An Open Letter to the SAA Membership

Apr 18, 2019

Dear Members, 

As the President of the Board of the Society for American Archaeology I want to apologize for the events that happened last week in Albuquerque under my watch. 

I failed to take the kind of action we should have taken to address the distress of the attendees at our meeting. I allowed myself to be convinced that our harassment policy was more important than the feelings of our members.  

The Board of Directors and I are working to find a way forward. We will create a body to examine the short-comings in our sexual harassment policy of 2015 and the anti-harassment policy of 2018. 

That body will create a report and make recommendations to the Board of Directors so that we can do our best to ensure that this does not happen again. This body will operate at arm’s length from the Board so that there will not be any perceived undue influence. This body will be member-led.

This situation has highlighted the weakness of our communication with our membership. I pledge to strengthen our internal and external communication mechanisms by increasing the communication between Board liaisons and their respective task forces and committees. 

I have also heard from former task force and committee members of their frustration with the existing structure where task force recommendations to the Board were ignored or unacknowledged. I pledge to put a stop to this and listen better to our members’ concerns. 

The elected members of the Board really do care about you. You are our friends and colleagues, our students and mentors. You are the shared histories of the discipline and the future stories yet to be written.

I ask that you give me a chance to make the changes we need to make. It will be painful and difficult. There will be some missteps, but we must keep working at it. We are at a point where we can destroy what has been 84 years in the making because we are angry and frustrated, or we can work together to make it better. 

I DO know how you feel. I have felt this way before in the past, and I have tried to work to get to a point where I can influence change. 

I ask that you work with me to help me change what you believe needs changing. Without you the SAA cannot exist.  Thank you for listening and being part of this Society. 

Joe Watkins digital Signature
Joe E. Watkins
President of the Board of Directors
Society for American Archaeology