Statement of Hau Board of Trustees October 25, 2018

Dear Anthropology Community,

The present Interim Trustees of the Society for Ethnographic Theory, the vehicle of HAU, all joined the Board in January 2018 or later. They have tasked themselves with overseeing the transition to a stable and accountable organizational structure, similar to other learned societies. Giovanni da Col has expressed his strong interest in resigning. We are negotiating his resignation expeditiously, and are proceeding to consolidate the new legal vehicle for the society and the journal and to appoint a new Editor-in-Chief. As soon as that process is complete we shall seek to constitute a larger and more broadly representative Board to determine the future direction of the society and journal and assume responsibility for their management. We hope that, when it comes, the call will be well received by the anthropological community.

We agreed to join HAU because we all wished to support and contribute to an intellectual and institutional venture we found innovative, progressive and good for anthropology. This remains our commitment. When we took office, some of us knew that HAU had encountered problems in recent years; and some of us had no idea of this background. We were taken by surprise by the media campaign that developed this spring demanding the removal of Giovanni da Col as Editor-in-Chief. As the campaign spread, accusations against him grew, targeting not only the EiC but HAU itself, which was judged guilty of elitism, cultural misappropriation and more generally of furthering the unfair distribution of power in the academic world.

So far as the Interim Board of Trustees can determine, the Executive Council of the External Advisory Board (EAB) appointed to address complaints against the Editor in Chief undertook this task to the best of its abilities. Some of our longer serving Trustees were able to speak to members of the EAB; others joined after this process reached its end. We understand that it asked for and investigated any evidence of financial wrong-doing and sexual harassment. HAU never had a physical office, members of the editorial staff were scattered across the globe, and almost all interactions were (and are) virtual. Hence, former staff were asked by email to submit complaints and documentation of misconduct. The EAB found no evidence of financial wrongdoing or sexual harassment. Those who had been hired on an honorarium basis were financially compensated. What remained were complaints about the quality of the EiC’s interactions with staff, which have subsequently been addressed.

The last incarnation of the EAB restructured HAU to prevent a recurrence of the problems that it was asked to address. In order to professionalize the work at HAU, a new publishing contract was negotiated with the University of Chicago Press to ensure its long-term sustainability, to ensure that no one would be hired again on an honorarium basis, and to enable the editorial management of the journal and its production to be handed to professional staff. The Press’s involvement with the Society for Ethnographic Theory is limited to publishing HAU JOURNAL and distributing HAU BOOKS under contracts. The journal remains up to 20% Open Access and issues are made available for free download for one month after publication. The Monograph series remains Open Access -- a pioneer initiative in anthropological publishing. A not for profit company was established on January 31 2018 and a new set of Bylaws were written, separating the editorial functions from the legal, financial, and staff management responsibilities. The new Bylaws are a transparent document that states that the Society is ruled collectively by a Board of equal trustees and sets time limits on editorial positions for both the journal and the book series. The Bylaws also include clear instructions for the presentation and addressing of grievances within the organization.

We do not wish to minimize any offence that the EiC might have caused, and we strongly believe that he should take responsibility for his acts and offer acknowledgement and apologies to those he may have harmed or offended.

Nevertheless, scapegoating an individual through a concerted campaign is utterly ineffectual in changing the structures of power in the academic world; rather it in fact serves to bolster the status quo and makes it difficult to mobilize the necessary efforts to change it. Anonymous denunciations, spiraling accusations, gossip and innuendos, are never acceptable; they are the basis of the populist movements currently eroding the bedrock of what remains of democratic institutions throughout the world. HAU and its Editor-in-Chief have come to stand for all that is wrong with academia. It seems clear that the EiC has already been judged and convicted in the Twitter court.

Voices from the social media have been asking us to set up an independent investigation into the management of the journal in the past. We have expended much time seeking legal advice from a variety of sources. We were told that the nature of the social media allegations against the EiC is such that it would be impossible to fix clear terms of reference for an inquiry. Although we do not consider that we are in a position to judge the complaints made against him before our period as trustees, we have attempted to seek further information and clarification. On behalf of the present Board, its former Chair sent emails to all employees of HAU and asked if they had any concerns with regard to work environment issues. No employee has come forward to us with complaints. We did receive several letters in support of the Editor-in-Chief and we were told that the authors were afraid of posting them lest they be attacked online. A full financial review has been under commission with a firm of chartered accountants since August and so far, it has found no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing. All volunteer positions have been abrogated.

Meanwhile, the media campaign has left HAU in turmoil. A number of Board members resigned, and others have joined. The Board began by suspending the EiC as ex officio member of the Board while it explored the situation and assessed options to move forward. During his suspension, Deborah Durham stepped up to serve as Interim Editor, a position which she managed very ably and we take this opportunity to express our gratitude to her. For reasons entirely independent of HAU she has had to reduce her hours of work for the journal over the next few months but will continue to serve in her original role of Deputy Editor. The Board has now appointed Greg Beckett, University of Western Ontario, as an additional Deputy Editor to work alongside Deborah. Our commitments to those with articles in production or under review remain firm and we are encouraged by recent submissions. The next issue of HAU JOURNAL will appear on schedule in December. Several new HAU BOOKS titles will be released shortly. We are also exploring the possibility of making open access all articles by authors from the Global South.

We are all eager to maintain HAU on a strong footing. We see our task as completing the transition to the new, independent, incorporated body. This involves negotiating the transfer of intellectual property rights and related assets. Once that is complete, we will seek a business manager who can maintain financial records which will receive an independent audit annually. We are working to effect the transition as soon as possible. We appreciate offers of support in the work of HAU; its future depends on all of us.

John Borneman, Richard Fardon, Niloofar Haeri, Kriti Kapila, Alain Pottage, Anne-Christine Taylor

(Board of Trustees, HAU - 25 October 2018)