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Frequently Asked Questions on the AOM Policy on Taking Stands

Current Detail

What is the AOM's Policy on Taking Stands?

AOM's Policy on Taking Stands reads as follows:

"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 approval of the Board of Governors, the President is authorized to issue a statement on behalf of the AOM when a public policy action threatens the existence, purpose, or functioning of the AOM as an organization."

This policy, adopted on February 10, 2017, was accompanied by an embargo on its implementation for 90 days to allow a Task Force to deliberate on how the policy would be implemented. The task force completed its work and reported to the Board of Governors at its regular meeting in Chicago on April 20-22, 2017, where the Task Force's recommendations were adopted and the policy was amended on April 21, 2017.

Was this always the AOM's Policy on Taking Stands?

No. The former 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."

This former policy applied to all officers, including those in the Divisions and Interest Groups, Activity Committees, Theme Committees, and Journals. Moral, academic, pragmatic, and other arguments were barred if the subject was also political. Breaches of the former and current policies are ethics violations under the AOM Code of Ethics. AOM Officers and Governors are further bound by certain principles of collaboration, process, and adherence to policy and changes in policy.

How is the current Policy on Taking Stands similar or different from the former policy?

The current policy retains the core precept that the AOM does not take political stands. In this regard, we are different from some other Associations that do take stands as a regular facet of their activities. However, the current policy also incorporates an exception around a change in public policy that threatens the AOM as a whole organization. Such an exception must be approved by the Board of Governors and expressed by the President with the consensual support of the Executive Committee. As a result, a process of vetting and approval is required before a stand can be taken under exceptional circumstances.

The current policy seeks to preserve our identity as a member-driven, decentralized organization while, at the same time, allowing a statement in an exceptional situation. Several ideas that reflect our history guided the Executive Committee and the Board in amending the former policy. First, we must retain the character of our organization as a scholarly body. Second, in a broad sense, all important political actions engage morality and ethics. Our Ethics Statements -- as well as our statements of values, objectives and goals -- contain and reflect principles that we must adhere to in our policies. The AOM must be able to respond in terms that reflect our principles. Third, the amendment to the former policy must provide direction on what stand we would take if exceptional circumstances arise. We can take guidance from the fact that, while the AOM's members have differing views on many matters, they collectively endorse the purpose and existence of the AOM as an organization by virtue of their very membership. Fourth, no one, including the AOM President, should unilaterally represent his or her view as the organizational view. The AOM needs a process for developing an organizational stand if exceptional circumstances warrant one. Fifth, the AOM must adhere to legal requirements arising from our §501(c)3 status. Our general counsel has provided us with guidelines that emphasize that any stand taken must be issue-based. Finally, the exception allowed under the amended policy must focus on changes in public policy that threaten the AOM as a whole organization.

Has the AOM taken any stands since enacting the current Policy on Taking Stands?

Yes.

On October 10, 2017, the AOM Board of Governors voted to condemn the September 24, 2017, White House proclamation banning travel and immigration into the United States by citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea, and curtailing travel to the United States by citizens of Iraq and Venezuela.

The AOM viewed these restrictions as a threat to science and scholarship and called for the immediate reversal of the policy. In a condemnation sent to President Donald J. Trump, the AOM asserted that the policy threatens scholarly exchange, academic freedom, and the dissemination of scientific findings and thus fundamentally limits fulfillment of AOM's mission. See full AOM statement.

In addition, the AOM joined more than 180 scientific and educational associations and universities in a separate statement to President Trump, saying that the latest policy discourages many of the best and brightest international scholars and students from studying, working, and attending academic and scientific conferences in the United States. See joint statement.

In a message to the press, the AOM called President Trump's September 24 proclamation "antithetical to scientific progress." See press release.

These actions by the Board of Governors are consistent with the recently adopted policy that allows the Academy of Management to take stands under exceptional circumstances that threaten the existence, purpose, or functioning of the AOM as an organization. The Board made its decision after deliberating on a proposal submitted by Anita McGahan, Immediate Past President, and supported by thirteen former AOM presidents.

What is the process for the AOM to consider taking a stand?

Proposals to consider taking a stand must be approved by the Board of Governors with the consensual support of the Executive Committee. A process of vetting and approval is required before a stand can be taken and expressed by the President under exceptional circumstances.

This vetting process begins when a member completes a short initial request form obtained from the Executive Director of the AOM, outlining the change in public policy that constitutes exceptional circumstances, and explaining how these circumstances threaten the AOM as a whole organization. After the Executive Committee reviews the initial request form, the member will either be invited to complete Step 2, the full form, that addresses the full set of concerns that the AOM must consider before taking a stand or be notified that the request does not meet the threshold for the AOM to take a stand. A request by the Executive Committee to complete Step 2, the full form, does not imply approval of the request to take a stand. These criteria emphasize exceptional threats that affect multiple members and multiple jurisdictions on matters of academic freedom, scholarly convening, scholarly exchange, and scholarship itself. Once the full form, Step 2, is received by the Executive Director, it must be deliberated by the Executive Committee. Requests for consideration that receive consensual support are then presented to the full Board of Governors, which must approve and then authorize the President, in consultation with other members of the Executive Committee, to develop an AOM stand. The Board of Governors must then approve the final statement of the stand in a second review.

Please read the Step1 Short Form for making a request for consideration to take a stand on a public policy action.

ShortFormButton

Can Divisions, Interest Groups, Committee Chairs, and/or Journal Editors take stands in the name of the AOM?

No.

The current policy passed by the Board of Governors on February 10, 2017 and amended on April 21, 2017 focuses on stands in cases where a change in public policy threatens the whole organization as a single entity. No officer of the AOM - including those in the Divisions, Interest Groups, Committees, and Journals - can take a stand in the name of the AOM or one of its Divisions, Interest Groups, Committees or Journals. However, individuals or groups may propose for consideration that AOM take a stand, following the guidelines for such a proposal.

Historical Detail

What is the origin of the original (now former) policy on not taking political stands?

The original no-political-stands policy has a long history that emanated from the AOM's legal structure and from our identity as an organization. AOM is a §501(c)3 organization that is chartered in the State of New York and that operates under the laws of New York and of the United States. We are an international body in the sense that we have members from around the world, and it is our aspiration to deepen our international and global identity. Yet formally, AOM is organized for charitable and educational purposes in New York. We are approximately 18,000 members and a small staff of employed headquarters personnel that are charged primarily with administrative duties. The substantive work of the AOM occurs in 25 Divisions and Interest Groups (DIGS), 10 theme and activity committees, and six journals. The AOM's Board of Governors acts as stewards and leaders in organizational governance. Legally identified as a charitable and educational organization, the AOM is structured differently than other Associations that have other forms of non-profit status such as, for example, §501(c)6 organizations, which are trade associations and business leagues; or §501(c)4s, which are social-welfare and civic associations.

Organizations structured as §501(c)3s have a narrower scope for lobbying than these other forms of organizations and are subject to two relevant restrictions. First, they must not engage in attempts to influence legislation as a "substantial part" of their activities. In general, this limits the extent to which they may communicate with Congress, their members, or the public, in an attempt to influence the approval, amendment, or defeat of legislation. (See https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/lobbying.) Second, §501(c)(3) organizations may not "intervene" in a political campaign for or against a candidate for elective public office. This means they may not publicly endorse or oppose candidates, make contributions to a political committee, or otherwise use their resources to support or oppose a candidate. (See https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/the-restriction-of-political-campaign-intervention-by-section-501c3-tax-exempt-organizations.) The Academy's articles of incorporation say that we "will not, except to an insubstantial degree, engage in any activities or exercise any powers that are not in furtherance of [the AOM's] primary purposes."

The AOM's identity as a pluralistic, Division and Interest Group-driven organization led the Board to adopt a policy of no political stands at least twenty-five years ago, and possibly much earlier. Early Boards of Governors implemented a policy of no political stands because they recognized both the diversity in member views on public policy and the challenge of coalescing those views into a single organizational position. The AOM also adopted a rule that no one, including the President, can represent his or her views as that of the AOM. As far as we can discern, before 2017, the AOM had never in its history issued a position on any matter in the public sphere, including, for example, the Vietnam War, the events of 9/11, or changes in European funding policies related to education.

Before the current policy, the AOM had no process by which to develop an organizational position. Our headquarters staff is administrative, and our elected officers are uncompensated volunteers with primary responsibilities as academics. The AOM's "thin center" model has been driven by pluralism, low fees, and member identity in the Division and Interest Groups, activity and theme committees, and journals. By contrast, many other Associations, especially those of our size, employ lawyers, policy analysts, and writers to issue statements on important public policy matters of concern to members.

What prompted the change to the original (now former) policy on not taking political stands?

The U.S. President's Executive Order of January 27, 2017 on immigration and refugees was the final catalyst for revising the policy. Prior to this event, work was undertaken to explore and consider changes to the policy.

Why didn't AOM publicly condemn the Executive Order of January 27, 2017 when it was first issued?

In January 2017, the original (now former) policy on not taking political stands was in force. The AOM was constrained from condemning the U.S. President's Executive Order by the AOM policy against taking a political stand on any matter. Because the U.S. President's Executive Order was political, the AOM could not condemn it for any reason, i.e., on moral, academic, pragmatic, or other grounds.

What actions did AOM take in the wake of the Executive Order of January 27, 2017?

Before April 2017, when the current Policy on Taking Stands went into full effect, AOM was constrained from condemning the U.S. President's Executive Order by the existing AOM policy against taking a political stand on any matter. However, a number of actions were taken in support of members and other scholars affected by the immigration and travel ban and leading up to the decision by the Board of Governors to revise the existing policy. These included:

  • Working with an immigration law firm to stay abreast of the situations of affected members to determine how AOM could best help.
  • Maintaining contact with other Associations to assess the impact of the Supreme Court's decision to allow parts of the U.S. President's immigration and travel ban to go into effect.
  • Maintaining contact with several universities that were offering 'safe harbor' to affected scholars.
  • Regular communication on the AOM Website to members, and directly to AOM leaders, about events related to the taking stands policy, Executive Orders, and AOM actions.
  • Crafting the proposal to change the policy on taking stands.
  • Mobilizing the Board of Governors, with unprecedented speed, to consider adopting a new policy on taking stands within two weeks of the January 27, 2017 Executive Order (policy adopted February 10, 2017).
  • Commissioning a Task Force in February 2017 to advise on operationalizing the new taking stands policy informed by a survey of members (recommendations approved April 21, 2017).
  • Developing a process and templates for accepting requests for consideration from members on taking stands.
  • Enabling the participation on the 2017 Annual Meeting program of members and non-members who were impacted by the recent Executive Order by suspending, for those affected, the requirement of attendance as a condition of inclusion in the program at the Annual Meeting, suspending registration fees for these individuals, and mobilizing virtual and other resources so those accepted on the program and impacted by the ban could participate in some form.
  • Organizing opportunities for academic scholarship through a dedicated track of the All-Academy program to discuss the connections between public policy and management at the 2017 Annual Meeting.
  • Reviewing a proposal and voting on October 10, 2017 to condemn the September 24, 2017 White House proclamation banning travel and immigration of individuals from select countries.
  • Considering the implications for holding the Annual Meeting outside of North America leading to approval of CoDeveloping opportunities for members to gather at thematic and experiential conferences in locations outside of North America as part of the Specialized Conference Initiative started in 2017 and launched in 2018.
  • Developing opportunities for members to gather at thematic and experiential conferences in locations outside of North America as part of the Specialized Conference Initiative started in 2017 and launched in 2018.

AOM commissioned a Task Force to assist with operationalizing the current Policy on Taking Stands. What did the Task Force on Taking Stands conclude?

In February 2017, the Board commissioned a Task Force to consider operationalizing the Policy on Taking Stands adopted on February 10, 2017. The Task Force members included past AOM president, Professor Michael Hitt (Texas A&M University and Texas Christian University) as Chair. The Vice Chair was Professor Mary Ann Glynn (Boston College). Other members were Professors Tunji Adebesan (Lagos Business School), Gerald Davis (University of Michigan), Sergio Lazzarini (INSPER Brazil), Raza Mir (William Paterson University), and Katherine Xin (CEIBS). Terese Loncar of the Academy of Management headquarters team joined ex officio.

The Task Force was asked to consider four items: (a) define further when a political action threatens the existence, purpose, or functioning of the AOM as an organization; (b) identify mechanisms for member input; and outline the decision and vetting process for taking any stand, and for developing such a stand; (c) define the implications of the policy for the DIGS, committees, and journals; and (d) determine how such a stand would be taken. The task force was also requested to deliberate on any other matters that it saw as important for elaborating and implementing the policy. In support of this work, the task force was provided with a number of documents, including member feedback via web survey, and analysis of how other Associations that do take stands operate.

The Task Force recommendations fell into two broad areas. First, it recommended revising the language of the policy to indicate that exceptions are allowed when a change in public policy threatens the organization as a whole. This recommendation was designed to eliminate the confusion associated with the prior language of the policy, which referred to "political stands." The "political stands" phrasing suggested that the AOM might, exceptionally, take a partisan view. Because this was not the intention of the Board of Governors when revising the policy, the Task Force recommended changing the language to indicate that an exception would be allowed only when a change in public policy generated the threat to the AOM as a whole.

Second, the Task Force recommended that the Board of Governors adopt a multi-step procedure before taking any stand. This process is designed to assure proper vetting and approval. This process begins when a member completes a short initial request form obtained from the Executive Director of the AOM, outlining the change in public policy that constitutes exceptional circumstances, and explaining how these circumstances threaten the AOM as a whole organization. After the Executive Committee reviews the initial request form, the member will either be invited to complete Step 2, the full form, that addresses the full set of concerns that the AOM must consider before taking a stand or be notified that the request does not meet the threshold for the AOM to take a stand. A request by the Executive Committee to complete Step 2, the full form, does not imply approval of the request to take a stand. These criteria emphasize exceptional threats that affect multiple members and multiple jurisdictions on matters of academic freedom, scholarly convening, scholarly exchange, and scholarship itself. Once the full form, Step 2, is received by the Executive Director, it must be deliberated by the Executive Committee. Requests for consideration that receive consensual support are then presented to the full Board of Governors, which must approve and then authorize the President, in consultation with other members of the Executive Committee, to develop an AOM stand. The Board of Governors must then approve the final statement of the stand in a second review.

Finally, the Board of Governors asked the Executive Director and headquarters staff to make templates for requests for consideration available to members.

In the wake of the immigration ban affecting travel to the U.S., did the Board of Governors give consideration to holding the AOM Annual Meeting outside of North America?

Yes.

At the April 2017 meeting of the Board of Governors, a discussion of the Annual Meeting location occurred, and a process was developed for considering non-North American locations for future meetings.

The Board discussed a number of factors that influence viable alternatives for the location of the meeting. Locations for our conference model and size must be committed seven to ten years in advance of the meeting itself. This is because only a relatively limited number of locations are viable for a conference model of our complexity and a group of our size. The conference industry seeks contractual commitments far in advance as part of complex negotiations between the AOM and various service providers, including hotels, local unions, and transportation organizations. Often these negotiations are organized by city representatives, who typically offer discounts for large-scale and multi-year commitments. Further, the business models that shape conference arrangements are typically quite different outside North America than in North America. One such consequence is that space available in non-North American locations may lead us to have to change our presentation model from paper presentations to poster sessions or travel greater distance between multiple facilities. Despite these complexities, the Board of Governors and headquarters team at the AOM were committed to considering non-North American alternatives for a future meeting.

The headquarters team and the Board of Governors commissioned a report by a consultant on potentially viable cities both inside and outside North America for the 2025 meeting, which was the next available slot for a location of the Annual Meeting that had not yet been contracted. A small number of cities, including locations both inside and outside North America, were identified as possibilities for the 2025 meeting. Those cities were invited to make full proposals to the AOM. Once these proposals were received and evaluated, the President sought member input about the tradeoffs associated with the most viable of the options. The Board of Governors and the headquarters team integrated this feedback into its final deliberations on the location of the 2025 Annual Meeting at the Board's April 2018 meeting. Copenhagen was selected.

Specialized AOM conferences are also being held outside of North America. The initiative on specialized conferences offers members opportunities to gather at thematic and experiential conferences in locations outside of North America. We invite members to take part in these new conferences and consider submitting a proposal to hold such an event. Please see the AOM website for information on this initiative.

Looking back on the events of 2017, what observations might be made about AOM the "institution" and the role of the AOM President in handling the matter of taking stands?

AOM is a robust institution, with 80+ years of history. It has established policies and procedures for business-as-usual activity; it has also established policies and procedures for changing when non-routine events demand it. AOM officers are elected into their roles by AOM members and, upon accepting those roles, AOM officers agree to abide by the AOM Constitution (i.e., AOM's system of By-Laws, regulations, rules and governance principles). These policies are not mere "reminders;" they acknowledge the integrity of the AOM as an institution and, importantly, the deep commitment that officers have made to serve the membership and to respect the trust the membership places in us to always put the institution ahead of personal beliefs, values, or preferences.

The work performed by the AOM President (and indeed all of the AOM officers) involves a great deal of leadership agency to work on complex unstructured problems characteristic of a large international organization. Many actions that were taken in support of members and other scholars affected by the immigration and travel ban and leading up to the decision by the Board of Governors to revise the policy on taking stands have gone unreported. As previously mentioned in these FAQs, these actions reflect a great deal of thoughtful reflection and analysis balanced by a desire to act as expediently as feasible.

Critics who argue that AOM should have taken immediate action to "oppose" or "condemn" the travel ban are implicitly suggesting that there was a consensus among AOM members that AOM should take these actions. This is not an accurate description of the AOM membership. It is true that a group of members encouraged AOM to take such action. But, even among AOM members who personally opposed the travel ban, there was not consensus that AOM the "institution" should revise its policy on taking stands.

Reflecting back on the events of 2017, the institution listened carefully to its members, acted with unprecedented speed to critically review its own procedures, and change them both to better meet members' needs and to preserve the integrity of the institution, and through it all maintain transparency in its communication with its members.

Contact

For questions regarding the AOM Policy on Taking Stands, please contact governance@aom.org. Please click here to access an archive of related website communications.

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