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News from the Register of Professional Archaeologists

Charles M. Niquette

Having assumed my position as the Register's secretary/treasurer for 1999, I am just now beginning to learn the ramifications of my recent election. One of these is to provide regular updates for each of our three sponsoring associations: the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), and the Society for American Archaeology (SAA). At the moment, finding fresh material for these updates appears to be a daunting task. As a result, I will attempt to fulfill my responsibilities by relying heavily upon email correspondence between members of the Board of Directors, registered archaeologists, and the Register's business office. Although the final product may be a bit bumpy in transition, registered archaeologists may nonetheless be able to glean considerable information about the Register's activities.

Internet Connections -- For those of you who have not done so already, please visit the Register's web site at You will be impressed by the quality of this page and the ease through which it can be navigated. If you have specific questions regarding recently submitted applications, fees, or general information about the Register, you can contact the business office directly at Finally, the Register now has a listserv thanks to the efforts of Sue Linder-Linsley at Southern Methodist University. The list address is Initial threads on the list have centered primarily upon how one assesses years of professional experience and inquiries about the disappearance of the "O" in RPA.

Certificates -- A number of individuals have asked recently about the status of certificates. Mailing has been delayed slightly due to some last-minute design modifications. Nevertheless, our target date was the first week in April to get these to the printer, which implies a mid- to late-April distribution.

Summary Statistics -- As of March 15, we can offer the following statistics regarding registered archaeologists. There are a total of 854 of which 606 have paid for 1999, with the rest apparently waiting for the April deadline to pay. Of those who have paid their 1999 dues, 536 individuals paid at the $45 rate and 70 paid at the $125 rate. Since January, we have sent 107 applications to committee members for approval and have received 112 requests for applications to be mailed to prospective RPAs.

The Grievance Procedure -- Someone recently contacted the Register and outlined a number of concerns/questions about the Register's process for handling grievances lodged by and against registered archaeologists. Vergil Noble rose to the occasion and addressed the issues raised in a succinct manner. The exchange is published below to explain more fully this process. By way of introduction, Noble was twice elected to the SOPA board of directors and served a two-year term as its grievance coordinator (1995­1997). He is currently SHA's representative on the Register's board of directors. I quote:

Common Questions about the Register's Grievance Procedure

I will attempt to address each of your concerns below by answering each of your original questions in order. Be advised at the outset, however, that the Register is an independent entity sponsored, but not administratively controlled, by the SAA, SHA, and AIA. It was formally incorporated a year ago, having been established out of the former Society of Professional Archaeologists (SOPA). SOPA was founded in 1976 and carried out it grievances successfully for 22 years. The Register's Bylaws, Code of Conduct, Standards of Research Performance, and disciplinary procedures were passed down from SOPA virtually unchanged.

Be advised also that the now-dated proposal reprinted on SAA's website was a broad-brush abstraction that did not address any matters in depth. There are many governing documents used by the Register that are not in common circulation and that do attend to some of your concerns (e.g., the Disciplinary Procedures Manual).

Point 1. Clearly define who will make up the "grievance investigating committee." For instance, in the outline, the leader of this committee is called a "grievance coordinator," but in the Proposal the apparently same position is called a "grievance officer."

Answer: The official title is grievance coordinator (GC). The disparity in terms you note apparently owes to multiple authorships and indifferent editing. Investigating committees are convened when a formal complaint that appears to have substance is filed with the GC. The GC chairs the committee and appoints the members (usually 2) from the pool of current Registered Professional Archaeologists (RPAs). The actual persons selected will be determined by such factors as regional or topical expertise, as well as avoiding real and perceived conflicts of interests

Point 2. The grievance investigating committee meeting schedule should be described, even if only relatively, for example "twice a year" or "once a year, or more often if necessary."

Answer: There is no standing investigating committee that meets on any kind of schedule; each is appointed to deal with a particular set of allegations against a fellow RPA. In some cases, they might not even have occasion to meet formally while carrying out different aspects of an investigation independently under the GC's guidance (e.g., one conducting interviews over the phone, another making a site visit. The GC prepares a comprehensive report of the investigation with their input, though dissenting opinions will be included if offered.

Point 3. If the "grievance investigating committee" are [sic] evaluating complaints about their professional contemporaries, what is the guarantee that committee members will not favor or form an ill bias (operate from a lack of objectivity) for or against an accused peer? The committee should be rounded out. This is a very serious point, in my opinion. I would recommend that three Native Americans (selected by Native Americans) and a seventh member, selected unanimously by the six "grievance investigating committee" members, be selected to form the total committee. I recommend this because we archaeologists have many opportunities to "put our money where our mouths are" and invite Natives to a level position with archaeologists within our proceedings. The other argument for this formation of the committee is that much of the archaeological work in this nation relates to Natives or Native American issues. How objective would a committee comprised totally of archaeologists be in a Kennewick Man issue, for instance?

Answer: Your suggestion is partly addressed in my answer above, but I will elaborate. First, in order for the grievance procedure to work effectively, it must be founded in peer review. This owes to the fact that every profession must set its own ethical standards, rather than allow normative behavior to be defined by others, and there is a sound legal basis for self-policing. Although anyone can file a complaint, including Native Americans, the archaeologist must be a paid-up RPA to be investigated (many are not registered, of course), and the people conducting the initial investigation (and the formal hearing, if it comes to that) must be registered professional archaeologists. This is not to say, however, that the perspectives of others are not relevant, and investigations frequently do seek input from outside. If appropriate, Native Americans would certainly be consulted and, perhaps, asked to give testimony in a formal hearing.

Point 4. The grievance procedure is not clear on several points:

a. Based on what information does the "GC make a preliminary inquiry in order to determine if there is a reasonable cause to believe that the accused archaeologist has violated a provision of the SOPA Code of Ethics or Standards of Research Performance"? (quote from the Outline). Do the accused and the accuser provide detailed information? Does just the accuser provide detailed information? What is provided to the GC?

Answer: The accuser must submit a formal complaint in writing to the GC with supporting documentation. The first task is to determine if the Register has jurisdiction (i.e., was the accused an RPA when the violation is alleged to have occurred?). Second, the GC must examine the allegation to see if it is relevant (i.e., does it specifically address an element of the Code?). One must then determine if the supporting documentation is sufficient to make a reasonable person suspect that a violation may have occurred (i.e., does it refer to specific events, places, times; does it name collaborating witnesses?). The GC may request additional information to help make that determination. One must also make a judgment as to whether one can expect to find evidence that might be probative in a hearing.

If circumstances demand, the GC will conduct a preliminary investigation to assist in answering some of the questions posed above. The accuser and the accused may be interviewed, as well as others, but every effort is made to keep the identity of the accuser confidential. Should there be compelling reasons to move forward, an investigating committee will be formed and evidence gathered for possible use in a formal hearing. The process is not unlike that followed by a district attorney in deciding whether to bring a case to court. Similarly, the Register ultimately brings the charges, not the accuser.

b. How are the two SOPA members selected to form the grievance investigating committee?

Answer: I believe this is addressed in my answer to Point 1. I should add that anyone remotely connected with the case is excluded from participating in such a committee, and even the GC may recusehimself or herself from the processin which case a temporary grievance coordinator is appointed by the president to handle the specific case where there is an apparent conflict of interest.

c. There is no mention of communication or mediation in this process. Should the investigation include a meeting including the accused, the accuser, and any other interested parties to facilitate communications and clarification? If no, why not? If yes, outline how this will operate.

Answer: Because of confidentiality rules, the accused may never know who the accuser isthough the accuser may waive that protection and participate in the proceedings. It is the GC's job, however, to attempt mediation early and often during the process. The Register's goal is remedy, not retribution, and negotiation may save a lot of time and money (a formal investigation that goes all the way to a Standards Board hearing may cost $25,000 in travel and legal fees). Frequently during my tenure, I sought to find out what would mollify the accusera simple apology might be enough, or an acknowledgment in a report, might be enough and would be acceptable to the accused. Sadly, in many cases people have turned to the Register as a solution to their relatively minor problems without a personal attempt at a settlement. When the problem was pointed out to the accused, generally they opened their eyes to the difficulty and were more than willing to work out a mutually agreeable solution.

Point 5. Has this grievance procedure been used yet? If so, the situations and findings should be available on the Web site.

Answer: Although there has not yet been a grievance pursued under the new Register, SOPA had a 22-year track record that proved successful in most cases. Some matters cannot be aired publicly, especially if resolved by the equivalent of a "plea bargain." Anonymous true scenarios were proposed for publication in the old SOPA newsletter, but the effort was abandoned when the Register conversion began. It is something that may yet be done, and posting such information on the website is a good suggestion. It is worth noting any individuals expelled or placed under suspension are so identified in the Register's directory.

Point 6. The "Standards of Research Performance" need to be updated to require responsibility to Native Americans. Archaeological work (at the site permit level) needs to be made known to federally recognized Native Americans and Hawaiians, to encourage a working relationship and to open communications.

Answer: I believe this concern is addressed adequately in the Code of Conduct under Section I.1.1(c): "An archaeologist shall be sensitive to, and respect the legitimate concerns of, groups whose culture histories are the subjects of archaeological investigations." Archaeologists, of course, study more people than Native Americans and Hawaiians, and it should not be necessary to repeat this in the Standards of Research Performance. Your point about permits is already covered in the standards, I think, under section I.1.5: "The archaeologist must comply with all legal requirements, including, without limitation, obtaining all necessary government permits and necessary permission from landowners and other persons" (compare federal requirements under 43CFR, Part 7, which requires notification of and consultation with Native peoples when sites of religious or cultural significance may be adversely affected by excavations). ·

Charles M. Niquette, a registered professional archaeologist, is secretary/treasurer of the Register.

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Board of Directors Report

William D. Lipe

At the 1998 SAA Annual Meeting in Seattle, the Society of Professional Archaeologists formally became dormant and its replacement, the Register of Professional Archaeologists, kicked off its initial registration drive. The year that has now passed since those events has been an extremely busy one for the Register. The officers spent a great deal of time building a necessary infrastructure. This has included taking the legal steps required to charter the new organization, arranging for appropriate insurance, developing a new set of bylaws, contracting with a management firm to run a central business office, revising and simplifying the Register application form, electing new officers, involving the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) as a third sponsor, and conducting a registration drive at the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) meeting. As a result of these efforts, the Register is in a good position to more effectively carry out its mission of promoting professionalism in archaeology in the coming year.

The Board of Directors of the Register met March 24 and 25, 1999, in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. Attending were Bill Lees (president), John Hart (registrar), Elton Prewitt (grievance coordinator), Chuck Niquette (secretary/treasurer), Bill Lipe (SAA representative), Vergil Noble (SHA representative), Ricardo Elia (AIA representative), and Don Hardesty (president-elect). Some of the highlights of the meeting are reviewed below.

Registrar John Hart reported that 290 applications for registration have been received over the past year; 206 have been determined by the review committee to meet the requirements for registration. Renewals are still coming in from existing RPAs who carried over from SOPA, and large numbers of applications were distributed at the RPA booth at SAA's 64th Annual Meeting in Chicago. These figures indicate that by mid-1999, a growth of 30 percent or more will occur in the number of RPAs since the transition from SOPA to the Register. As an incentive to register, the board agreed to extend the application fee waiver for SAA, SHA, and AIA members until January 1, 2000.

Grievance Coordinator Elton Prewitt broadly outlined the inquiries received and the status of his work. Grievances are kept strictly confidential unless it has been determined through the grievance process that public censure is warranted.

It was decided to activate a committee structure that would enable the Register to accomplish more and provide more opportunities for involvement for RPAs. The president was instructed to move ahead with appointment of the following committees:

The need for improved communication with the RPAs was a topic of considerable discussion. The news columns in the sponsor newsletters have been effective, and the recent establishment of an RPA Web site ( will help. President Bill Lees announced that Sue Linder-Linsley, the former editor of the SOPA Newsletter and the manager of the SOPA listserv, has agreed to manage a new RPA listserv. Implementation is underway. Also discussed was the question of a regular RPA newsletter that would provide a larger amount of information to RPAs in a more uniform format than is possible through the sponsor newsletters. Sponsor representatives were asked to seek feedback from their respective organizations regarding the establishment of an RPA newsletter.


Provision of more directory information about RPAs, such as their geographic and topical areas of specialization, was discussed. Lipe and Prewitt were asked to study the issue and report back to the board.

A number of other issues were explored, including establishing an associate (as opposed to sponsor) relationship with other organizations, providing continuing education for RPAs, developing additional levels of registration (e.g., field technicians, avocational and volunteer groups), and certifying public archaeology programs and graduate programs. It was decided that discussion of these issues should continue, but that more study was needed. The Board feels there is a need to consolidate recent gains and ensure that existing Register programs are maximally effective before taking on new initiatives.. ·


William D. Lipe, professor in the Department of Anthropology at Washington State University, is the SAA representative to the Register.

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