The ACH Co-Vice President Experiment

Following the announcement of the 2020 ACH elections results, we are publishing a post that explains how we arrived at the experiment in co-vice presidency on which ACH will embark this summer.

When Quinn Dombrowski and Roopika Risam discovered they were running against each other for ACH Vice President/President Elect, it could have been awkward because they’re collaborators and friends. But they emailed each other, decided it wouldn’t be awkward, and Quinn proposed to make ACH election voting ads that they’d both retweet, based on their collaboration on The Data-Sitters Club. Throughout the election period, jokes about being co-VPs ensued, until one night, Quinn emailed Roopsi and wondered if Roopsi maybe wasn’t joking about the prospect of being co-VPs. Indeed, she was not – the two had similar goals for ACH, had successful experience working together, and have complementary skillsets. 

Quinn and Roopsi’s proposal to the ACH Executive came together quickly. They reasoned that those elected to ACH are often overcommitted and involved people, so if they didn’t care about having a title to themselves (they didn’t), why not share the position and thus bring both of their talents to ACH? With all of the upheaval in the world right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the potential impacts on professional organizations, why not use this moment of disruption to imagine a new possibility to ensure that ACH is well-supported and served by two deeply committed digital humanists? Perhaps this could be the opportunity to bring the collaborative spirit that animates digital humanities practices to organizational leadership? 

Quinn and Roopsi checked the bylaws to see whether co-VP would be possible and proposed two scenarios – 1) a co-VP, where the co-VPs share a single vote and are responsible for working out agreements about courses of action among themselves and 2) an appointed affiliate VP, based on the current liaison model, where the runner up would be appointed to work with the VP, without a vote. 

The ACH leadership was supportive of the proposal and suggested that the current ACH Executive Council could vote to make the co-VP proposal a reality. They further asked about the ramifications for a potential co-Presidency, which may necessitate ratification of a bylaws change about collaborative holding of officer positions by the ACH membership. At present Quinn and Roopsi are interested in co-Presidency but would welcome the opportunity to re-evaluate before the time comes for that transition. 

The ACH Executive offered their support for the proposal. President Matthew K. Gold and Vice President Kathleen Fitzpatrick both expressed how important collaboration has been for them during their terms as officers, and both welcomed the combined enthusiasm and energy that Quinn and Roopsi together will bring. The Executive Council was likewise excited about the opportunity and voted in favor of the co-VPs.

Quinn and Roopsi are excited for this new experiment in collaborative leadership and look forward to working with ACH when their term starts this summer.

By Vika Zafrin

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