Voice and academia – when do we speak out?
In his classic work, Hirschman (1970) refers to ‘exit, voice and loyalty”, noting that the easier it is to leave an environment of discontent, the lower the voice. Voice, however, is more helpful, in that it explains decline. Of course, exit from AOM is a rather simple task, we do not have a monopoly on scholarly conferences or journals in management. Yet, recently, there was active and serious discussion including members mentioning leaving, boycotting, and resigning their AOM membership.
On Jan.27, President Donald Trump issued the now familiar executive order restricting and/or banning anyone from 7 different countries from visiting the USA. What followed, in addition to the subsequent court order cancelling this directive, was a stream of protests from various organizations, including Academic organizations, such as the APA, ASA, etc.. I have listed many of these responses at the end of this blog for your reference. In most cases, the language is explicit: restricting travel to individuals according to their national origin went against the values of many of these organizations, and their objection was unambiguous.
The ruling also challenged our own Code of Ethics at AOM:
The AOM ensures that attention is paid to the rights and well-being of all organizational stakeholders.
AOM members respect and protect civil and human rights and the central importance of freedom of inquiry and expression in research, teaching, and publication.
Worldview. Academy members have a duty to consider their responsibilities to the world community.
In their role as educators, members of the Academy can play a vital role in encouraging a broader horizon for decision making by viewing issues from a multiplicity of perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are the least advantaged.
Our own president, Anita M. McGahan, weighed in, but unfortunately, her letter lacked the robust character of many of the academies listed below. Rather, she attempted a ‘work around”, and I quote a few paragraphs as follows:
“First, the AOM is suspending the requirement of attendance as a condition of inclusion in the program at the Annual Meeting for those affected by the travel restrictions. All scholars whose work is accepted to the conference but are not able to enter the United States from travel-restricted countries will have access to sessions in which they are presenting through virtual means. Second, we will also share with you, via our website, the best information that we have about Visa application processes for those who want to attend. We encourage any member from the affected countries who wishes to attend but cannot because of travel restrictions to contact us so that we can work with you toward participation”
|“The vision of the AOM is to inspire and enable a better world through our scholarship and teaching about management and organizations. I encourage AOM members to double down on the scholarly agenda. Let us be more engaged, creative, and committed to scholarship and teaching on the issues of our day. Let us stand together in Atlanta in solidarity with our diverse membership as the world’s premiere association of management scholars and business-school professors. Academic integrity is our strength. Through our scholarly discussions and debate, we can find a way forward together. This is the AOM’s purpose and this cannot and will not change”.
Many of members, including myself, wrote letters of protest to our president. We felt it important that AOM make a stand on this important issue. A healthy dialog subsequently ensued on numerous listservs. It turned out that Anita was constrained by AOM policies that would not allow AOM to take political stands.
The policy was: “The Academy of Management does not take political stands. Officers and leaders are bound by this policy and may not make publicly stated political views in the name of the AOM or through use of AOM resources.”
As a result, I was very pleased to note that AOM policy has changed – albeit subtly, our policy as follows:
The newly amended policy on political stands is: “The Academy of Management does not take political stands. Officers and leaders are bound by this policy and may not make publicly stated political views in the name of the AOM or through use of AOM resources. However, under exceptional circumstances, and with the consensual support of the Executive Committee and in consultation with the Board of Governors, the President is authorized to issue a statement on behalf of the AOM when a political action threatens the existence, purpose, or functioning of the AOM as an organization.” This policy is under embargo for 90 days.
I wish to thank Anita, the Board of Governors, our members who voiced concerns, and all the other members involved for their work in rapidly addressing this important issue head on, by acknowledging that under certain circumstances, voice is important.
While many of us are fortunately enough to live in a democracy, we also are members of a global community of scholars. We have seen what happens when communities of scholars fail to adequately rise up against measures that limit or constrain academic freedom. We need not look far to see this freedom being denied our colleagues in various places, at this very moment. There are times when making a political stand is necessary to meet challenges attacking the very substance of what we do as scholars. While these will hopefully be few and far between, it is important that we acknowledge our own responsibility for voice, least we have only to exit. If nothing else, modifying our rules has engendered more loyalty.
Statements from various associations follow: