The Executive Officer's Column
Use of ASA Mailing List for Rushton Book
Footnotes readers, or at least all ASA members, experienced first-hand the distribution to members in December of an abridged version of the book, Race, Evolution and Behavior by Phillippe Rushton. The distribution was an unauthorized use of an ASA mailing list purchased by Transaction Publishers. ASA has a clear policy in place on exhibits, advertisements, mailing list rentals, and sales. ASA requires a specimen copy of any mailing piece; in this case, the Transition request was to mail a flyer.
On December 3rd, as soon as I learned of this unauthorized use, I wrote to the President of Transaction expressing grave concerns. I also immediately and widely informed the ASA membership about the facts, as we knew them, through the ASA homepage, various listservs of sociological groups, and e-mails to ASA sections and committees. After an exchange of letters with Transaction that did not offer a satisfactory response, I wrote to Transaction indicating that the Association will not accept orders for mailing list rentals, advertising, exhibits, or other ASA products pending resolution of this issue.
During December especially, as ASA members received the abridged book and read various communications about the situation, e-mail communication was abundant. Beyond the action I took in December, I wanted ASA Council to consider the events and the steps that were taken to implement Association policy. Council received a full briefing packet on the matter and took up the topic at its meeting in January.
We appreciate the range of concerns expressed since December about dissemination of the abridged Rushton book. ASA has policies in place for mailing list rentals for good reason: We strongly believe that the integrity of our mailing list rental program and its value to ASA members depends on the Association renting its list only for known and appropriate use. Violations of such use are very serious and must be treated as such by any publisher or other organization that engages in doing to. The following statement, posted on the ASA homepage, provides an overview of the situation, Council action, and where the matter now stands. It comes with thanks for your candor and for communicating with us directly. Please continue to do so on this or any matter.
- Felice J. Levine
ASA Council Takes Action on Dissemination of Rushton Book
In January, the Council of the American Sociological Association voted to protest the unauthorized use of the organization's mailing list by Transaction Publishers in connection with the distribution of an abridged version of the book, Race, Evolution, and Behavior by J. Phillippe Rushton. The Council's action is the latest in a series of protests prompted by distribution of the abridged version of the book to members of ASA and other professional societies.
In September 1999, ASA received a request from Paine-Whitman Agency, an in-house department of Transaction Publishers, to rent the list in order to mail a promotional flyer announcing a paperback version of the unabridged version of the Rushton book which Transaction published in 1995. As required under ASA policies for use of the list, a specimen copy of the flyer was submitted as part of the order, but there was no mention of an unabridged version. To the best of ASA's knowledge, the flyer for the unabridged version was never distributed to the ASA membership. Instead, in December 1999 a "special abridged version" of the Rushton book was mailed to ASA members in a white envelope with no return address and a postmark showing it was mailed from Newark, NJ.
Transaction has advised ASA that the abridged version of the Rushton book is not a Transaction Publication and was published independently by Professor Rushton. However, it has not denied that the mailing list provided by ASA was used to distribute the abridged version nor that it provided the list to Rushton for this purpose. Transaction's Chairman of the Board has acknowledged in an open letter to "Our Friends, Readers, and Subscribers," that Rushton "requested access to our Paine-Whitman advertising agency to assist him in mailing his pamphlet," and that "we agreed," although his company forbid using any university or publishing identification "to distance ourselves" from the abridged version. Based on these facts, on December 16, 1999, the Executive Officer of ASA notified Transaction that it would not make its mailing lists and other promotional tools, including advertising, available to Transaction until the matter is satisfactorily resolved. At its meeting on January 29, 2000, ASA Council unanimously adopted the following resolution:
ASA Council supports the action taken by the Executive Officer in relation to Transaction Publishers' clear violation of the ASA rules for mailing list rentals and insists that Transaction acknowledge this violation and take steps to prevent this in the future.