Council Seeks Member Comment on Draft "Statement on Diversity"

** DRAFT FOR MEMBER COMMENT **
(Comments due 7/15/10)

SAA Statement on Diversity

As a professional association that benefits from the participation of people from all backgrounds, the Society of American Archivists strives to ensure that its membership, the holdings that archivists acquire and manage, and the users whom archivists serve reflect the evolving diversity of society.

SAA understands diversity to encompass:

  • Socio-cultural factors.  These factors relate to individual and community identity, and include the attributes mentioned in SAA’s Equal Opportunity/Nondiscrimination Policy.
  • Professional and geographic factors.  Concern about these factors reflects the Society’s desire for broad participation from archivists working in various locations, repository types and sizes, and professional specializations. 

By embracing diversity, the Society speaks more effectively on behalf of the entire profession, serves a fuller range of stakeholders, increases organizational credibility, and becomes a stronger advocate for the archives profession.  SAA’s initiatives are focused primarily on achieving socio-cultural diversity.

Commentary:

The Society of American Archivists has long promoted policies of nondiscrimination, identified diversity as a value for the association and the profession, and strived to foster a just and inclusive professional culture that reflects and embraces the diversity of the larger society.  (For a review of SAA’s many early actions, see Elizabeth Adkins’s 2007 Presidential Address, "Our Journey Toward Diversity—And a Call to [More] Action.")

In 1992 SAA adopted an Equal Opportunity/Non-Discrimination Policy that is reviewed every three years. But SAA recognizes that simply pledging nondiscrimination is insufficient, and that we must make positive efforts to develop diversity among our membership, our members’ holdings, and our members’ user communities in order to enrich the historical record and achieve professional excellence.  In 2006 the SAA Council adopted “Strategic Priorities” that included the following issue statement as the basis for its strategic priority related to diversity: 

The relevance of archives to society and the completeness of the documentary record hinge on the profession’s success in ensuring that its members, the holdings that they collect and manage, and the users that they serve reflect the diversity of society as a whole.

The "Strategic Priorities" document, which guides SAA activities, is reviewed and updated annually to accommodate the evolving landscape of professional challenges.

SAA promotes diversity in all of its professional activities with an eye to ensuring effective representation of our members, addressing the concerns of the full range of stakeholders represented within our members’ holdings, and reaching out to archivists’ many communities of users.

Draft for Member Comment
June 22, 2010

2 Comment(s) to the "Council Seeks Member Comment on Draft "Statement on Diversity""
mjgascoine says:
Who are these stakeholders?

I am intrigued by this statement and would request clarification:

"By embracing diversity, the Society speaks more effectively on behalf of the entire profession, serves a fuller range of stakeholders, increases organizational credibility, and becomes a stronger advocate for the archives profession.  SAA’s initiatives are focused primarily on achieving socio-cultural diversity."

Who are these "stakeholders" and how do I know they do not have an agenda I am not comfortable with?

 

 

mgreene says:
Draft "Statement on Diversity"


First off, I’m not really clear on what the purpose of this document really is—the goal, the audience, etc.  The only thing it seems to do that the non-discrimination statement doesn’t do, is touch on specific issues of diversity w/in the profession (location, repository, speciality); why not simply issue a statement concerning diversity w/in the profession and leave it at that, particularly since this draft concludes by stating that in the end we’re really most concerned w/socio-cultural diversity anyway?

The one reason I can think of to issue a broader statement would be to address some a) potentially controversially issues concerning diversity of the profession; b) important  intersections among diversity in the profession, of our holdings, and in our users; c) aspects of diversity never addressed in any of the three contexts.  I’ll try to keep my examples/suggestions brief.

Where are “education level,” “economic status,” “political views” (“creed, in the non-discrimination statement, refers to religious beliefs), and “cultural heritage” (not the same as national origin) in either the non-discrimination statement or the professional/geographic factors.  Yet all four concepts are key both to our professional diversity and to the diversity of our holdings and our users.

Of course, w/in the profession currently there is a significant divide between those who believe holding the title of archivist requires holding a master’s degree, and those who believe it requires only having the knowledge and performing the responsibilities of an archivist .  It is probably not a stretch to suggest that many of our repository policies are based on assumptions about the education level of our users, expectations that might well keep potential patrons with less education away.

Education levels are often linked to economic status, and while some in the profession passionately call on us to document the “forgotten” w/in society, how are we doing in outreach to such individuals as potential patrons (and what do our own salary disparities contribute to the problem)? There are some in our profession (I have heard this first hand) who swear they will not collect the papers of individuals and groups whose political views they despise--what then about calling such individuals whose views one despises “colleagues” w/in the profession? 

If we are going to the trouble of issuing a statement on diversity, I think we ought to settle in for a far deeper exploration and explanation than this draft provides.  Thanks for soliciting comments.