ASA Petition: Publications Committee/Editors

kelley oudies at
Mon Nov 8 15:47:10 PST 1999

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Dear Colleague:

The ASA business meeting in Chicago was quite contentious as you may know. The basis of that angst on the part of the membership was in response to the ASA Council having overturned the recommendation of the Publications Committee that the Walter Allen editorial team be awarded editorship of the American Sociological Review. Obviously, the Publications Committee felt the qualifications of the Allen team would serve the ASR and the Association well. The Council action was egregious and undermines the democracy of the Association. Many members feel strongly that the deliberations and recommendation of the Publications Committee should be upheld.

The ASA by-laws make provision for members to redress Council action through a member's resolution and petition process. Toward that end, an ad hoc committee has been formed to seek redress and the most appropriate remedy of the Council's action through such a members' resolution. Attached is background information and a petition for action on behalf of the membership to restore that editorship to the group that the duly elected Publications Committee thought best qualified to be awarded the stewardship of ASR. In order for this petition to be effective, it will need to be signed by approximately 500 people who are currently paid members of the Association. These petitions must be signed and returned to us by December 1. We encourage you to read the attached materials and join us in this effort to establish a broader vision for the Association's flagship journal.

Also, For an excellent discussion of the issues about this sordid saga, members are encouraged to read ASA President Joe Feagin's contribution to the Chronicle of Higher Education dated 10/15/99. We seek your support.

All signed petitions should be mailed to Bonnie T. Dill at:

SINCERELY, James Blackwell Bonnie Dill Robert Newby Wornie Reed Michael Schwartz


Council's reversal of the Publication Committee's two choices in favor of the Camic and Wilson team was the first time in ASA history that Council appointed an editor to any journal whose name was not sent forward by the Committee. The majority of Council were given only 10 minutes to review Camic and Wilson's credentials, adding to the precipitous character of the action and further undermining its credibility. Despite procedural changes which seek to prevent such action in the future, a decision made in this way should not be allowed to stand.

Though it was technically legal for Council to take this action, it was well outside the established procedures of the ASA, and it constituted a reversal of the actions of a body elected by the membership. It is important to note that in 1997 the membership specifically rejected a change in the by-laws that would have made the Committee on Publications an appointed body, fully subservient to Council. For Council to summarily reverse this decision was a direct contradiction of the recently stated wishes of the membership.

There is far more at stake here than a simple injustice against a qualified candidate for the ASR editorship. For ten years, there has been an ongoing effort--at Council as well as PubComm--to remedy the very narrow intellectual scope of the journal. There have been numerous studies made of the problem, and a number of changes--including broader editorial boards and altered reviewer profiles--aimed at opening up the review process. Walter Allen's and Jerry Jacobs' proposals for the ASR editorship both contained concrete and promising ideas for further changes that held real promise of success; and they both articulated an informed commitment to the diversification project. Council's reversal of the Committee on Publications' selection of Allen represents a severe setback for this effort.

Most ASA members do not subscribe to ASR, and most of those who do read only a small sub-set of the articles. For the majority of readers and non-readers, the articles outside their specialty are opaque and inaccessible, and the path-breaking articles that impact the profession as a whole are presented in other forums. The ongoing efforts to broaden ASR are essential to prevent further erosion of its intellectual base, and to restore it to its one time role as the centerpiece of sociological discourse.

Walter Allen's qualifications for the ASR editorship are fully commensurate with the highest standards, including a distinguished publication record and vast administrative experience. Moreover, his proposal contains a compelling vision about how to attract and evaluate a broader spectrum of subjects and methodologies to the ASR. The centerpiece of this vision was his success in recruiting distinguished deputy editors from fields that traditionally do not publish in the ASR (for example, Patricia Hill Collins and Jeffrey Alexander). Then, by granting these deputy editors the power to select reviewers and fully evaluate manuscripts, he offered a real possibility of infusing the journal with work that would make it be truly representative of the profession as a whole. His editorship represents an important opportunity for the Association to significantly improve the quality of the journal. If we do not seize this opportunity now, this sort of conjunction of skills and commitment may not appear again anytime soon. A Boycott: To express our sense of urgency about the problem, and to create a sense of urgency about seeking a solution, we are asking supporters to participate in a boycott. In addition to signing the petition please discontinue subscriptions to ASR until there is a satisfactory solution to this controversy. This means that in your next membership renewal you should choose subscriptions to other journals, not to the ASR. If sufficient numbers of people fail to renew, it will provide a tangible material incentive for all those in responsible positions in the Association and in the ASR to seek out and implement effective strategies for diversifying the journal, and to press for the reinstatement of Walter Allen and his editorial team. ASA Member's Resolution The ASA Council's ill-advised reversal of the Committee on Publication's selection of Walter Allen has created two sets of grievances--one procedural, the other substantive. The question of procedure--how to prevent this sort of unregulated reversal from occurring again--appears to have been resolved by the institution of new consultative arrangements between Council and the Committee on Publications. The question of substance--how to undo the setback to the diversification of the ASR--remains unresolved.

At its August meeting, Council rejected the vote of the Business Meeting to set aside its decision; and voted instead to institute yet another investigation of the how to diversify the content of the Journal, with a report due in the uncertain future. Council's inaction leaves the membership no alternative but to utilize the member's resolution process to create and execute a policy that addresses directly the question of diversifying the journal.

Resolution & Petition Whereas, Council's action was precipitous, unprecedented, and undemocratic; And whereas intellectual diversity is the central issue facing the ASR; And whereas there is very substantial discontent in the profession with the current scope of the ASR; And whereas Walter Allen and his team represent our best chance of combining superb traditional qualifications with a viable program for a more diverse and representative ASR;

We therefore, the undersigned voting members of the Association, in accordance with Article II, Section 8, of the By-laws of the American Sociological Association, call for Council to take the following actions:

The current editors' term will end in the year 2001, reducing their term from three to two years.

Walter Allen will be appointed editor of ASR for a three-year term beginning at the end of their term, with the transition beginning in Summer of 2001.

Should Council disapprove this resolution, we expect that in keeping with the by-laws, the matter will be submitted to the entire voting membership of the Association by mail ballot no later than the next regular election (Spring 2000).

NOTE: SIGN AND MAIL THIS PAGE ONLY TO: Dr. Bonnie Dill, Dept. of Women's Studies; 2101 Woods Hall; University of Maryland; College Park, Maryland 20742; by December 1, 1999.

For signatures to be valid, the signee must be a voting member of the American Sociological Association as of December 31 of the year of the signing (1999). The signee's name must be written as it appears on the membership rolls of the Association, and signers must provide their addresses as they appear on the membership rolls of the Association. The date of signing shall be indicated.

This resolution is submitted by (signature):___________________________________________, a voting member of the American Sociological Association.


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