[URBANTH-L]Letter from Walter Goldschmidt

Allen Feldman af31 at nyu.edu
Wed Jan 19 11:09:41 EST 2005

 Goldschmidt ommitted that Brumfield's prominent citation in her post
conference missive of a single letter  from a single union rank and file
member appoving the AAA decision to hold meetings in Atlanta is
symptomatic of the exec board's lack of reality testing.
----- Original Message -----
From: Angela Jancius <acjancius at ysu.edu>
Date: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 10:29 am
Subject: [URBANTH-L]Letter from Walter Goldschmidt

> From: "Robert T. O'Brien" <robrien at temple.edu>
> To: Urbananth-l <urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu>
> Received: Tue, 18 Jan 2005 23:12:01 -0500
> Dear Colleagues:
> I have been asked by Walter Goldschmidt, former AAA President, to 
> circulatethe letter below (sent to current AAA President Liz 
> Brumfiel two weeks ago).
> Dr. Goldschmidt spoke passionately about the issues of labor 
> relations and
> AAA governance at the meetings in Atlanta. He has expanded on his 
> thoughtshere. I think they warrant a close read.
> Clarification: Just to make sure that credit goes where it is due: 
> The forum
> to which Dr. Goldschmidt refers was organized by
> Polly Strong and Robert Foster on behalf of SCA. Paul Durrenberger 
> and Suzan
> Erem were panelists, but did not
> organize the session.
> Best,
> Rob O'Brien
> Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2005 10:15:01 -0800 To:
> ebrumfiel at northwestern.edu From: Walter Goldschmidt
> <walterg at ucla.edu> Subject: crises Cc: Robert O'Brien, Paul
> Durrenberger, bdavis at aaanet.org
> Dear Liz,
> I am concerned that I have not had a response to my letter of
> two weeks ago. Because the matter goes far beyond you and me, I
> am having Bob O"Brien circulate it more widely. Wally
> To: ebrumfiel at northwestern.edu From: Walter Goldschmidt
> <walterg at ucla.edu> Cc: agoodman at hampshire.edu Bcc:
> bdavis at aaanet.org lhorne at aaanet.org
> Dr. Elizabeth Brumfiel, President American Anthropological
> Association 2200 Wilson Blvd. Arlington VA 22201
> Dear Liz,
> This letter is being addressed to you, Liz, as the responsible
> head of the Association, who has found herself suddenly faced
> with a crisis of major proportions in what is generally seen as
> a largely ceremonial and honorific role. You have my sympathy,
> for I am sure that you wanted to follow some agenda of your own,
> but now you have no choice. I am giving you friendly advice with
> sympathy and concern, because conscientious and forceful action
> is essential for the very preservation of the Association. This
> is not a melodramatic statement, but a sober assessment. Though
> I know from experience that it seems the other way around, you
> are the boss and Bill and the staff are your employees; this
> means that you are the fall-guy; you are where the buck stops.
> When I was inducted as an officer of the Association, I and my
> cohort were advised that as officers we had fiscal
> responsibility and legal liability, if I remember the
> terminology correctly, and whether this advisory is still
> practiced, I am sure it is still the law.
> The crisis has two aspects, each of which must be addressed. The
> first is damage control, for there is great anger at both the
> manner in which the situation was handled from the outset and
> the decision that was made and the way it was arrived at. The
> second is planning for the almost inevitable revisit to the same
> crisis in 2006. While this will not occur on your watch, the
> planning for this must be done by you and your successor right
> away.
> 1. Damage Control. Given the existence of a contract and the
> likelihood of a strike, the Association had to face the issue of
> its memberswillingness to cross the picket lines. Though we are
> not a union, we are made up largely of liberals who are
> reluctant to act in support of management. Thus the question
> was: Can the AAA meet successfully in a hotel that is not merely
> on strike, but where the workers were locked out? If not, what
> are the alternatives? The inevitability of having to face this
> issue raises further questions: Why was there no planning for
> this likely event? I called my long-term friend, Lucille Horne,
> on Oct. 12, to find out what was being planned, more to protect
> my hotel deposit than as a call to action, and was surprised
> when she blithely said she expected the strike to be over by
> then. I should have been alerted by this response that sounded
> more like Rumsfelds planning for Iraq than I like with the same
> inevitability of disaster. It is of course not Lucilles job to
> anticipate political disasters -- but what was going on in the
> administration of Association affairs? Was there no realization
> of the potential gravity of the situation? Why had there been no
> canvass of the membership to measure its commitment to support
> the strikers and its attitude toward crossing picket lines? The
> opacity of the action that was taken, the sudden and very
> limited referendum and the decision to take action quite unlike
> any proposed in the referendum all combine to alienate the
> membership and exacerbated the latent antagonism that always
> lies between authority and rank-and-file. It is this alienation
> that the leadership, both elected and employed, must do all in
> its power to dispel. It can do this only by a full disclosure of
> what was said and done leading up to the decision to move to
> Atlanta and to keep us posted on actions currently being taken
> with respect to the future. The members need to know in detail
> just how matters were handled, when was the gravity of the
> situation realized, what the initial reactions were, what the
> staff was doing about it, what voices came from the members and
> whose voices and what knowledge came to dominate the decisions.
> In short, full disclosure!
> The meetings have been held; they were a travesty for the
> participants, a tragedy for those who most needed them,
> particularly the young and hungry, and an on-going threat to the
> integrity of the Association. I feel that neither you nor Bill
> appreciates the gravity of this situation, and your round-robin
> letter describing the meetings does nothing to dispel this fear.
> I had been astonished to find no call for a plenary session to
> explain and discuss the matter at the meeting, if only to
> release a little steam. Sitting in the so-called business
> meeting was like discussing the relative merits of Evian Water
> over Vichy while the house was burning. It was surreal. There is
> already an outside threat to use this situation to break up the
> Association, but nobody seems to have taken the trouble to
> recognize the presence of that elephant in the parlor.
> The only overt expression of awareness and of negotiations was
> the session called by Paul Durrenberger and Suzan Erem. It gave
> us a peek at what went on, but did not explain your and Bills
> role and the decision-making process. Apparently outside
> consultants were used but no consultation with the membership.
> There should have been a session called specifically to discuss
> the issue, with yourself presiding, Bill, Lucille and the
> President-elect there, in which you outlined for us the history
> of the action and took questions from the floor.
> I urge you now to make up for this failure by establishing a
> forum in the Newsletter, in which you set forth in painful
> detail all the discussions and action, starting with the first
> recognition of the existence of a crisis and continuing on over
> the years, taking letters of condemnation and advice as well as
> describing on-going actions until the crisis of 2006 has been
> resolved. Perhaps this letter could be published as an open
> letter as a kick-off for such a forum. I urge that you and the
> staff be open and frank. The crisis was not of your making and
> the solution was not self-evident, yet the one reached was far
> from ideal and the membership deserves to know just how it was
> arrived at and what other solutions were considered. This forum
> should, if necessary, replace less urgent materials. You dont
> want a call for a commission of enquiry on the matter, which is
> the last thing we need.
> 2. The Coming Crisis. The Faustian bargain reached for the 2004
> meeting means that we must meet the devil face to face very
> soon. You must realize that this strike/lock-out is no mere
> local conflict, but a major confrontation between labor and
> management. The union is the largest one in the public sector
> and represents not only the poorest of the working poor but
> those very people who are trying to lift themselves out of the
> poverty level, into which their un-unionized counterparts fall.
> It is, furthermore, a battle for unionization itself, a battle
> that had its first skirmish with Reagans defeat of the flight
> monitors union when he took office. I was dismayed to hear one
> of the Association officers, whose name I do not know, dismiss
> the matter as being just a house-keeping girlsissuewhen we had
> important issues like what should be done about Iraq (about
> which we can have zero influence) to discuss. I suggest you ask
> Paul Durrenberger and/or Suzan Erem do explain what is involved,
> for they are far better qualified than I am to do so. Any
> assumption that the problem will go away is just more Rumsfeld
> thinking.Indeed, management will very likely want to chastise us
> for having walked out of San Francisco.
> I cannot advise you on how to solve the problem, but I can
> suggest some courses of action you should take now. The first is
> to get the best measure you can of the temper of the Association
> membership. How many would boycott a meeting that was on strike;
> how many would refuse to cross a picket line, etc. The second is
> to create an ad hoc committee made up of knowledgeable people, I
> would presume chaired by the President-elect, who is saddled
> with the issue, to explore alternatives, assay their costs and,
> for those that seem viable, get membership reaction. Third, I
> would be open about all actions taken, keeping the membership
> informed through the Forum in the Newsletter and by email.
> You have my sympathy, Liz. I have no doubt of your good
> intentions but I am not impressed with your performance to date.
> It is not an easy task and I am sure you will have to give up
> doing a lot of things with your term of office that are more
> dear to your heart. But it has fallen on your shoulders and you
> and your President-elect will have to spend long, agonizing
> hours working on it, learning as you go. But nothing is more
> important than the resolution of this internal issue to keep our
> Association intact. If you succeed, you will have accomplished
> something more important than anything on your (or my) resume.
> Happy Holidays!
> Walter Goldschmidt, UCLA
> ****************************************
> Robert T. O'Brien
> AAAUnite Ad Hoc Committee
> http://AAAUnite.blogspot.com
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aaaunite/
> Ph.D. Candidate
> Department of Anthropology
> Temple University
> robrien at temple.edu
> 215-803-5181
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