From the AHA Activities column in the January 1998 Perspectives
Report of the AHA 1997 Nominating Committee
Arthur Zilversmit, January 1998
On behalf of the Nominating Committee, I am pleased to report the results of the 1997 election for AHA offices. Elected candidates are indicated with an asterisk.
President (one-year term)
*Joseph C. Miller, Univ. of Virginia (Africa, world, history of slavery and the slave trade, social/economic)
President-Elect (one-year term)
*Robert Darnton, Princeton Univ. (early modern Europe, 18th-century France, history of the book)
Joan Wallach Scott, Inst. for Advanced Study (modern Europe, modern France, history of women and feminism, feminist theory)
Vice President, Teaching Division (three-year term)
*Leon Fink, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (U.S. and comparative labor, Gilded Age and Progressive Era, American political culture, occupational folklore, history of intellectuals)
Maris A. Vinovskis, Univ. of Michigan (U.S. social, education, family, demography)
Council Members (three-year terms)
*Nadine Ishitani Hata, El Camino Coll. (Asia Pacific, Asian-Pacific American, U.S. social, historic preservation in California)
Evelyn Edson, Piedmont Virginia Comm. Coll. (Europe, Western civilization, interdisciplinary humanities)
*Marilyn B. Young, New York Univ. (U.S.-East Asian relations, modern China, Third World women)
Michael P. Adas, Rutgers Univ. (comparative colonial, global, modern South and Southeast Asia, history of technology, cultural history of colonialism)
Division Members (three-year terms)
*James Grossman, Newberry Library (United States since the Civil War)
Richard V. W. Buel Jr., Wesleyan Univ. (early America, revolutionary, early Republic, America through the Civil War)
*Gale Stokes, Rice Univ. (19th- and 20th-century East European political)
Cemal Kafadar, Harvard Univ. (social and cultural history of the Middle East and the Balkans, 1300--1800)
*Nupur Chaudhuri, Kansas State Univ. (British colonial, British women, India)
Stephen J. Kneeshaw, Coll. of the Ozarks (American diplomatic, 20th-century United States, history education)
Committee on Committees (three-year term)
*Madeleine Zelin, Columbia Univ. (modern Chinese history, social and social movements, economic, legal and comparative legal, modern Chinese literature and translation)
Gail Hershatter, Univ. of California at Santa Cruz (modern China, labor, women, history of sexuality)
Nominating Committee (three-year terms)
*Philip D. Morgan, Omohundro Inst. of Early American History and Culture, Coll. of William and Mary (early America, early Caribbean, African American, Atlantic)
Gary Y. Okihiro, Cornell Univ. (Asian American, southern Africa)
*Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Smith Coll. (U.S. cultural, women, higher education, landscape)
Sarah J. Deutsch, Clark Univ. (U.S. social, women, race relations, West)
*Michael Les Benedict, Ohio State Univ. (American legal and constitutional, Civil War and Reconstruction, Gilded Age)
David J. Weber, Southern Methodist Univ. (Latin America, Spanish Borderlands, American Southwest, Mexican American)
The total number of ballots cast was 3,292. Eighty-one ballots arrived after the November 1 deadline and could not be counted. Survey and Ballot Systems, Inc., of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, scanned the ballots and tabulated the results. Only 20 ballots needed to be handcounted. Some voters registered their opinions about candidates, and the committee will review these criticisms and comments at its next meeting in February 1998.
The committee met, as usual, in Washington, D.C., February 1--3, for what turned out to be a most productive and congenial meeting. In a break from tradition, we began our meeting on a Saturday. We had planned to meet until Tuesday, February 4, but found that we had finished our work by Monday morning. All of us thought that the new pattern for the meeting--beginning on Saturday--was a highly successful innovation and we recommend that it continue. The new schedule, however, makes it very important to have as much information about potential candidates as possible. The committee, therefore, recommends that members of the next Nominating Committee be informed as soon as possible of the slots that will be open and they be urged to accumulate and bring c.v.'s to the meeting. The committee also recommends that the AHA's membership list be available electronically in the meeting room for the committee's use.
Participation in the election this year was higher than last year, with 3,292 votes cast as opposed to the 2,730 cast the year before. In general, however, participation rates have been disappointingly low considering the size of the AHA. Because last year's committee expressed concern about this, we were asked by the AHA Council to look at the candidate biography booklet that accompanies the election ballot. Sharon K. Tune of the AHA staff provided us with samples of candidate information used by other learned societies.
In our discussions, we unanimously agreed that radical change is needed to make the booklet more attractive and user-friendly. The present format carries a lot of useful information but it is filled with abbreviations and it looks too much like a sea of type. We believe that it would be preferable to present less total information but to present the central information in a truly readable form. This is a case of "less is more," because our effort to make a great deal of information available means that none was actually being communicated.
We recommend that the new booklet be primarily narrative in format. A narrative would give the candidates some choice as to how to present themselves to the membership, and they would have the opportunity to advance some interesting ideas. The new format would still include information about major publications, awards, and service.
Specifically, we recommend that the individual candidate's narrative begin with his or her name, affiliation, job title, and fields of interest. This would be followed by a statement of a limited number of words, and with limited entries in a number of categories. These categories (as modified by the AHA Council) presented in the narrative, not a list, would include:
- Major publications (we would want to provide some guidelines as to what constitutes major publications).
- Major awards and service.
- Other contributions (a category that would allow public historians to list their accomplishments).
We also thought that the AHA should explore the possibility of using individual pictures. (The Council rejected this proposal.) We also recommend that the AHA explore the use of a typographic consultant on graphics and layout. Several committee members thought that such advice might be available at low cost, perhaps through the use of a friend of the organization or a graduate student in the field of design.
We also thought that candidates should have the option of placing their c.v.'s on the AHA's web site.
All of us felt strongly that the final vote should not be published in the newsletter; it would still be available, of course, in the AHA's Annual Report and reported to the business meeting.
Several committee members suggested revisions in the Manual of Policies and Procedures developed last year. The chair of the committee will submit revisions to the AHA office.
Executive director Sandria B. Freitag gave us valuable advice, and all of us appreciated the many ways in which assistant director Sharon K. Tune helped us to perform our tasks. I would also like to thank the eight other members of the committee, and the members of the previous Nominating Committees I served with who, while keeping their focus on our duties, also kept their sense of humor and made our meetings congenial as well as highly effective.
—Arthur Zilversmit (Lake Forest College) is the chair of the 1997 AHA Nominating Committee.