Invitation to join October 23 meeting with new SHAFR Task Force on Advocacy

Subject Line: Invitation to join October 23 meeting with new SHAFR Task Force on Advocacy

Dear Members of SHAFR:

SHAFR has a new Task Force on Advocacy, with a mission to alert and mobilize members when our interests are threatened. Recent events have demonstrated the vital importance of working collectively to defend and advance SHAFR’s mission, including repeated cuts in the budget of the National Archives, the destruction of whole classes of historically important records, the failure to release any new FRUS volumes in 2020, and the end of automatic declassification at the CIA and presidential libraries. We are asking those of you interested in keeping up to date -- and taking action when there is need and opportunity -- to opt into the task force email list and join us for our next meeting, on October 23 at 12 noon. 

Click on this link if you would like to receive news and alerts from the Task Force on Advocacy. This Google Group will also enable you to post comments and make suggestions visible to other members.

Click on this link if you would like to register for our next meeting on Friday, October 23rd from 12-1pm, when we will host Dr. Stephen Kidd, Executive Director of the National Humanities Alliance, and Patrice McDermott, Director of Government Information Watch. We will discuss current budgetary and regulatory challenges, and what SHAFR members can do to help meet them.

Here are two things you can do right now:

1)    Consider posting a comment -- no later than the September 30 deadline -- about NARA’s plan to allow the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to destroy records of investigations into misconduct, sexual abuse, and civil rights violations. In the past, NARA officials have said that they do not receive public comments when they announce such plans regarding record disposition in, as they are required to do. This lack of engagement encourages them to think that historians don’t care. Even if NARA officials ignore the comments they do receive, those comments create a record that has been important in seeking redress in courts, as SHAFR is currently doing in its lawsuit with the AHA and the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington about the destruction of ICE records.

NARA’s decisions on Records Disposition Schedules profoundly affect researchers today and for decades to come. We therefore encourage SHAFR members with the requisite expertise to comment on proposed schedules. Comments can easily be submitted through, where you can see NARA’s schedule and read comments left by others. Comments are often informal and relatively brief. But they can also be detailed and documented -- disputing incorrect assertions in the schedule, showing how it violates NARA’s own policies, identifying the harm resulting from the loss of specific records, and demonstrating that such records are valued by scholars and the public. For an excellent example, see this comment by task force member Yael Schacher. Regardless of whether your comment is short or long, it is important that it be accurate and informed if it is to be taken seriously (in this case, some commenters attribute abuses to the CBP that actually concern ICE.)

The Task Force on Advocacy will be working with SHAFR’s Historical Documentation Committee to review NARA decisions on record disposition and take action when needed. If you want to hear from us the next time important records are slated for destruction, you need to join the Google Group.

2)    Consider writing to your senators and congressional representative about funding for the National Archives. Congress has cut NARA’s budget for the last three years. Congressional staff said that they never heard from constituents who cared about archives. This year, after a major effort by the National Humanities Alliance, the House passed its FY 21 funding bill for NARA with a small ($2.4 million) increase. In the past, the conference committee has split the difference with whatever the Senate appropriates, and last year the Senate appropriated more than the House. So if members hear from their constituents it could make a real difference. This is especially the case for members of the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on Financial Services and General Government (here are the members of the House and Senate subcommittees).

The National Humanities Alliance has created a webform that makes it very easy to write to Congress about NARA funding. Here again, the more informed your comment, the better, and it’s best to send a personalized message. Click here to see sample messages using different language -- one for a Democratic representative or senator, the other for a Republican.   

Finally, as a new task force, we are very open to suggestions from you. You can reach out to any of us individually if you have ideas about issues that SHAFR members may want to know about and act on.


Matt Connelly, Chair, Columbia University
Cindy Ewing, University of Missouri
Sam Lebovic, George Mason University
John McNay, University of Cincinnati
Amy Offner, University of Pennsylvania, (Ex Officio, SHAFR rep to National Coalition for History)
Karma Palzom, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Yael Schacher, Refugees International

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