historian, as a grad student, or as a young scholar. Why should I? Because there’s a Graduate and Early Career Committee that doesn’t have a seat on the Executive Committee? Because Kenneth Pomeranz was a visiting professor for one semester when I was less than a year old, I’m supposed to think he can relate to the job market today? I don’t mean any of this as a personal attack, I’m sure everyone over at the AHA is very well meaning, but well meaning doesn’t always produce results.
So where’s History’s Brian Croxall? If I were the paranoid type, I’d say it’s a vast conspiracy, though I imagine having a nominating committee helps reduce the need for vast conspiracies. And frankly, I was content to leave it alone and just focus on teaching, writing, and trying to find some source of employment/funding for next year. But then I went on twitter too often and I kept seeing people talk about “organizing” as the only way to address problems with the job market and adjunctification. Occasionally they’d say “labor organizing” but then that’s it.
I just got sick of sarcastically muttering to myself, “Thanks for the advice” and said “FUCK IT–you want me to organize, I’ll organize something.” So here it is. An opportunity for all the tenured “allies” of adjuncts and grad students to affect change (in History at least). Let’s get someone like Brian Croxall, someone who has worked as an adjunct, someone who is not on the tenure track, someone who the AHA’s nominating committee would never select, despite their outstanding qualifications, elected to the AHA Executive Committee. The AHA’s Constitution allows nominations for any position up for election “by petition supported by the signature of not less than one hundred members of the Association in good standing indicating the position for which the petition is intended.” –Article VIII, Section 1 (b).
This is just a call for action, I don’t have anyone in mind. Hell, I’m not even a current member of the AHA (I know, shocking!). All I’m asking is for people to eventually sign a petition and vote for someone who will actually represent adjuncts, grad students, and all those off the tenure track. But movements need a beginning and I think it’s about time for an alt-AHA candidate to represent the alt-ac.
[Also, my apologies to Brian for using him as a symbol of change without his permission or even consulting him before this. As most of my blog post they’re quickly written when an idea strikes. Hopefully he takes my references to his success as the compliment I intended them as]
…or we could all just go about our work and let the AHA continue on its own irrelevant path. Honestly I cannot see the organization becoming something useful in my lifetime.
The AHA is a club run by R1 professors and a few of their pampered grad students, and has been since at least the 1950s. Just look at the list of past presidents. It has never been relevant to my career as a teaching historian at directional state campuses (where most academic historians are employed). It has never been relevant to public history. The AHA conference in the tail that wags the whole organizational dog, and that tail exists by forcing grad students to attend to subsidize the cost of job searches. And it claims to represent historians.
It is a shame, because history could really use a national voice. I would be happy to support an organization that lobbied Congress (in an effective manner) for funding for humanities institutions, that censured departments that underpaid or mistreated adjuncts, that had an open-access scholarly journal and a strong social media presence and encouraged and valued digital scholarship. I cannot imagine the AHA ever getting there.
I made a similar statement about the OAH years ago. It is like shouting into the wind: http://northwesthistory.blogspot.com/2009/09/my-plan-to-revive-oah.html