We are writing to address the concerns raised by a series of scholarly discussions hosted by former AJS member Steven M. Cohen and others.
As background, some of the incidents of sexual misconduct involving Steven M. Cohen occurred at an AJS conference and resulted in significant sanctions by the organization.
The sanctions imposed by the AJS cannot be enforced beyond the programs and activities of the AJS. Moreover, academic freedom is a mission-central value cherished by any learned society and on the basis of this fundamental value the AJS does not attempt to regulate the academic speech and intellectual associations of its members. Recently, some members have exercised their academic freedom to engage in scholarly discussion, debate, and argument with Steven M. Cohen, as is their right. These members have done so as private individuals outside the sponsored programs and activities of the AJS.
Nevertheless, the Executive Committee notes that such meetings are not without harms and risks. As pointed out in the recent statement of the AJS Women’s Caucus, such engagements “opened still-painful wounds for those who were harmed by Cohen and put others at risk professionally if not personally” (March 23, 2021 Statement).
We would like to thank the AJS Women’s Caucus for their leadership in drawing attention to the ethical concerns raised for all members by these events and for helping to ensure that the voices of victims of sexual misconduct are not silenced as we all work to forge academic communities grounded in diversity, equity, and inclusion.