AHA Issues Letter Expressing Concern Regarding Termination of History Professor (December 2020)Historians in the News
tags: University of Mississippi, academic freedom, Garrett Felber
The AHA sent a letter to the chancellor and provost of the University of Mississippi expressing concern about the university’s decision not to renew the contract of Garrett Felber, assistant professor of history, and the possibility that Professor Felber’s activism relating to racism and incarceration might have affected a decision on his employment status. The letter also raised questions of procedure regarding this disciplinary action, citing the AHA’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct.
Read the letter as a pdf.
Dear Chancellor Boyce and Provost Wilkin,
The American Historical Association has become aware of the recent decision at the University of Mississippi not to renew the contract of Dr. Garrett Felber, assistant professor of history. The AHA is concerned about the possibility that Professor Felber’s activism relating to racism and incarceration might have affected a decision on his employment status. This would be inappropriate and a violation of either his First Amendment rights or his academic freedom, or both. We are also concerned about questions of procedure governing this disciplinary action.
The AHA is the largest association of professional historians in the world. Our 11,000 members include college professors, secondary school teachers, students, and historians working in museums, national parks, and innumerable other venues. The organization is committed to the idea that study of all aspects of the past, and their connection to the present, no matter how troubling, are fundamental not only to the practice of history but also to the functioning of democracy. Moreover, the professional standards we articulate and promote are cited frequently inside and outside the academy.
These standards assert that “all institutions employing historians should develop and follow clearly written procedures governing disciplinary action. These procedures should embody the principles of due process, including adequate mechanisms for fact-finding and avenues for appeal.” Whenever possible, we believe, there should also be mechanisms for input from department faculty. In the case of Professor Felber, publicly available information raises questions about whether the course of action that led to the termination of his appointment has followed proper due process procedures and has maintained his right to access institutionally based fact-finding and appeal mechanisms.
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