Statement from the Voting Members of the SHEAR Advisory Council Regarding #SHEAR2020

Centre Square Philadelphia, published by S. C. Atkinson for the Casket.

The digital plenary on Friday, July 17, 2020, violated the ethical norms, academic standards, and established procedures of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. The SHEAR Advisory Council deeply regrets and sincerely apologizes for these failures.

These failures included the president’s lack of full consultation with relevant elected and appointed committees during the planning of the session and neglect of procedures that encourage a diverse set of participants at all SHEAR panels.

We are therefore recommending that Douglas Egerton resign as President and step down from the Executive Committee, and that President-Elect Amy Greenberg step in as President. In consultation with the Nominations Committee, the remaining members of the Executive Committee should then proceed immediately with this year’s elections.

We also wish to strongly endorse and co-sign a letter sent to SHEAR leadership and signed by a group of concerned SHEAR members (see below). It represents the outpouring of communications we have received over the weekend. SHEAR is the collective creation of its members and we are grateful for the letter writers who created this statement.

Although this moment is difficult, this incident has served to strengthen our resolve to foreground diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism as core tenets of our professional work and to build an organization that properly reflects the diversity that is a hallmark of 21st century historical research. New leadership is essential to move SHEAR forward and we invite our membership to participate actively in this process. In the meantime, the Council will meet with the remaining members of the Executive Committee to discuss further steps.

Sincerely,

  • Susan Branson, 2018-2020
  • Kevin Butterfield, 2020-2022
  • Jonathan Earle, 2018-2020
  • Nicole Eustace, 2018-2020
  • Leslie Harris, 2020-2022
  • Ronald Angelo Johnson, 2020-2022
  • Jessica Lepler, 2019-2021
  • Caleb McDaniel, 2019-2021
  • Margot Minardi, 2020-2022
  • Amanda B. Moniz, 2018-2020
  • Sarah J. Purcell, 2019-2021
  • Daniel Richter, 2020-2022
  • Tamara Plakins Thornton, 2019-2021

Letter

We are writing as long time members of and boosters for the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic to express our outrage at the plenary panel on Friday, July 17.

The online plenary offered an opportunity to showcase the broad and diverse membership that SHEAR has been working to cultivate, and which President Doug Egerton referenced in his opening remarks. Unfortunately, the panel provided just the opposite. The collection of scholars who were part of the panel featured a lack of intellectual diversity, a lack of career stage diversity, and most importantly, a lack of racial and ethnic diversity. Indeed, the panel did not even follow SHEAR’s own guidelines for panels, which advise that “the best panels have a mix of presenters—by gender, graduate students and professors of different ranks, racial diversity, people from a range of institutions, non-academic presenters, people who haven’t appeared on a SHEAR program before or in a while, and people who don’t all live within the city limits of one university town.”

The result of this lack of diversity, which surely could have been anticipated, was evident immediately as none of the panelists could speak to the most pressing issues raised by the paper in question, such as Indigenous dispossession, monuments, and the role of junior, independent, and contingent scholars in engaging with the public. The narrowness of the discussion, combined with the dismissiveness of journalists and their work, does a disservice to historians who are working hard to reach audiences outside of universities and work with public- facing partners.

Moreover, the panel offered the opportunity to showcase much of the new and exciting work being produced by SHEAR members, and instead featured a paper that caricatured this scholarship rather than offering a fair critique. This is the antithesis of the scholarly engagement and intergenerational mentorship that SHEAR prides itself on providing at its annual conferences, and it works against longstanding efforts to welcome various voices into our organization.

Most egregiously, a panelist repeatedly referred to Native peoples with a racial slur. No panel participants stopped the use of this word nor did they say anything in response to this racist and offensive language. We hope that SHEAR will issue a public acknowledgement and condemnation of this language immediately and will work to repair the significant damage this behavior has done to the SHEAR community and to others who observed the session. The health of this organization depends on it.

Signed,

  • Whitney Martinko
  • Rachel Shelden
  • Kelly Kennington
  • Joseph M. Adelman
  • Seth Rockman
  • Bronwen Everill
  • Adam Malka
  • Ryan Quintana
  • Hilary Green
  • Michael Blaakman
  • Emily Conroy-Krutz
  • M. Scott Heerman
  • Adam Pratt
  • Zara Anishanslin
  • Richard Bell
  • Cassandra Good
  • Ben Wright
  • Derek Litvak
  • Kristen Epps
  • Honor Sachs
  • Paul J. Polgar
  • Christina Snyder
  • Jacob F. Lee
  • Nathaniel C. Green
  • Mandy L. Cooper
  • John P. Bowes
  • Gautham Rao
  • Julia Lewandoski
  • Dael A. Norwood
  • Elizabeth Ellis
  • Rachel Walker
  • Lori J. Daggar
  • Emilie Connolly
  • Kevin Kenny
  • Daniel Diez Couch
  • Al Zuercher Reichardt

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  4. […] some within the society, his arguments fell outdoors the bounds of acceptable scholarly discourse. In its letter, the advisory council — together with the scholar who chaired the panel, Jessica Lepler — […]

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  8. […] to some in the society, his arguments fell outdoors the bounds of acceptable scholarly discourse. In its letter, the advisory council — together with the scholar who chaired the panel, Jessica Lepler — […]

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