• Member Announcement
  • June 27, 2019

Follow up Letter to Membership from AEA President Ben Bernanke

To the members of the American Economic Association:

In March, the American Economic Association released preliminary results from a survey of current and former members about the professional climate in economics, conducted under the auspices of the AEA's standing Committee on Equity, Diversity, and Professional Conduct (CEDPC). Further results from this survey will be forthcoming later this summer. However, the preliminary results made clear that many members of the profession have suffered harassment and discrimination during their careers, to their detriment and to the detriment of the profession as a whole.

Accompanying the release of the survey, AEA members received a letter from former president Olivier Blanchard, president-elect Janet Yellen, and me, listing steps that the Association planned to take to address the issues raised by the survey. I am writing you again today to follow up on the previous letter and to update the membership on what has been accomplished since March.

  1. The AEA Code of Professional Conduct, adopted by the Executive Committee in April 2018 after consultation with the membership, has been supplemented by a more detailed Policy on Harassment and Discrimination, also ratified by the Executive Committee. Acknowledgment and acceptance of both the Code and the harassment and discrimination policy will henceforth be required for participation in any AEA-sponsored activity or committee.

  2. As announced last month (https://www.aeaweb.org/news/member-announcements-may-20-2019), the AEA has engaged an ombudsperson, Leto Copeley of the firm Copeley, Johnson, and Groninger in Durham, North Carolina. Leto's webpage is https://www.cjglawfirm.com/leto-copeley/ and her contact information is here: https://www.aeaweb.org/about-aea/aea-ombudsperson. Leto stands ready to hear and record, on a confidential basis, complaints concerning harassment or discrimination in any professional context; to advise and provide resources to individuals experiencing harassment or discrimination; and to investigate or otherwise follow through on complaints as appropriate, especially in those cases that involve AEA-sponsored activities, officers, or employees.  To help identify patterns of abuse, AEA members are encouraged to report to the ombudsperson any incident of harassment or discrimination in a professional context, even if it took place some time ago. Leto is also helping the Association develop policies and programs to fight harassment and discrimination, and she will provide training at the January ASSA meetings.

  3. The Executive Committee has approved a formal vetting process to ensure that candidates for election to the AEA leadership, appointed officers such as journal editors, and recipients of AEA honors, have not violated the Code or the Policy on Harassment and Discrimination. All current Executive Committee members, prospective Executive Committee members, journal editors and co-editors, chairs of standing committees, and current award winners have now been through the vetting process.

  4. The Executive Committee has voted to seek membership approval of changes in the AEA bylaws that would permit the Committee to remove an elected or appointed officer—or, if warranted, to revoke the membership of an AEA member—for violations of the Code or the Policy on Harassment and Discrimination.

    The Executive Committee has also approved the creation of two new task forces, whose memberships have now been set.

  5. The first task force, chaired by Amanda Bayer of Swarthmore College, will work to develop and disseminate best practices for addressing issues of professional climate in economics. Other members of this task force include Sebnem Kalemli- Ozcan (University of Maryland), Rohini Pande (Harvard University), Cecilia Rouse (Princeton University), Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato (Duke University), Tony Smith, Jr. (Yale University), and David Wilcox (Federal Reserve Board, retired).

  6. The second task force, chaired by Sam Allgood of the University of Nebraska, will work to increase outreach to students at the high school and college levels, with the goal of attracting more women and under-represented minorities into economics. Other members of the task force include Judith Chevalier (Yale University), Jessica Goldberg (University of Maryland), KimMarie McGoldrick (University of Richmond), Martha Olney (University of California, Berkeley), Ann Owen (Hamilton College), and Angelino Viceisza (Spelman College).

    In addition, the Executive Committee is pleased to announce the creation of a new, permanently authorized committee: 

  7. A new standing committee, the Committee on the Status of LGBTQ+ Individuals in the Economics Profession, will monitor the status and support the advancement of LBGTQ people in the economics profession, through mentoring and other activities.  M.V. Lee Badgett (University of Massachusetts at Amherst) and Christopher (Kitt) Carpenter (Vanderbilt University) will chair the committee.  Other committee members include Raphael Bostic (Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta), Sandile Hlatshwayo (International Monetary Fund), Michael E. Martell (Bard College), Deirdre McCloskey (University of Illinois at Chicago), Martha Olney (University of California, Berkeley), and Elisabeth Perlman (U.S. Census Bureau).

Other efforts are ongoing. For example, the AEA is working to reduce substantially the number of job interviews at the ASSA meetings conducted in hotel bedrooms. The Association will also continue to periodically survey its membership about issues that affect their professional lives and to work to promote awareness of issues related to professional climate and culture. The AEA is committed to helping make economics accessible and welcoming to anyone with the interest and ability to make a career in the field. We ask for the support of all AEA members in this effort.

Ben Bernanke