The American Historian

OAH News Items

Fall 2020 Executive Board Meeting

During the Fall 2020 Executive Board meeting, held virtually on November 19, 2020, the board took the following actions:

  • Approved permission for the Executive Editor to bring forth a nominating slate of 5 this year instead of 4, each of the following 3 years until the editorial board expanse to a 15 total member board.
  • Adopted prize review proposal as OAH policy as amended. (See page xx)
  • Approved OAH adapted statement on Intellectual Property and Online and Distance Learning. (See page xx)

Renew Early and Win Results

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Renew Early and Win giveaway. Your early renewal is much appreciated. We are pleased to announce the following winners for the 2020-2021 membership year:

Grand prize – Nancy Gabin – web cam and $150 bookstore gift certificate

First prize – Kelly Lyons – free hotel night at the conference hotel in Boston in April 2022

Second prize (2) – Douglas Littlefield and Edward Rotundo – free registration for the 2021 Annual Meeting and a free print subscription to The American Historian

Third prize (2) – Christine Olson and Andros Xiourouppa - $50 bookstore gift certificate

Featured Member Benefit

Oxford English Dictionary

Did you know that OAH members can access the Oxford English Dictionary for free? Simply log in to your OAH account at https://secure.oah.org, and click on “Members-only Discounts” in the right navigation bar. First published in 1884, the OED seeks to document the first known use of every word in the English language.

Endowment Campaign Challenge Update

The OAH Endowment Campaign is nearing $200,000! The campaign began in September 2019 after past President Earl Lewis issued a challenge during his Presidential Address at the Philadelphia meeting. He donated $50,000 with the promise to donate another $50,000 if OAH members could raise $500,000 in five years’ time. Many members have donated, helping us reach nearly $200,000. We encourage all our members to consider donating so that we can meet President Lewis’s challenge and receive the additional $50,000. Donations can be made online at https://www.oah.org/donate/, by calling us, or by mail.

Have You Updated Your Contact Information Recently?

Don’t miss out on publications or announcements. Update your contact information by logging into your OAH account at https://secure.oah.org, emailing us at membership@oah.org, or by calling us at (812) 855-7311 between 8am and 4:30 pm ET Monday through Friday.

Award Policy – Adopted November 19, 2020

The committee proposes,

1.The OAH should add a new principle that states members of the OAH should adhere to high professional standards and ethics.

2. Create a policy for all new prizes.

  • The Executive Board will create an ad hoc committee to vet each request and create a gift agreement in consultation with the OAH attorney and the broader OAH community to ensure that the honoree is in line with the standards and principles of the OAH. The ad hoc committee will reach out to people in the field and those who know the potential honoree. The committee has approximately six months (length of time between Executive Board meetings) to research possible awards and present their findings to the Executive Board.
  • The ad hoc committee will present their findings and recommendation to the Executive Board before an award or honor is established.
  • The gift agreement will include a statement that the OAH Executive Board reserves the right to rescind or alter the name of an award if new information arises that is contrary to the standards and principles of the OAH.
  • The gift agreement will include the process for returning endowment money if an award is rescinded or renamed.
  • The gift agreement will make clear the donor/donors have no say in who receives the award. The prize committee for that award has the sole discretion for awarding the prize.

3. Create a policy for rescinding or renaming existing awards.

  • The Executive Board will create an ad hoc committee to investigate issues brought to us by the membership to vet an existing award. That committee will report backto the Executive Board for a decision on renaming or rescinding the award/prize.
  • The Executive Board will create a committee to reexamine awards every two years to proactively ensure they meet the principals and standards of the OAH. If an issue is discovered, an ad hoc committee will be convened to further vet the award and report back to the Executive Board.
  • In the event that an award is no longer financially viable, the Executive Board will make a decision about ending the award and returning the remaining money in the fund to a OAH general pool for making awards or to the donor(s) of an award.

The board was in agreement regarding two amendments. First, language regarding a timeline for the committee to research, gathering their findings and report back to the board should be included. The Committee will have the time in between board meetings or the equivalent of 6 months. The second, In the first line of the first committee proposal, “personal” should be taken out and be replaced with “ethics,” to read, “high professional standards and ethics.”


OAH Statement on Intellectual Property and Online and Distance Education by the Academic Freedom Committee.

The Organization of American Historians is the largest professional society dedicated to the teaching and study of American history. The mission of the OAH is to promote excellence in the scholarship, teaching, and presentation of American history, and to encourage wide discussion of historical questions and the equitable treatment of all practitioners of history.

The intellectual property rights of faculty and instructors are of significant importance to this mission. In contrast to the “work for hire” doctrine that applies in other fields, faculty and instructors have a long-standing, legally-recognized right to the “intellectual property” they create in the course of their employment. Intellectual property created in fulfillment of teaching responsibilities includes syllabi, handouts, assignments and assessments, lectures and presentations, and publications.

The growth of distance and online learning has raised concerns that these intellectual property rights might be eroded by the use of employer-provided technology. The pandemic induced shift to remote learning means that an overwhelmingly large proportion of college and university courses will be reliant on employer provided technology for the foreseeable future.

The OAH strongly believes that instructor-created teaching materials, lectures and presentations are the instructor’s exclusive intellectual property. Intellectual property rights reside in the instructor-creator of teaching materials, not in the institutional or technology provider through whom such materials are conveyed. The use of employer-owned technology and services, including computers, course management software, and audio or visual recordings does not alter the instructor’s exclusive intellectual property rights. The instructor’s status, whether full-time, part-time, contingent, graduate assistant, tenure or tenure track, does not alter the instructor’s exclusive property rights.

Adherence to this principle is of heightened importance at present. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has created or exacerbated financial problems facing many institutions of higher education must not be used to make claims on the exclusive intellectual property rights of faculty and instructors.

The OAH strongly supports the joint AAUP-AFT statement that “Institutions should not take this opportunity to appropriate intellectual property to which they would not otherwise have had access; teaching materials moved online because of the one-time emergency created by COVID-19 are not the property of the institution for future use.”

The OAH calls on all institutions of higher education to affirm their commitment to respect and protect the exclusive intellectual property rights of faculty and instructors.

The OAH calls on faculty and instructors to seek a commitment from their employing or contracting institution to respect and protect their exclusive intellectual property rights.

The OAH urges faculty, instructors, and institutions of higher education to seek out research-based information as they clarify their institution’s commitment to respect the exclusive intellectual property rights of faculty and instructors.

The OAH offers a standard Educational Provider Agreement that faculty, instructors and institutions of higher education may adopt. [insert link here]

Selected Resources:

AAUP-AFT joint statement, “Principles for Higher Education Response to COVID-19” May 17, 2020, Principle 19.

Colleen Flaherty, “IP: Copyright ownership concerns abound in the rapid shift to remote instruction,“ Inside Higher Education, May 19, 2020.

Michele J. Le Moal-Gray, “Distance Education and Intellectual Property: The Realities of Copyright Law and the Culture of Higher Education.” Touro Law Review, 16 (April 2016) Article 17.