The World History Association’s Professional Behavior Policy
Why We Have a Professional Behavior Policy
The World History Association (WHA) is a professional association of scholars, teachers, and students organized to promote world history by encouraging teaching, research, publications, and personal interactions. As described in its constitution, its mission is to “promote activities which will increase historical awareness, understanding among and between peoples, and global consciousness.” Promoting understanding among and between peoples includes encouraging mutual respect, an ethical practice that is essential for the collegial camaraderie that has long been part of the WHA’s aims and vital for the continued health of the field of world history. The practice of mutual respect fosters a sustainable environment for freedom of expression and open inquiry. When a culture of mutual respect is not maintained, the field suffers by the voices lost and the diminished reach of the voices that remain.
The principles and policies contained in this document apply to all attendees at the WHA’s annual meeting, a place where people come to exchange ideas and build intellectual and professional networks. All interactive venues of the annual meeting—in person, through email and other electronic forms of communication, or on social media, and whether formal or informal—are shared professional spaces. In a professional space, attendees should comport themselves according to the values of nondiscrimination, dignity, and courtesy. The WHA is comprised of scholars, teachers, and students from all over the world; attendees should thus acknowledge the rights of all WHA members and other scholars to hold diverse values and opinions.
Attendees should assume that all of their interactions during the meeting are professional, not personal. Keeping in mind that consent may look different to different individuals, the best practice is for all parties to agree freely and explicitly when interactions shift away from the strictly professional.
The World History Association views harassment as a form of discrimination and misconduct by which the harasser asserts a relationship of power over the harassed through behavior that causes feelings of fear or distress. Harassment implies that an individual is not worthy of respect and that the views and person of that individual hold little or no value. Harassment may be overt or subtle, public or private, in-person or online, sexual or otherwise. All forms of harassment hurt the individual, the organization, and the profession in far-reaching and long-standing ways. The WHA is committed to creating and maintaining a harassment-free environment for all participants in the Association’s activities.
Harassment includes demeaning, humiliating, and threatening actions, comments, jokes, other forms of verbal and/or written communication, body language, and physical contact, based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, religion, physical and mental ability, or any other characteristic. Sexual harassment includes but is not limited to unwanted sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature; offensive or suggestive jokes or remarks; inappropriate personal questions or conversations; unwelcome or nonconsensual physical contact; display of sexually explicit, offensive, or demeaning images except for scholarly analysis; leering or ogling; sexual remarks about someone’s clothing or body; repeated requests for dates after having been told no; and retaliatory behavior. Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature or consensual personal and social relationships without discriminatory effect. It refers to behavior that reasonably situated persons would regard as not welcome and as personally intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/features/prevent- bullying/index.html) consider bullying a serious problem. Bullying is characterized by direct or indirect intentional aggression that is physical, verbal, or social in nature, and a power imbalance between aggressor and victim. Bullying may include refusal to recognize the cultural and personal meaning of ideas and actions that are different from one’s own. In a professional setting, bullying of any sort can be considered workplace violence, whether this occurs at conferences or in digital spaces, and the WHA strongly condemns this.
The WHA asks that attendees at annual meetings observe the principles of consent and
respect when using social media. Express permission to post or tweet conference speakers’ work, images, and audio or video recordings must be secured in advance through session organizers or presiders (copyright law may well require this). Speakers reserve all rights to their work and related materials. Due to its immediacy and brevity, live-tweeting or blogging must strive for accuracy and avoid misrepresentation, misappropriation, and misunderstanding. Members participating in online conversations or public forums pertinent to annual meetings should practice respect and collegiality. The WHA considers doxxing, outing, online harassment, and stalking antithetical to its
The World History Association will not take breaches of professional or ethical behavior lightly. At the annual meeting, the WHA will maintain a team to receive complaints from any participant who has experienced or witnessed violations of this policy. The contact information for team members will be made available on the WHA website and in registration materials. Reporting an incident does not obligate the reporter to pursue any further action. All communications are confidential and the details of such conversations will not be reported, except as required by law. Depending upon the severity and nature of the report, the team will take action appropriate to the particular context, in accordance with the WHA’s status as a membership organization, the policies of a host institution, and local, state, and national law. Neither the team nor any other WHA official can provide legal advice to individuals who make reports under this policy.
Some text in this policy is taken from documents produced by the American Historical Association and the Medieval Academy of America, with their permission.