On holding our "membership organizations" accountable

This morning, I sent out the following letter to all the division and special interest group (SIG) leaders (of which I am one) in the behemoth American Educational Research Association:

Dear AERA division and SIG officers:

As leaders of the Queer Studies SIG, we write to heighten awareness about AERA’s troubled and troubling LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer) research initiative. We welcome your support via a letter to President Kris Gutiérrez (kris.gutierrez@colorado.edu) and Executive Director Felice Levine (flevine@aera.net) that calls for greater accountability, inclusivity, and transparency in this and future AERA-funded research initiatives.

First, we appreciate AERA’s commitment to and interest in LGBTQ scholarship. Since the 2009 AERA annual meeting, however, when most members first learned about the “GLBT Issues in Education” research initiative at a presidential session, we have asked AERA to make decisions more transparently about the initiative’s scope and selection of the working group. In response to these requests, AERA leadership did revise its call for ideas (see: http://aera.net/Default.aspx?id=9206) and organize a presidential session, “Complex Ecologies of LGBT/Queer Issues in Education,” at the 2010 annual meeting.

Nevertheless, at this session, which we were led to believe was an opportunity to shape the form and content of the LGBTQ research initiative, we learned that the planning committee had already invited participants to its three-day research workshop in September and relied largely on a criterion of “seniority” to select them. Additionally, only one full-time AERA staff member attended this presidential session, thereby preventing the open dialogue about the initiative that we anticipated. We raised our concerns about the continued lack of transparency regarding the LGBTQ research initiative at the May 4 open business meeting. During this meeting, outgoing President Carol Lee and Felice Levine verbally endorsed inviting the incoming Queer Studies SIG chair, Connie North, onto the initiative’s planning committee.

Although this individual invitation creates an opportunity for increased participation by Queer Studies SIG members in the initiative, we remain concerned about the damage already caused by a flawed, undemocratic process. Accordingly, several AERA members continue to urge the leadership to stop and start over, thereby increasing the likelihood that this initiative will generate a much needed and valued published report and research brief. Other members suggest that the September workshop
take place, but ask the planning committee to do the following:

(1) Revisit the data-gathering process and determine whether the initiative should ask different questions, select different participants, create different mechanisms for input, and follow a different timeline. Use AERA membership to do so in a public online space.

(2) Ensure that the September working group includes a diverse group of participants via a transparent selection process, informed by the aforementioned revised data-gathering mechanisms.

(3) Make transparent the planning committee selection process (begun in 2008), the research question development process (including the participants in this process), the initiative’s budget, as well as the processes by which the working group is to write the draft, solicit feedback from AERA membership, and revise the report.

Such actions will help to ensure that the LGBTQ initiative is worthwhile and endorsed by not only AERA members but also other organizations who are committed to social justice, interdisciplinary educational research, and improved educational outcomes for all youth.

If you choose to send a letter to AERA’s leadership, please cc Liz Meyer, the Queer Studies SIG program chair (emeyer@education.concordia.ca), and Connie North (connie.north@gmail.com).

In solidarity,

The Queer Studies SIG Officers