• Member Announcement
  • November 16, 2023

Message from the President: New Resources for AEA Members

November 16, 2023

Dear AEA Member,

Beginning in 2018, the AEA introduced several new policies and programs to better serve its members, including a code of professional conduct, a detailed policy on harassment and discrimination, the creation of a formal complaint process overseen by an ethics committee, and the establishment of an AEA Ombudsperson.  The AEA now has several years of experience with members’ use of these resources.  We have identified opportunities to expand the resources available to meet members’ needs that make the overall program stronger.

The Executive Committee remains committed to preventing and responding to harassment, discrimination, and retaliation of and by AEA members. To that end, we have updated our Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation (https://www.aeaweb.org/about-aea/aea-policy-harassment-discrimination) to specifically prohibit retaliation. The AEA has further revised and simplified the Procedures for the Ethics Committee and Board review and/or investigation of Complaints under the Policy (https://www.aeaweb.org/about-aea/aea-policy-harassment-discrimination/procedures).

We are also expanding our Ombuds program and updating it to keep pace with evolving best practices.  This new program features an independent team of professionals (https://www.mwi.org/aea-ombuds) with a range of experiences and specialties, such as sexual harassment and mediation of conflicts, where a member can select the Ombuds who best meets their needs.  In addition, the new Ombuds Team will provide regular educational sessions throughout the year on topics of interest to our members.  

In the process of launching this new service, we have updated the elements of related policies and procedures as detailed below:

  • First, we are offering an AEA Ombuds Team (https://www.mwi.org/aea-ombuds) managed by an experienced outsourced provider of Ombuds services rather than having a single ombudsperson. Providing members with a choice of whom to contact leverages the benefits of diversity by offering multiple Ombuds with diverse backgrounds and areas of specialty.

  • The Executive Committee adopted new Complaint Procedures (https://www.aeaweb.org/about-aea/aea-policy-harassment-discrimination/procedures) with a refined role for the Ombuds Team that is aligned with the International Ombuds Association’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. The Ombuds resource will continue to serve as a confidential resource for members, for example by helping answering questions about AEA policies and procedures and discussing options to address and resolve conflict. We think members will find it helpful to have such a resource available to them as they evaluate their options.  In keeping with best practices for Ombuds, the Ombuds Team will be independent, and will not engage in investigations or fact-finding.

  • Through our outsourced provider, the Executive Committee is making an additional resource available, separate from the Ombuds Team, that will enable AEA members not yet willing to file a formal complaint and who want to report circumstances or conduct that may violate the AEA’s policy against harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, called the Reporting Lockbox. In summary, if two or more AEA members report alleged incidents of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation perpetrated by the same person by making entries in this digital archive, both members who filed the report will be contacted separately to determine if each would consider communicating with the other member, or to otherwise simply keep the report active or withdraw it. A mutual decision to make contact with the other members filing a report about the same person of concern could lead to their filing a formal complaint with the AEA Ethics Committee or pursuing other options outside of the AEA. The AEA will not have access to the Reporting Lockbox, and therefore will not know the identities of reporters or persons of interest until action is taken by the reporters. More information about the Reporting Lockbox will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

The transition to the new Ombuds resource will be effective immediately. The AEA expresses its sincere appreciation to Leto Copeley for her pioneering work as the AEA Ombudsperson since the creation of the Ombuds program. Those providing confidential information that would be appropriate for the lockbox, currently in the possession of Ms. Copeley, will be contacted by her and asked to consider re-filing reports to the new Reporting Lockbox. None of this existing confidential information will be disclosed to the AEA. 

To kick off the workshop and training series, the AEA invites you to attend the following live workshop via Zoom, which will be led by the AEA Ombuds Team as a benefit to all AEA Members. There will be two options to join the first workshop on December 15th to accommodate members on each coast. We expect to offer events regularly in the future, with topics guided by member feedback.

Please contact me or another member of the Executive Committee with questions you may have about these developments. Thank you for being a member of the AEA.


Susan Athey, President
American Economic Association