Approved by the AAR Board of Directors on July 19, 2021
The mission of the AAR is to foster excellence in the academic study of religion and to enhance the public understanding of religion.
Enhancing the public understanding of religion is a key part of the AAR’s mission. This means that at times the AAR makes public pronouncements, which can happen in several ways. The AAR Board of Directors may issue statements on public matters that relate directly to academic freedom and the public understanding of religion. The AAR Board of Directors may also write directed letters about specific matters. At other times, AAR members submit resolutions directly to the full membership for consideration at the Annual Business Meeting. The AAR Board of Directors statements and resolutions are found on the website, but Board letters are not generally published on the website.
AAR resolutions as well as AAR Board of Director statements and letters normally fall into one of the following categories:
- Academic freedom;
- Religion departments and graduate programs threatened with closure, merger, severe funding cuts, or similar crises;
- Conditions of the professional work of religion scholars; or
- Government funding for the humanities in relation to the academic study of religion.
Though most AAR resolutions and AAR Board of Directors statements will fall within these categories, resolutions may also be passed or the board may also issue statements beyond these categories affirming the values of the association, as expressed through existing AAR statements, policies, practices, and actions.
What are the distinctions between AAR resolutions and AAR Board of Directors statements or letters? What kinds of issues are appropriate for an AAR Board of Directors statement or letter?
AAR Board of Directors statements and letters are issued by the AAR Board of Directors. Such letters and statements from the Board of Directors are best suited to issues requiring a quick response. AAR resolutions come to the full membership through consideration at the AAR Annual Business Meeting. Most issues of public interest, and especially issues relating to public policy, are best addressed through AAR resolutions which are voted upon by the AAR membership at the Annual Business Meeting.
Process for AAR Resolutions
AAR Bylaws: Article IV, Section 3 “Resolutions” states:
Members may propose resolutions for consideration at the Annual Business Meeting. Any such proposals shall (i) be received by the office of the Executive Director at least thirty (30) days prior to the Annual Meeting; (ii) be in proper parliamentary form; (iii) be signed by at least twenty-five (25) members; (iv) be no more than three hundred (300) words in length; and (v) deal with matters relating to the purposes of the Academy as set forth in Article II. Resolutions approved at the Annual Business Meeting do not supersede the fiduciary duties and authority of the Board of Directors as the governing body of the Academy.
Process for AAR Board of Directors Statements or Letters
What guidelines apply to requests for statements or letters?
- The issue must be of clear, direct professional interest or concern to the AAR membership.
- The issue must be related to the AAR’s mission and/or strategic plan.
- The issue must affect more than one individual.
- If the issue is controversial, there must be a clear majority viewpoint of the membership on the issue (that is, the membership is not, to the best of the board’s knowledge and judgment, deeply divided).
- The facts of the issue must have been sufficiently established. (The AAR does not have the investigative capabilities to discover the facts independently.)
- No existing public board statement applies sufficiently to the matter at hand. (For example, the board has issued statements abhorring violence perpetrated on the basis of class, ethnicity, religion, race, gender, or sexuality. Specific instances of such violence should normally be covered by those statements.)
- In the case of letters, there must be a specific addressee or recipient for the letter (such as an institutional administration or governmental body).
- In the case of statements, there must be a pressing reason stated for not waiting for the full membership Annual Meeting resolution process.
Who can request an AAR Board of Directors statement or letter?
If the issue cannot be addressed as an AAR resolution at the Annual Business Meeting, a statement or letter from the Board of Directors can be requested by any AAR member, committee, or task force, as well as by any religion department or graduate school (including interdisciplinary departments, regardless of the AAR membership of their faculty), or learned society. In addition, any member of the Board of Directors (including the executive director and president) may place a request on the agenda of the next regularly scheduled board meeting.
How does a member request a Board of Directors statement or letter?
To request a Board of Directors statement or letter, submit the following information to the executive director, preferably by email to [email protected]
- Provide a brief summary of the issue in question.
- Make a clear case justifying board action on the particular issue, including answers to the following questions:
- How is the issue of professional interest or concern to the AAR membership? How does the issue affect the academic study of religion? If the issue does not directly affect the academic study of religion, how does it affect the AAR’s constituencies? Be as concrete as possible.
- What specific position and/or action is the Board of Directors requested to take on the issue? Is there evidence that this position/action will be supported by the majority of AAR members?
- Who is the intended audience of the statement or letter?
- What contribution can the AAR make to the public debate about the issue? What special knowledge or perspective can religious scholarship offer on the issue?
- How is the issue related to the AAR’s mission and/or strategic plan?
- What impact is the statement or letter intended or expected to have?
- Have the facts of the issue been sufficiently established? If so, what are they?
- What is the appropriate timeline for responding to the issue?
- Include draft text for the statement or letter from the board. (The board reserves the right to revise the provided text or draft entirely new text as it sees fit.)
How does the Board of Directors decide whether to issue a letter or statement?
Executive Committee of the Board of Directors
The executive committee of the Board of Directors serves as a sub-committee for the purposes of considering requested letters and public statements on behalf of the Board of Directors and, as necessary, revising or (on rare occasion) drafting such letters or statements. All public documents are issued from the board as a whole, so the full board will normally review and consider proposals coming from the executive committee.
Multi-Society Letters and Statements
From time to time, one or more scholarly societies jointly organize a letter or public statement for multiple scholarly societies to consider endorsing. In these specific circumstances, because the AAR Board of Directors has little opportunity to request revisions and there is usually a short deadline for endorsement, the executive committee will consider these letter or statements directly in a fast-track process (in consultation with the full board if feasible), rather than through the longer review process described below.
What happens after a request has been submitted?
Upon receipt, the executive director will do the following:
- Research whether there have been any previous letters or statements from the board or actions of the AAR related to the issue. If so, the request will be supplemented with those materials.
- Share the request and any supplementary materials with the executive committee of the board for initial review.
- If the request meets the basic criteria listed above, the executive committee will determine whether one or more AAR committees or task forces have expertise related to the request and, if so, will submit it to them for further input, (including revision or, in some cases, a re-drafting of the document) and recommendation on board action. (If the request and draft come from an AAR committee, the executive director/president may opt to skip this step in the review process.) If no AAR committee or task force has expertise related to the request, the executive committee of the board will review the request and make a recommendation on board action.
The executive director will set a deadline for completion of committee or task force review based on the urgency of the issue, the dates of upcoming board meetings, and other relevant factors.
If the reviewing committee/group decides to recommend that the board issue a statement or letter, it must provide its approved draft for board consideration (which may or may not be based on the draft provided by the requester and could still be revised by the board). If the reviewing committee/group decides to recommend that no statement or letter be issued, the matter may be returned by the executive director or president to the executive committee for further consideration.
Upon receipt of recommendations for board action following the review process, the executive director and president will determine appropriate next steps, which could include any of the following:
- Placing the issue on the agenda for the next regularly scheduled executive committee or board meeting.
- Calling a special executive committee or board meeting to consider the issue.
The board’s decision is final and not subject to appeal.
The executive director will notify the person or group making the request upon the final resolution of the request and at any other points during the process that the executive director deems appropriate.
No AAR committee, task force, or regional body, nor any individual member or non-member, may make claims about the AAR’s position on a policy issue or other issue of public concern except through the process described herein or through the resolution process.