The Office of the Inspector General of the Peace Corps will publish its yearlong review of the “Five Year Rule” within the next “two to three weeks.” Fifty years ago, Dr. Robert Textor authored the original “In, Up, and Out” memo that morphed into the Five Year Rule. Unfortunately, he is scheduled for surgery on June 29th.  He made a reasonable request to be allowed to see the final review before his surgery. The Office of the Inspector General of the Peace Corps considered the request for two days and then denied it without explanation.

Dr. Robert Textor was a young Anthropologist who was called to Peace Corps Washington in June of 1961 to consult the fledging agency. As an Anthropologist who had done field work in Thailand, Textor knew how critically important “transcultural experience” was. He wanted to make sure that Peace Corps Washington could capture the “transcultural experience” of Volunteers returning after their service. He authored the Memo “In, Up and Out” in December of 1961. It would become a founding document of the Peace Corps. It called for limited tenure for employment at Peace Corps to ensure that there would always be opportunities open for RPCVs to bring their field experience to staff positions. That policy morphed into the “Five Year Rule.” To read the original memo, Shriver’s handwritten notations on the document, and Textor’s commentary on the historic context, go to: http://www.stanford.edu/~rbtextor/History_of_In_Up_Out_Policy.pdf

Dr. Textor trained Volunteers for Thailand I and II. Dr. Textor is a Professor Emeritus of Stanford University and has remained engaged with the Peace Corps community. In 1966, he edited the classic Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps. He made the book available online in commendation of the 50th Anniversary. The book can be downloaded at: http://www.stanford.edu/~rbtextor/Cultural_Frontiers_of_the_Peace_Corps.pdf

I think it is unfortunate that the Office of Inspector General was unable to extend to Dr. Textor the courtesy of a few days early access to its report. Unless the report is released almost immediately, and that seems unlikely, Dr. Textor will have to wait until after his surgery and the necessary recuperation period to see how the Office of the Inspector General reviewed the policy he helped to create. Also, the Peace Corps community will have to wait for Dr. Textor’s critically important review of the report.

I certainly in no way would want to question the bureaucratic prerogatives of the Inspector General Office of the Peace Corps. I join others, however, in hoping that the bureaucratic officials would revisit the decision to deny early access to Dr. Textor.  Ironically, I suspect that  one of the rationales for recommending changes to the tenure policy will be the “lack of institutional memory.” In this particular case, Dr. Textor is the embodiment of “institutional memory.” One might argue that the problem is not “lack of institutional memory,” but the efforts to obscure it.