The Ivoriest Tower

The AHA published another defense of their misguided statement on embargoing dissertations, this one written by former President William Cronon. This new post underscores the real heart of the criticism and controversy over the AHA’s statement. Cronon defends the text of the statement and the embargo policy, but the real outrage isn’t related to the AHA’s text, but rather the statement’s subtext. The AHA took the time to issue a statement on an issue pertaining to tenure track faculty at research universities (the people who need monographs published by university presses to gain tenure). In a vacuum, there is nothing controversial. But we don’t live in a vacuum. For those of us where an R1 tenure track position is the thing of dreams the statement stinks of a powerful organization protecting it’s more prestigious members. Now this assertion would have been quite debatable, until Cronon repeatedly called the tenure track professors his “our most vulnerable colleagues.” Presumably, when the former president of the AHA writing on the AHA’s official blog uses “our” without any other indicator, he is using it to refer collectively to the membership of the AHA, which makes Cronon’s statement laughable. “Our most vulnerable colleagues” are not the few people still finding tenure track positions at R1s, those are the lucky ones. “Our most vulnerable colleagues” should refer to adjuncts who are FAR more vulnerable than any tenure track faculty. So it seems Cronon (remember, former head of the AHA, etc) does not consider adjuncts colleagues, he honestly thinks adjuncts are less vulnerable than tenure track faculty, or he’s a writer unused to writing publicly and does not chose his words wisely (I know, LOL). I understand the impulse of Cronon and those who wrote the AHA’s statement. They want to protect their students from a broken system. The problem is they didn’t actually seek to reform the system. To them it was crafted out of compassion, but for the AHA members who do not live in the Ivoriest portions of the Ivory tower it looks like leaders who are out of touch with the most pressing issues facing the discipline.

5 responses to “The Ivoriest Tower”

  1. […] not that worried about digital dissertations, and that the entire issue as framed by the AHA is only relevant to those few PhD students who get tenure track jobs at R1 universities, what’s really going on […]


  2. Great points, Brian, and specifically, it is us (who are on tenure-tracks at R1 institutions) who are the lucky ones. The vulnerable ones are the adjuncts. The Harvard University Press blog post also really hammers the nail.

    It is, in fact, about choice – yes, scholars should be given choices, but protecting knowledge is sharing it, not gating it.


  3. […] contributions, the protection of young scholars and the concerns of those young scholars, the difference between Research 1 jobs and those at liberal arts colleges, and a number of others. The level of […]


  4. […] 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 […]


  5. […] who did read the statement and saw how uncontroversial its actual content was, chose, therefore, to criticize the statement’s “subtext” instead of its text — or, in other words, to take it to task for things it didn’t say […]


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