Dear ACH friends and colleagues,
A year ago, I wrote to our members as part of my presidential platform that “there is a stark need for ACH to step forward to take a proactive role in advocating for a diverse future that is built around the values of our membership.” I itemized three areas that I hoped my two years as ACH president might address: 1) developing a set of guidelines for the evaluation of digital humanities scholarship; 2) conducting an open discussion about whether ACH should continue to be a global digital humanities organization or whether we should limit our engagement to a particular set of geographical boundaries? and 3) seeking a deeper understanding of how to diversify our conferences and larger organizational structures.
I’m so pleased to report that the Executive Committee has made concrete progress on all three of these issues. At our general membership meeting in Kraków, Poland, the Executive Committee opened the ACH Guidelines for Assessment of Digital Scholarship in Tenure and Promotion for comment by members. Begun under the leadership of Johanna Drucker with the assistance of Glen Worthey, our former president, Stéfan Sinclair, and others, these guidelines serve as an important resource for members to use to advocate for themselves. They can assist in guiding employers in recognizing the work our membership is doing in a variety of academic and public contexts. Thank you to those of you who submitted feedback. We hope the final version that you are being asked to endorse in the current election materials reflect all the hard work this document represents.
We’ve also made strides in answering the question I hear most frequently from new members: Is ACH a US-based digital humanities organization or is it a global organization? Our Executive Committee confidently answers that “The Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) is a major professional and scholarly society focused on the digital humanities throughout the United States. While based in the U.S., ACH is open to all, regardless of geographic location, as non-U.S. members have important perspectives to offer to American digital humanities practitioners.” More simply, while most of our business takes place in the US, we are interested in members from throughout the world contributing to our organizational goals.
It is our hope that our 2017 membership drive sees tremendous success in outreach to new members of diverse backgrounds and far-flung locales. Importantly, note that we’ve got a great $26.00 rate for student members. Please make sure to ask your colleagues whether they are members of ACH and if they aren’t, encourage them to join us.
I wrote in my candidate statement that “repeatedly, our membership has expressed their frustration with the seeming lack of diversity in approaches, methods, and presenters [of the annual conference]…How might our activities better represent not just who we are now but the diverse future we hope to embody? Are there systemic issues that we should address to present not just linguistic diversity but diversity in its many manifestations?” Again, this summer, we heard these clarion calls in social media back-channels and via private correspondence to Executive Committee members.
I want to assure you that the Executive Committee hears these concerns and recognizes the importance of ACH representing its core values without compromise: inclusive, diverse, and accessible across the humanities disciplines as well as our own backgrounds. You’ll be pleased to see a revised statement of ACH identity in the current election materials for your endorsement that builds upon the brief statement quoted above. It not only clarifies our aims but also serves as a reminder that all our core activities (advocacy, professional development, grants & awards, and publications) should continually strive to be inclusive, diverse, and accessible.
A number of pivotal issues have confronted our organization in the last year or so in the form of discussions about our identity, our values, and our role as a professional organization. These conversations have only been heightened for us in these last few months following not only the US Presidential election but also episodes of hateful speech, harassment, and acts of violence against members of historically vulnerable communities. These attacks have occurred not just in physical environments on campuses and in Ferguson, Missouri and Cannon Ball, North Dakota, but also through social media and other digital platforms. As our organization is devoted to the exploration of intersectionality and critical exploration of technology and the humanities, it was important for ACH to address the membership at this fraught time in our collective history.
I encourage you, if you have not already, to review the Statement on the Aftermath of the 2016 Election published on the ACH website and included below. It provides a number of commitments from ACH to our membership. It signals our continuing history as an organization committed to critical thinking, professional development, and diverse, inclusive, and accessible communities. And, significantly, in the coming months you’ll receive information on specific initiatives and opportunities that will back up our words with directed action. We also welcome input from members to guide us as we move these initiatives forward.
We should also be proud of other accomplishments this year and soon to come that share these aims:
● Led by Diane Jakacki, program chair of the 2017 annual conference, the pool of potential reviewers has been dramatically increased both in sheer quantity but also in variety of representational knowledge and diverse backgrounds. Johanna Drucker and Jeremy Boggs are working as our ACH representatives on the Program Committee. If you have a moment to thank them for their service, please do so.
- Since July, the membership committee has secured purchasing discounts for ACH members with leading digital humanities presses to ensure that our members have access to recent scholarship at affordable rates.
- The awards committee has distributed another year’s worth of funding to our microgrant winners. They have been working on evaluating the current guidelines to ensure a smooth application process and clear evaluation criteria.
- Members of the communications committee are working to revamp our strategies for communicating with our members. They studied our existing social media platforms and have drafted recommendations to take our content to where our membership is virtually. In the coming months, you’ll see refreshed website content as well the growth of the DH slack channel.
- Vika Zafrin, our invaluable secretary, supported by Glen Worthey, has completed documents associated with the revision to the election cycle so that it coincides with the calendar year. This will allow our members to more easily track and renew their membership. Vika also been behind the scenes ensuring that our internal documentation is up to par for future generations of ACHers interested in writing our own history.
- As part of our internal refresh, Brian Croxall led the establishment of an ACH Conflict of Interest policy. All Executive Committee members now complete an annual accounting of any conflicts they might have so as to ensure a transparent operation of the association.
- Tanya Clement, working in conjunction with former treasurer Jarom McDonald, is updating our accounting procedures to ensure ACH is compliant with all applicable financial laws. And, in conjunction with our committee chairs, she’s ensuring that our activities as an organization have sufficient financial resources. This year, the Executive Committee approved providing supplemental funding to Digital Humanities Quarterly to assist the journal in its duties in addition to our annual contribution to the DHQ operating budget.
These are just a few of the ongoing activities we’re completing or are currently working on. As we head into 2017, I thank you for your continued investment in ACH. Your efforts, voices, and brilliant minds are transformative for the academy, the public, and our future.