Society of American Archivists
Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct
Annual Meeting, 26 August 2008 at 1:00-5:00 p.m.
San Francisco, CA
Members: Rand Jimerson (Chair), Tom Hyry, Joanne Kaczmarek, Shawn San Roman, Shannon Supple, Sherry Williams (ex officio, SAA Council Liaison)
Members Excused: Jackie Esposito, Stephen Hussman, Timothy Pyatt, Nancy Shader
Guests: Chris Paton (guest, 2009 Program Committee)
1. Welcome and Introductions
The Chair introduced the names of new members of the Committee and thanked the outgoing members for their service. New members are Clare Fleming, Jean green, and Robert Leopold, none of whom were able to attend this meeting. The outgoing members are Joanne Kaczmarek, Stephen Hussman, and Jackie Esposito. Tom Hyry will move into the post of SAA Council Liaison to the Committee. The Chair thanked the outgoing committee members for their service and SAA Council Liaison Sherry Williams for working with CEPC over the past year.
2. CEPC 2007 Meeting Minutes
CEPC’s 2007 Meeting Minutes, as revised, were unanimously approved by the Committee.
3. Reports on SAA Annual Meeting Sessions Relating to Ethics Issues
This year’s Annual program features multiple ethics-related sessions, both sessions that were created by CEPC members and sessions, such as those on tribal archives, which have ethics components. Rand’s submission on ethics and social justice was not approved as a traditional session but was converted into the Global Issues Forum: Archival Ethics and Social Justice: What Is Our Professional Responsibility?, scheduled for Thursday at 12:30-1:45 p.m. (More on the Forum, below.)
Shawn developed a session entitled Archival Ethics with Changing Practices: The Impact of Technology, scheduled for Saturday at 9:30-11:00 a.m. (session 604). Tim and Tom developed a session entitled The Ethics of Access: Does One Size Fit All?, moderated by former CEPC member Susan Davis and scheduled for Saturday at 1:30-3:00 p.m. (session 706).
There was some confusion about proper contacts for these sessions during the submission process because it required that the CEPC Chair sign the form rather than those members who actually developed the sessions. The Chair will ask the 2009 Program Committee if the submission forms can include session developers’ names in addition to, or lieu of, the Committee Chair’s name when the Committee sponsors or recommends a session.
4. Report on the Global Issues Forum
The Chair encouraged Committee members to attend the Forum and to actively engage in discussions about ethics and social justice. The Forum will have a panel of three speakers, all of whom will give brief statements on ethics, social justice, and the archivist. The Forum is meant to challenge our assumptions and be provocative to encourage this discussion by all archivists. SAA members can chose to what extent they would like to, or can, engage in social issues, even if the affected areas are outside of traditional archival purviews. SAA can take stands on social issues and precedent exists, including cancelling SAA meetings in cities whose state or municipal policies are counter to SAA policies. The Forum aims to begin discussions, to “rock the boat,” rather than force members to remain silent and not engage in social justice at all. The Committee noted that Forum attendees will likely be a self-selecting audience, but the Chair is ready with provocative questions.
5. Report from SAA Council
Sherry officially introduced Tom to the Committee, though Tom’s previous membership meant that CEPC members already know him. Sherry is completing her tenure as SAA Council Liaison with CEPC at the end of the Annual Meeting and Tom will take up the liaison role at that point.
Sherry reported on Council’s plan to create a task force to study the feasibility of creating an SAA values statement and, if so, what structures and processes that statement would take. The task force will be composed of three people: a member of Council, an experienced SAA member, and a newer SAA member. Their feasibility study deadline will be in spring 2009. There is a definite relationship between the concepts of “values” and “ethics,” though it is not entirely clear what that is and how the two would interplay in the SAA context. There could certainly be a role for CEPC in future discussions, if the task force determines that a values statement is, indeed, feasible. The Committee also wondered if one of the SAA members assigned to the task force could be a CEPC member.
Council created and approved a new Government Affairs Working Group.
Council declined to endorse the Native American Protocols as written, but wants to broaden the discourse to cultural property issues generally. A Cultural Property Task Force will have a revised timeline and be charged with producing specific deliverables. Frank Boles proposed that the Protocols be discussed at the next three SAA annual meetings (2009-2011) in open forums. The Diversity Committee in collaboration with the Native American Archivists Round Table will develop the programming. (Terry Baxter is the new Diversity Committee Chair.)
Online balloting will begin next year for SAA elections.
Sherry encouraged all CEPC members to attend the awards ceremony and membership meetings.
6. Other Reports from CEPC Members
The Committee engaged in general discussion about ethics and the Society, controversial issues, and growing dialogs about archivists as agents and promoting in social justice.
7. “Memory for Justice” Report (Johannesburg, 2005)
The Global Issues Forum takes Memory for Justice, a report from a 2005 Johannesburg conference sponsored by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, as its starting point. The Chair asked if and what the Committee would like to see come out of this report. Members liked the idea of investigating the report’s tenets as archival values and using them as a starting point for discussions about memory and justice, but did not think it was feasible to request that Council adopt them at this point. CEPC determined that it would have a better sense of how to proceed vis-à-vis the report after the Forum when SAA members have been given the chance to comment.
ACTION: The Committee determined that it would recommend to Council that a link to the report be included on the SAA website (without any specific endorsement) and that Council commit to a series of sessions on archival ethics and social justice at annual conferences. It would be too late to request this occur starting in 2009, but CEPC will propose that Council commit to a series beginning in 2010 and extending, perhaps, for three annual conferences. This series would encourage conversations about the interplay between archival ethics, social justice, and the profession and would ask that individual archivists consider their own relationships to these issues. The series would not advocate a specific action but allow for a range of experiences and allow individual professionals to explore their own relationships to social justice in the profession.
8. “Rethinking Archival Ethics” by Rand Jimerson
The Chair asked CEPC members if they had any comments on an excerpt of his manuscript on archival ethics (distributed in advance), with a history of the European and American contexts, objective constructions of archives, and applying archival ethics to specific archival functions such as appraisal and description. Members may contact the Chair directly or anonymously with any comments.
9. The SAA Code of Ethics
Some CEPC members and Council members are not satisfied with the current Code of Ethics. Many SAA members note that legal counsel “took the bite out of it.” CEPC could recommend changes, such that certain clauses be removed, but would require an extensive and deliberative process to effectuate. The Committee would like revisions to be considered, making the code less legalistic and able to provide more guidance to archivists by addressing ethical problems that archivists face. If CEPC believes that the current code is sufficiently problematic, it should alert Council and provide a strong justification on why Council should embark upon this process so soon after the approval of the Code of Ethics in 2005.
ACTION: The Committee decided to draft a proposal to Council that the current SAA Code of Ethics be revised. The proposal will reference the Task Force that will study the feasibility of a values statement and new contexts such as the Native American Protocols and discourses on social justice that have come to the fore over the last three years. Rand, Shawn, and Shannon will draft a proposal by December that Tom can bring to Council on behalf of the Committee.
10. Other Business
A. 2009 Annual Meeting:
Chris Paton, CEPC’s liaison from the 2009 Program Committee, updated the Committee on planning for the 2009 Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas. It will be carry the theme of “sustainability,” but programming proposals need not be limited to topics that touch on sustainability. Chris encouraged CEPC to think about programming and pre-conference workshops. The 2009 meeting will be a joint meeting with CoSA, so programming around issues affecting state and government archivists will be welcomed, as will programming on SAA’s strategic priorities (diversity, technology, and advocacy). Programming for archivists with a variety of experience levels will be emphasized.
Each SAA committee may formally endorse two session proposals. Rand noted to Chris the communications problems stemming from the limited contacts allowed by last year’s session proposal forms. Chris said she would let the 2009 Program Planning Committee know.
ACTION: CEPC determined that it would like to explore a program on ethics and social justice for the 2009 Annual Meeting. Potential speakers include Verne Harris, David Wallace, Gudmund Valderhaug, and many others. Joanne will also look into creating a session on undocumented immigrants and archives. The remaining CEPC members will discuss potential programming ideas after the Global Issues Forum, to take SAA member comments into account when exploring programming ideas in this area.
B. Wiki and list-serv:
The Chair urged members to sign-up for the Committee’s wiki and list-serv and to be active. The Chair also reminded members of the importance of attending CEPC meetings. If members find they cannot attend, they should consider stepping down so that another SAA member can play a more active role with the Committee.
The Committee adjourned at 4:30 p.m.
(with revisions by Rand Jimerson, 15 September 2008)