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Stalinism at the American Political Science Association
There were ugly shenanigans this year at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) and there is a good chance that there are more to come (I covered last year’s events here and here). The APSA was founded as an unincorporated association in 1903 and incorporated in 1954 as a 501(c)3. It operates to this day under the original constitution, which defines its purpose in the following fashion:
Article II: Purpose
1. It shall be the purpose of this association to encourage the study of Political Science, including Political Theory, Political Institutions, Politics, Public Law, Public Administration, and International Relations.
2. The Association as such is nonpartisan. It will not support political parties or candidates. It will not commit its members on questions of public policy nor take positions not immediately concerned with its direct purpose as stated above. But the Association nonetheless actively encourages in its membership and its journals, research in and concern for significant contemporary political and social problems and policies, however controversial and subject to partisan discourse in the community at large these may be. The Association shall not be barred from adopting resolutions or taking such other action as it deems appropriate in support of academic freedom and of freedom of expression by and within the Association, the political science profession, and the university, when in its judgment such freedom has been clearly and seriously violated or is clearly and seriously threatened.
On 30 July, Steven Rathgeb Smith, executive director of the APSA, sent members of the association a memorandum together with a new set of bylaws proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee on Governance Reform that had been approved by the Council of the APSA. It would, members were told, “consolidate the Constitution and Bylaws into a single and consistent document” that would conform “with the 2010 Washington, D. C. law governing nonprofits” and remedy “governance issues that complicate and hinder the effective governance of the Association.” There was nothing in the memorandum to suggest that anything was being altered other than electoral and administrative procedures, and next to no one read the document.
There was, however, one notable exception, and he noticed that one other change had been surreptitiously introduced. It had to do with the stated purpose of the association, which would now read as follows:
3. Statement of purpose
a. The purposes of the Association are to encourage the study of political science, support political scientists in their research, teaching, and public engagement, and publish materials related to political science.
b. In achieving these purposes, the Association strongly supports academic freedom.
c. In pursuance of its purposes, the Association has the powers to do all things necessary, proper and consistent with obtaining and maintaining its tax‐exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
What bothered this political scientist was a handful of sentences that had been dropped:
“The Association as such is nonpartisan. It will not support political parties or candidates. It will not commit its members on questions of public policy nor take positions not immediately concerned with its direct purpose as stated above.”
As a 501(c)3, the APSA would, in fact, be barred by law from supporting parties and candidates. But, if the changes were to go through, it would not be prohibited from committing “its members on questions of public policy” and from taking “positions not immediately concerned with” the study of political science and research, teaching, and public engagement on the part of individual political scientists.
This may seem insignificant, but it is not. The APSA is rare among scholarly associations these days in remaining studiously neutral with regard to the public policy disputes of our time. In the years since the Vietnam War became controversial, the American Historical Association and other scholarly associations have — with some frequency — taken such stands, which tend to rule out civil scholarly debate within these associations and to marginalize dissenters.
The political scientist in question alerted a number of other members of the APSA, and together we attended the annual business meeting of the association this past Friday at the APSA’s annual meeting in San Francisco, hoping to propose an amendment that would restore the original language. This opportunity we were denied; when one in our number stood to draw the attention of the chair to the fact that the business meeting no longer had a quorum — and could therefore no longer conduct business — those present voted to ignore the absence of a quorum and to submit the proposed bylaws to the members of the APSA for final approval by an electronic ballot. All of this is supposed to take place between now and the 4th of October, when the new bylaws are slated to go into effect.
Last night, I took a closer look at the old Constitution, at the bylaws added in 1954, and at the proposed new bylaws, and I discovered another sinister addition. The old Constitution stipulated that “Any person sharing the objects of this Association may become a member upon payment of annual dues.” This language was retained in the new consolidated constitution and bylaws. But something else was added under Article II: Members:
5. Revocation of membership
The Council may revoke an individual’s membership in the Association by a 2/3rds vote of all Council members after hearing from the member whose membership is in question. Unless earlier removed from office according to Article V, Section 9, the membership of a person serving as a member of the Council or an officer of the Association may not be revoked until the end of that person’s term of office.
And, prompted by me, another member reviewed the document and found this new provision under Article V: The Council:
9. Removal from office
Any Council member may be removed on a vote of 2/3rds of the members of the Executive Committee and 75% of the Council; removal of a Council Member creates a vacancy which must be filled by the procedure described in section 6 of this Article.
In short, provision has now been made for a purge; the purge is to be carried out by the clique who now control the Council and who nominate their successors (who are generally elected without a contest); and, in carrying out such a purge, they can act at will. For no grounds for removal or revocation are specified.
An attempt is now underway to persuade the officers of the association to pull back from the brink and to withdraw their proposal or resubmit it, properly amended, to next year’s business meeting. If need be, we will secure counsel and take them to court as, in the absence of a quorum, they were not empowered to do what they did this past Friday.
I doubt, however, whether the clique that has seized power within the APSA will be deterred. They tried a fast one on Friday. When caught redhanded, they resolutely dug in their heels; ultimately they are the ones who will count the ballots if this proposal goes to the membership of the association for approval. The fix is in. Joe Stalin would be proud.
All of this is part of a larger pattern within the academy. Everything is now politicized, and it looks as if in the future the space for free and open scholarly disputation traditionally provided by colleges, universities, and scholarly associations will no longer be available.
If, within the APSA, there is going to be a purge, however, I want to be first in line. I always envied my late friend Eugene D. Genovese his having been expelled from the Communist Party USA for rightwing deviationism. This I regarded as a badge of honor, and I do hope that I will soon be placed in a position to don it myself.Published in Culture, Education
Another fine organization on the verge of destroying itself. It would seem that the proclivities of destroying the lessons of traditions are not limited to ISIS.
It strikes me that all human endeavor, once it is codified into some form of legal document, eventually becomes a dictatorship, shrouded by a hint of minty populism.
I was recently took dart in changing a church constitution, and looking back I realize that we changed the constitution in such a way as to keep the church the way we want it, and to keep people from coming along and screwing it up.
ha! you said proclivities!
Is the council and executive committee representative of the membership, or are they the loud minority bludgeoning their way to the top of an organization to rot it from the head down? Is there a chance the distribution list of the association can be used to inform the membership of these goings on and persuade them to vote down the changes?
I do not think that we have access to the distribution list. I am hoping that my post gets picked up here and there and word gets out.
The officers and council (numbering, I believe, 29) are nominated by the Nominating Committee appointed by the president with the consent of the council. Then, they are approved by the membership. Ordinarily there are no contests. But there can be nominations by petition.
Currently, the outfit appears to be controlled by the hard left. The members of the APSA tend to be mainstream liberal. If they knew what was going on, a majority would not like it. But, of course, no one pays attention, and the activists are the only ones who show up. The business meetings are excruciatingly boring.
We don’t have it quite this bad, but the American Astronomical Society—one one of the least-politicized academic fields—has some history of getting into unrelated social issues. Decades ago, it boycotted states (by not holding its conferences there) that hadn’t ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.
Last year, there was a court decision in India that overturned some law respecting protections for homosexuals, and the AAS actually sent a letter to India objecting. How was this relevant to an astronomical society? The activists claimed that there were homosexual AAS members, and that they could be affected in applying for jobs in India (there are lots of foreign members of the Society), and so this was something we should stick our noses into. One could also say that there are many more Christian AAS members, and Christians are persecuted in many countries around the world, and therefore the AAS should send letters of protest on behalf of its members who work in those countries. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Sounds a lot like the park district taxing me. It was established by 13% of eligible voters to tax 100% of property owners in the district during an off year election. (I obviously wrote about this in my polisci studies.) All the committee officers were hand selected by the organization that put the idea on the ballot, and they run unopposed for reelection. I often toy with running for one of the seats just so there will be one dedicated “no” on the committee.
What you describe vis-a-vis the ERA has had an effect on the placing of the APSA meetings in the past. That was the first move; now, this.
Whose maxim was it, that every organization not specifically founded to be conservative, over time will devolve into a leftist one?
And of course modern academics are nothing if not both leftist in belief and Stalin-ish in method.
Fight fire with fire. If you wish to maintain the ‘neutral’ status quo against the desire of a clique to tip things hard left you are ceding the opposition a huge advantage. Use the well-honed Leninist techniques (bolshevik and menshevik mean something, after all) to push back, as they say, twice as hard.
Of course, I’m willing to let the APSA burn rather than cede it to the left, but I only discovered it existed an hour ago, so I would understand if you have a different view.
Speaking of entryism, is it too late for all
10,000 5,000dozen of us at Ricochet to join the association and swing the vote?
You can’t fight O’Sullivan’s law.
So… vote no. Got it.
Every couple of years I go to APSA, and in the back of my mind I think “ah, the lion’s den.” And every year it’s quite civil and no worse than any regional conference in terms of loony leftists ruining the panels.
Now I know why -they’re all in the business meetings…
ctlaw already mentioned him, but in case it wasn’t clear, that is John O’Sullivan’s First Law:
This is a legitimate purpose of groups like Ricochet, to influence public perception and debate. I am willing to join APSA for just this purpose if the dues are less than $100 to begin AND if 50 other Ricochet members make the same pledge. Any takers?
I just looked at the APSA website. How did EJ Dionne, a Democratic Party hack, end up as one of three VPs in the organization? . . . I know, I know.
After taking a quick look at the background of some of the other APSA officers and Council members, I see a mandatory reeducation camp in your future Paul.
I paid either $215 or $286 this year.
I see myself confined in San Francisco and forced to eat at the restaurants there.
During my brief sojourn with the Libertarians, it was suggested that we all join the Revolutionary Students Brigade for the express purpose of being purged just to see how long it would take them.
Ah, college days.
Near as I can see, that would be a gilded cage. Heading out to this one tonight.
So if they violated the bi-laws and still voted with-out a quorum get a lawyer to work pro-bona and get an injunction to stop the vote form taking place.
If you really want to go total war sue the individuals not the organization in the lawsuit. Use Lefty tactics of burning down the organization instead of just letting the left completely taking it over. Its called total war, not against everyone just the supporters like Sherman did the best. Pillage only the rich plantation owner leave everyone else alone who were not the huge supports of the war. It same strategy works in institutions also because the left is always using it against us.
You could also pull a Clinton and somehow find the hacked mailing list of members on a USB stick in a drawer of your dinning room.
Virtually all academic professional organizations and societies are now explicitly Marxist in aims and character. The Academy has become the avowed enemy of American ideas, Christian tradition, and common sense. We might well be better off in the long run if we had no colleges at all. Our government-education complex feeds this kind of madness.
Well said, Sir!
In the AP(hilosophical)A I don’t think it’s this bad, but I do hear a lot of gender/race/sexuality emphasis. There was some recent attacking of Scott Walker for allegedly undermining academic freedom (i.e., not having the government require tenure). I hope I haven’t missed anything more nefarious.