The Continuing Work of the Board-led Subcommittee on Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harrasment

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Skyline from the Westin Hotel in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Image credit: Lahti213 via Wikimedia Commons

Authors’ Note: As you may be aware, the status of the NCPH annual meeting has changed. The sessions will not take place as described below, but the activities of the committee continue.

As we look forward to our annual meeting in Atlanta, members of the National Council on Public History (NCPH) board-led Subcommittee on Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment wanted to share an update on our recent activities. Co-chaired by Kristen Baldwin Deathridge and Mary Rizzo, this subcommittee continues work begun by the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force around ending sexual harassment and gender discrimination at our conference, in our organization, and in the public history field. The sub-committee includes consultants, museum workers, university-based public historians, graduate students, and new professionals. A list of subcommittee members is located with the other board committees on the NCPH website.

At the Conference

If you want to learn more about issues of gender discrimination and sexual harassment, consider attending one or more sessions scheduled for the 2020 NCPH annual meeting we listed below:

  • Wednesday, March 18, at 1:30 p.m., Chelsea Miller of the New York State Coalition on Sexual Assault is facilitating a workshop “From #MeToo to Prevention: Bystander Intervention Training for Public History and Museum Professionals.” The workshop is only $10 and this is the second year for this popular session. See Miller’s recent post on History@Workfor more details and perspective.
  • On Friday, March 20, Mary Rizzo, Porsha Dossie, and GVGK Tang will present about the committee’s work at the Public History Educators Breakfast. We will also solicit input specifically about what resources educators are particularly interested in to help them in training public historians.
  • Friday, March 20, from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Hope Shannon (a member of this subcommittee) is facilitating a session on “Public History and Gender Equity: A Long View of the Field.” This structured conversation is co-sponsored by the NCPH 40th Anniversary Ad-hoc Committee, the NCPH Council of Past Presidents, the Gender Equity in Museums Movement, and this subcommittee.
  • Saturday, March 21, from 11 a.m.-12 p.m., the Subcommittee on Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment will have a public meeting for those who want to hear more about what we’ve been doing, get involved, or provide input on these issues.

Committee Activities to Date

A lot has happened since we began work in late summer 2019 on the several charges given to us by NCPH leadership. With much to do, we divided into teams to work on four areas: codes of conduct, resources, survey, and revocation policies.

Codes of Conduct Team: This team quickly completed work with the Governance Committee and the Diversity & Inclusion Task Force to update the Events Code of Conduct, which was implemented in 2019. The Events Code of Conduct updates, produced as a result of these collaborations, were approved by the NCPH board on October 26, 2019. The Governance Committee is also working on updates to the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and sought input from membership through early January 2020. As part of this process, the same team that worked on the Events Code incorporated content related to gender discrimination and sexual harassment into the Code of Ethics. With input from the wider subcommittee, this team also proposed sweeping revisions to the Code of Ethics, reworking much of it entirely to present to the Governance Committee. Governance has the challenging task of pulling together all of these suggested edits and feedback in order to present a new draft Code of Ethics for consideration.

Resources: The resources team is assembling and assessing resources on topics of gender discrimination and sexual harassment to empower public historians to take action when necessary at work, to provide resources on these issues to those who teach and train public historians, and to provide resources to anyone in the field who has been a victim of sexual harassment or gender discrimination. You’ll be able to see a preview of this team’s work at the annual meeting with some resources gathered specifically for the meeting in Atlanta in the program. This will be followed by the development of a more robust set of resources that will be available online.

Survey: This team is developing a survey of the field, in partnership with other professional organizations, that will help us understand who is most affected by sexual harassment and gender discrimination, at what stages in their training or career, and what form harassment takes by gathering data. The survey team, which includes members with quantitative and qualitative survey experience, has begun drafting survey questions after extensive research and discussion. We hope to release the survey later this year with the goal of using the data to report on the results to the membership, NCPH leadership, and the field at large. We also hope to report on suggestions of policies, informed by this data, that NCPH can take to reduce harassment and discrimination in the public history field.

Policy: Finally, the policy team is researching revocation policies and disciplinary measures used by other organizations that could be implemented by NCPH. This team will submit a draft of such a policy (or policies) for NCPH’s governance committee to consider. The term “disciplinary” is used for the sake of brevity and includes policies such as membership and award revocation. The team would like to create a system that first and foremost honors the needs and desires of victims and survivors. The team is exploring models that lie outside of a standard disciplinary or criminal-justice-inspired approach, including aspects of restorative justice, harm reduction, and reparational models. There are a variety of definitions for these models and our research is in its early stages. This work is proving to be complex, as it involves, among other aspects, legal considerations. What so far seems clear is that no single model used by other professional organizations meets NCPH’s current needs and capacity.

We hope to see you at our open meeting at the conference, but if you have thoughts or suggestions, please reach out to us.

~Mary Rizzo is an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University-Newark.

~Kristen Baldwin Deathridge is an NCPH board member and associate professor of history at Appalachian State University.

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