In 2006, Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban and Kathleen Martin, both past Chairs of the AAA’s Committee on Ethics, proposed the creation of Friends of the Committee on Ethics, an ad hoc consultative body that could provide expertise, informal consultation, and resources and information to the Committee on Ethics (CoE) members regarding matters of ethical practice. Simultaneous with discussions of this proposal by the Committee on Ethics, in early 2008, the Executive Board of the AAA instructed the Committee on Ethics to discuss the advisability of “setting up a permanent mode of member counseling on ethical dilemmas, and what form such counseling might take.” The original proposal for such a mode of member assistance was modified in 2012 to better reflect the way the peer resource model was being implemented in practice. When the AAA committee structure was reorganized in 2017 and the Members’ Programmatic Advisory and Advocacy Committee (MPAAC) took over the roles of the Association’s former committees, the Friends came to be known as the AAA Ethics Advisory Group. They can be reached at moc.liamg@kcabdeeFscihtEAAA.
Mission Statement of the “Friends of the Committee on Ethics”
The statement was drafted by Alec Barker (CoE Chair 2007), Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban (CoE Chair 2005), and Dena Plemmons (2008 acting CoE Chair). It was originally adopted in 2008 and modified in 2012 by Lise Dobrin (CoE Chair 2013).
The Friends of the Committee on Ethics is an ad hoc consultative body of anthropologists who have agreed to serve the membership in an advisory capacity on questions about the ethical implications of research and practice decisions/choices/issues. The benefit of such a body to the membership is the availability of a dynamic and diverse network of practitioners who can provide multiple viewpoints on both broad and specific issues that concern the membership regarding ethical considerations in anthropological research and practice. They complement the Committee on Ethics by providing continuity and institutional memory, as well as bringing to bear their own experience, professional expertise and contacts with practitioners representing a tremendous breadth of theoretical orientation, methodological approach, fieldsites, disciplinary focus and research experience. The Friends of the CoE will not be a standing committee of the AAA, but rather a committed group of anthropologists with relevant experience and willingness to share that experience as needed. In many instances the Friends can address the implications of ethical issues based on their own experience and competency; in others they can offer access to a broader group of contacts with relevant training, experience or concerns.
The Friends will be comprised of past presidents of the Committee on Ethics; as this body is being newly formed, all past presidents who are members of the AAA will be invited to become part of the group. In the future, the immediate past president of the CoE will automatically become part of the advisory body; should a past president be unable or unwilling to be part of the advisory body, he/she should make a request of the sitting Chair of the CoE to have his/her name withdrawn. Other AAA members may be invited to join the Friends by the sitting CoE chair as appropriate in order to broaden the group’s expertise.
Questions about the ethical implications of research/practice will come first to the Committee on Ethics (as this has long been the case). Neither the CoE nor the Friends group will investigate or adjudicate complaints against individual members; as has also been the case for several years, the Committee has a common response to concerns submitted that are beyond the mandate of the Committee (individual disputes between scholars, tenure/hiring disagreements, legal issues). Questions which concern discipline-wide issues of ethical practice, responsibility, diligence and accountability, and which would benefit from review by the Friends, will be sent on to the Friends listserv; individual members of the Friends group may separately choose whether to respond to a given issue or topic.
In addition to working with the other members of the body, it is expected that each Friend will also rely on his/her own professional and personal network in addressing any questions or issues. The Friends do not make determinations about practice or research; rather, the Friends will offer, to the CoE and/or to individual anthropologists referred by the CoE, collegial advice and access to the views of a broader and more diverse range of constituencies and stakeholders.
The Friends may meet by conference call as needed to discuss questions/issues which have been sent to them. In the interests of transparency, the Friends are encouraged to contribute to the Anthropology News Ethical Currents column (anonymously, unless otherwise negotiated) on issues that have come to them for response and to share with the wider membership the resources and opinions generated. Members of the Friends are also encouraged to take an active role in offering feedback and postings on the AAA Blog and/or Committee on Ethics Blog.