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CAA has signed onto the letter reprinted below, written by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) on July 21, 2016, and signed by dozens of organizations. To read the full list of signatories, please visit the MESA website.

Threats to Academic Freedom and Higher Education in Turkey

The above listed organizations collectively note with profound concern the apparent moves to dismantle much of the structure of Turkish higher education through purges, restrictions, and assertions of central control, a process begun earlier this year and accelerating now with alarming speed.

As scholarly associations, we are committed to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. The recent moves in Turkey herald a massive and virtually unprecedented assault on those principles. One of the Middle East region’s leading systems of higher education is under severe threat as a result, as are the careers and livelihoods of many of its faculty members and academic administrators.

Our concern about the situation in Turkish universities has been mounting over the past year, as Turkish authorities have moved to retaliate against academics for expressing their political views—some merely signing an “Academics for Peace” petition criticizing human rights violations.

Yet the threat to academic freedom and higher education has recently worsened in a dramatic fashion. In the aftermath of the failed coup attempt of July 15–16, 2016, the Turkish government has moved to purge government officials in the Ministry of Education and has called for the resignation of all university deans across the country’s public and private universities. As of this writing, it appears that more than 15,000 employees at the education ministry have been fired and nearly 1,600 deans—1,176 from public universities and 401 from private universities—have been asked to resign. In addition, 21,000 private school teachers have had their teaching licenses cancelled. Further, reports suggest that travel restrictions have been imposed on academics at public universities and that Turkish academics abroad were required to return to Turkey. The scale of the travel restrictions, suspensions, and imposed resignations in the education sector seemingly go much farther than the targeting of individuals who might have had any connection to the attempted coup.

The crackdown on the education sector creates the appearance of a purge of those deemed inadequately loyal to the current government. Moreover, the removal of all of the deans across the country represents a direct assault on the institutional autonomy of Turkey’s universities. The replacement of every university’s administration simultaneously by the executive-controlled Higher Education Council would give the government direct administrative control of all Turkish universities. Such concentration and centralization of power over all universities is clearly inimical to academic freedom. Moreover, the government’s existing record of requiring university administrators’ to undertake sweeping disciplinary actions against perceived opponents—as was the case against the Academics for Peace petition signatories—lends credence to fears that the change in university administrations will be the first step in an even broader purge against academics in Turkey.

Earlier this year, it was already clear that the Turkish government, in a matter of months, had amassed a staggering record of violations of academic freedom and freedom of expression. The aftermath of the attempted coup may have accelerated those attacks on academic freedom in even more alarming ways.

As scholarly organizations, we collectively call for respect for academic freedom—including freedom of expression, opinion, association, and travel—and the autonomy of universities in Turkey, offer our support to our Turkish colleagues, second the Middle East Studies Association’s “call for action” of January 15, request that Turkey’s diplomatic interlocutors (both states and international organizations) advocate vigorously for the rights of Turkish scholars and the autonomy of Turkish universities, suggest other scholarly organizations speak forcefully about the threat to the Turkish academy, and alert academic institutions throughout the world that Turkish colleagues are likely to need moral and substantive support in the days ahead.


Organizations wishing to be included as signatories on the above statement should contact Amy Newhall at

Report on the ACLS Conference

posted by Linda Downs

Each year the chief executive officers of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) are hosted by a different city’s visitors and convention bureau in order to attract association conferences and conventions. The Hawaiian visitors’ bureau hosted our trip to Honolulu October 30th – November 2nd. In addition to scoping out the hotels and restaurants this conference provides a great opportunity for academic leaders to discuss critical issues in humanities scholarship and to enhance mutual support. This year we focused on several major topics.

How learned societies can address evolving definitions of scholarship. Through support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, three membership associations—the American Historical Society, the Society of Architectural Historians, and CAA—will soon be developing guidelines to evaluate digital scholarship in history, art history, and architectural history for promotion and tenure.

Issues surrounding teaching and learning. The discussion centered on the need to redefine and reevaluate the value of teaching, research, and advocacy for promotion and tenure. What do we mean when we say that scholarship is “new knowledge”? This needs greater definition and broadening. David Marshall, associate director of Tuning USA, described his organization’s initiative, funded and promoted by the Lumina Foundation, Tuning USA provides faculty-driven but inclusive discussion with all stakeholders to determine outcomes for students in each discipline in two- and four-year colleges. The American Historical Association and the National Communications Society are participating in this project by engaging communications and history departments in this assessment process. In addition, Jean-Marc Mangin, director of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, shared the development process for the new Canadian assessment model: Their model broadens areas for consideration of impact by the following five factors:
1) Research has Impact on Scholarship
Biobliometrlc Indicators
Downloads from Open Access
Citations in grant applications
Prizes and awards
2) capacity through teaching and mentoring
3) Impact on the economy
4) Research has impacts on society and culture
5) Research has impacts on practice and policy.

How learned societies can help PhD students understand how to apply their skills and expertise to professions outside the classroom. Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, and Karen Shanton, who in 2013 was an ACLS Public Fellow and now is an analyst at the think tank Demos, shared their insights into how learned societies can assist PhD students to realize opportunities beyond academia on a departmental level and at conferences.

How learned societies advocate for member issues. Most associations have a means of responding to issues of national importance such as free speech and censorship but there are areas that require proactive engagement. The learned society leaders discussed ways of approaching difficult advocacy issues.

We also heard from Peter Arnade, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Hawaii, who said that his school has the greatest number of languages taught in the United States, including many from the Pacific Rim.

Pauline Yu, ACLS president, spoke to the power of her organization, which has no equivalent globally. When the seventy-five learned societies address issues of scholarship and advocacy, it has an immediate impact in the humanities. This year marks the founding of the Commission on the Arts, which led to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The new chairman of this important federal agency, “Bro” Adams, is dedicated to seeing that the humanities scholarship has the widest circulation possible. ACLS has an operating budget of $145 million, with $110 million awarded to fellows annually. The Mellon Foundation contributes a major portion of these funds to scholars, including a new fellowship for minorities.

Stephen Kidd, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, presented a very exciting initiative to develop grassroots humanities public programming, titled Humanities Working Groups for Community Impact. We all agreed that the arts and humanities do not get enough positive public engagement and that this program is a step in the direction of changing this environment by working on a local level throughout the country.

I always come away from these conferences charged up with new ideas and gratified that CAA is not the only association dealing with difficult issues. Ideas such as online mentoring, regional member conversations and meet-ups, creating a forum where assessment and research in teaching and learning come together and promoting public engagement of the academic community are all potential projects that CAA can address.

While at the conference I visited the Honolulu Art Museum (formerly the Honolulu Academy of Arts, which was recently renamed by its new director, Stephan Jost) and the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. The Honolulu Art Museum is a small museum with extraordinary gems that features Korean celadon ware, gorgeous kimonos, the most highly detailed and expressive netsuke (which beg to be touched and held), serene Buddha sculptures, and a wonderful collection of American and European paintings. The big surprise for me was the special exhibition of Hawaiian art deco. In a gallery filled with kitsch paintings of happy Hawaiians—in traditional dress luau-ing, surfing, ruling, and dancing—was a small but extraordinary wooden sculpture depicting a diver with a spear sculpted by Isamu Noguchi. He made it in 1939 when he lived in Hawaii and designed advertisements for the Dole Pineapple Company. The work reminded me of the sleek sinewy wooden reclining figure at the Detroit Institute of Arts by Henry Moore. (And how great it was to hear upon my return of the news that the City of Detroit bankruptcy decision saved the Detroit Institute of Art’s collections from being sold!)

The Bishop Museum houses the anthropology and history collections of Hawaii. Its Richardsonian facade presents a foreboding nineteenth-century era of endless cases of thousands of specimens that can initially fascinate then quickly exhaust the viewer. But the moment I stepped inside the installations dispelled that notion. The museum has been recently renovated: the old cases were restored and contemporary installation techniques were used to present an amazing collection of Hawaiian and Pacific Island artifacts and textiles.

The chieftan cloaks—literally for the big kahunas—were made of hundreds of thousands of tiny bird feathers, in the colors of royal red and yellow. Later I visited one of the ancient Hawaiian temple ruins that line the cliffs of the western coast on the Big Island, and I envisioned those brilliant red and yellow robes flowing through the black volcanic rock architecture.

Because I have worked on Diego Rivera and modem Mexican art for many years, it was one of the great highlights of this trip to be able to spend an afternoon with John Chariot, professor emeritus In philosophy at the University of Hawaii who is researching and writing about his father, the Mexican muralist and professor of art at the University of Hawaii, Jean Charlot. John lives on the Big Island and—after giving me a delightful tour of a Zen temple, a black beach with enormous sea turtles lounging on the sand, and an ancient Hawaiian temple on a high cliff—we talked Mexican art for an afternoon and evening. Paradise!

Filed under: Learned Societies

CAA Update from the President

posted by DeWitt Godfrey

DeWitt Godfrey, professor of art and art history at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, is president of the CAA Board of Directors.

CAA is moving ahead on several strategic goals. After a year of investigation and discussion with over 200 artists, art historians, curators, editors and reproduction rights officers, Professors Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi are drafting the new Code of Best Practices in Fair Use in the Visual Arts which will be reviewed by the Task Force on Fair Use, the Committee on Intellectual Property, the Professional Practices Committee, and an independent Legal Advisory Committee. We anticipate that the code will be presented at the Annual Conference in February 2015.

At the October 26th Board meeting, the formation of two task forces was approved: one to review CAA’s governance structure, and one to review its professional committees. As a greater number of faculty are now part-time, the board and committee requirements have to be adjusted so that the best expertise is brought to CAA within the most economical timeframes. The Board also had a lively discussion on the best directions to be taken regarding advocacy and how CAA can respond quickly and efficiently to issues that affect members’ daily work. We are exploring the creation of a task force on advocacy.

The CAA Board and senior staff held a day-long retreat which focused on a vision for the future of the annual conference—a more flexible structure, greater opportunities for interdisciplinary discussion, serving the needs and interests at each stage of a career in the visual arts, and the ability to quickly address issues that arise in the field, have an international perspective and participation, and reach those members who are not able to attend the conferences.

New, updated volumes of the Directories of Graduate Programs are now available through CAA’s website. From the data published in the directories, CAA will draw statistical information about all the visual-arts subdisciplines, mapping important changes in the field regarding enrollment and employment. We plan to make information from the past four years available to members in the coming months.

The September issue of The Art Bulletin features the third essay in the “Whither Art History?” series, as well as essays on Jan van Eyck and commemorative art, Hans Burgkmair and recognition, Watteau and reverie, and contemporary Indian Art from the 1985-86 Festival of India. The latest issue of Art Journal includes a forum called “Red Conceptualismos del Sur/Southern Conceptualisms Network,” featuring articles printed in their original Spanish and Portuguese alongside new English translations—this is the first foray into multilingual publishing for CAA. Art Journal Open’s first web editor, Gloria Sutton, associate professor at Northeastern University, has commissioned features from the artist Karen Schiff and the new-media historian Mike Maizels, as well as a dialogue between the curator Becky Huff Hunter and the artist Tamarin Norwood. The vision for this website is to provide an online space for artists’ works, experimental scholarship, and conversations among arts practitioners. And, now open access, includes nearly 2,500 reviews of books, exhibition catalogues, and conferences on art, as well as an annual list of completed and in-progress art history dissertations. Thirty-four field editors commission reviewers to address new publications, exhibitions, and exhibition catalogues and videos in every area of the visual arts. The new copublishing relationship between CAA and Taylor & Francis that supports all three CAA journals will complete its first year this month with a marked increase in readership. We are encouraging authors to use the multimedia resources offered at Taylor & Francis Online as well as its citation app.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded CAA and the Society for Architectural Historians a grant to cooperatively carry out research and develop guidelines in digital art and architectural history for promotion and tenure in the workforce. With the increased use of digital platforms in research and publishing there is a need for guidelines that reflect the best practice in evaluating digital art and architectural history. A task force will be formed of two art historians, two architectural historians, a librarian, a museum curator, a scholar from another humanities or social science field with expertise in digital scholarship, and a graduate student or emerging professional in art history or architectural history. CAA will hire a part-time researcher to gather information on current practices from faculty members throughout the country. Please see the Online Career Center for the listing.

CAA, like other learned, membership societies, faces significant challenges and opportunities for the future. The changing landscape of publication, academic workforce issues, advocating for the arts and humanities, serving a changing membership and the field are areas where CAA has and will continue to make a difference, by building on our legacy of leadership and embracing the necessary changes required to meet our mission and vision.

New Developments among ACLS Associations

posted by Linda Downs

Each fall the ACLS convenes a meeting for the chief administrative officers (CAOs) of learned societies to exchange information on new developments in our organizations and to explore possible conference sites. This year’s conference was held in Louisville, KY. My takeaways from Louisville were the unforgettable gleaming white nine-ton Carrara marble statue of Louis XVI (the city’s namesake) by Achille-Joseph-Étienne Valois (1829) commissioned in 1829 by the king’s surviving daughter Marie-Thérèse which stands in front of the Louisville City Hall; and the contemporary art museum-cum-hotel called 21C with an installation of Pierre Gonnord’s striking photos of people in rural Spain and a great menu at the restaurant called Proof (as in bourbon).

Among the new developments within the 50 associations that attended were:

The CAOs also heard presentations from the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature on how these societies dealt with the threat of union strikes at their conference hotels.

Trevor Parry-Giles of the National Communication Association presented a history of the development of impact factors and the pros and cons, inflation and gaming of current systems such as Thomson Reuters, SCImago, Google Scholar Metrics; and the latest metric under development, Microsoft Academic . Digital factors have yet to be fully addressed such as counting downloads versus citations and tracing social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

In 1964 the ACLS supported a Commission on the Humanities whose report eventually led to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Some of the recommendations from the Commission were to fund the humanities at the level of the sciences, give more national emphasis on higher education humanities, attract a more diverse faculty, and a demand for faculty to work together. Three learned societies compared then and now. It was noted that there was enormous expansion in humanities departments in the 1960s and so many teaching positions that PhD candidates left school before finishing their degrees to take teaching positions. While the humanities have not attracted a more diverse faculty and faculty positions and departments have been compressed, one very positive result is that faculty has embraced collaboration in both formal (humanities and digital humanities centers) and informal ways, and advocacy of higher education in the public sphere has assisted greater understanding of the value of a humanities education.

Filed under: Humanities, Learned Societies

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