Society of American Archivists
Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct
Meeting Summary, August 29, 2007
In Attendance: Randall Jimerson, Chair; Stephen Hussman, Joanne Kaczmarek, Teresa Mora, Shannon Supple, Thomas Hyry, Timothy Pyatt, Shawn San Roman, and Jackie Esposito, recording. Guests: Aimee Felker, Sherry Williams, Nancy Beaumont, Elizabeth Adkins
- Council Report – Aimee Felker reported on a) complaint by SAA member concerning his removal from Archives Listserv. A Task Force has been appointed to review policies and procedures for managing the listserv; b) Dues increase will be voted on at Saturday’s Business Meeting. Last time there was an increase was 1999. Since then membership has increased 40% with the bulk of the growth being at the student/entry level range. To offset concerns about a dues increase, changes have been made to the Strategic Plan to try to make SAA less dependent on dues as a financial resource [Dues increase passed.]; c) Council is committed to making its decisions and SAA operations more transparent. In addition, changes have been proposed for Sections and Roundtables to increase membership participation; d) The 2008 meeting will be in San Francisco. The theme is: Archival R/Evolution and Identities. Deadline for Program proposals is October 12.
- Approval of 2006 Meeting Minutes – Minutes discuss and formally approved.
- Old Business:
a) Discussion about difference between Aspirational Code of Ethics (SAA) and Legal Code – The current code, with language changes, could serve the organization if a statement of practicing guidelines were crafted. Shannon Supple discussed other codes including American Library Association, ALCTS Supplement to ALA Code, Association of Records Managers and Administrators Code. Jackie Esposito will research additional codes including AAM, NAGARA, AHA, RBMS Supplement and the earlier SAA code. Discussion also included review of Susan Davis’ report on US Bankruptcy Court Case No. 03-32715-DM7, Northern District of California.
b) Extended Discussion about Methods to add “teeth” and/or enforcement procedures to current code -- Committee members acknowledged that most SAA members were self-policingbut the need for an enforcement of standards is critical and growing. Concern is particularly widespread among “lone arrangers,” “whistleblowers,” and as administrative support in institutions where pressure to “flex” the code might be extensive. Methods for adding proscriptive methods and the legal ramifications were extensively discussed especially in light of the fact the certification process is not mandatory for archivists. Challenges to professional conduct and reluctance of present SAA legal counsel to proscribe code enforcement would recommend a two-tier document: A Code of Ethics and a Guideline for Professional Conduct. It was noted that this was the intent of the Committee that was responsible for the 2005 changes in the current code.
c) Institutional Mission and the Code – Discussion ensued about the variety of institutions within SAA and the vagaries of their operations as they relate to a Code of Ethics. For example, business archivists do not always provide equal access due to their role as corporate gatekeepers. Elizabeth Adkins referred to a Task Force within SAA creating a series of statements on access over different organizations and record types.
d) Committee Action Options – 1) Revisit language in current code; 2) Revise code and produce a Professional Responsibilities document; 3) Create a joint statement with other organizations, such as ARMA; and 4) Leave code as its is with no “enforcement” mechanism. Nancy Beaumont, SAA Executive Director, offered to get a second legal opinion of either or both documents as the Committee wishes. The Committee will proceed to review Codes and determine its course of action via email between today’s meeting and September 2008 meeting.
- New Business –
a) Elena Danielson submitted a proposal for Committee endorsement for 2008 program entitled “Returning Displaced Archives: Legal and Ethical Perspectives.” The proposal has identified speakers, topics, and perspectives. Committee discussed endorsement request and decided to approve very favorably pending review of additional endorsement requests.
b) Committee discussed sponsoring its own session entitled What is a Code of Ethics?” it would review existing codes, ask members what they want to see in a code, discuss what is an ethical archivist? and generate dialogue about the issues. It could be fashioned as a forum with advanced case studies.
c) Committee Assignments distributed:
1) Benchmarking against other codes – Jackie and Joanne
2) Review Previous SAA Code – Tim and Shannon
3) Open Forum Proposal – Shawn and Shannon
4) Case Studies – Tim and Tom
5) Fund-raising and Ethics – Steven
All members are encouraged to read James O’Toole’s and Richard Cox’s writings on Archivist’s Values.
d) Farewell and Thanks to Teresa, Karen and Fernanda for their years of service.
e) Welcome to Tom, Tim, Shawn, and Nancy as new members.
- Next Meeting – Committee agreed to proceed with Code reviews online and meet again in San Francisco.
APPENDIX A – Additional Codes
Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, American Library Association –
American Association of Museums – 1) Peer Review Manual, http://www.aam-us.org/getinvolved/pr/upload/FULL.pdf; 2) Code of Ethics for Museums,
American Historical Association –
American Physical Therapists Association Code of Ethics -- http://www.apta.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Core_Documents1&Template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=25854