In this Issue

Report on the August 2016 APA Council of Representatives meeting

Key outcomes of the August 2016 APA council meeting.

By William Revelle, PhD, and Susana P. Urbina, PhD

Because of the large size of APA Council of Representatives (COR; 173 members), most of the preparatory work on agenda items that come up at a council meeting has already been completed by the various boards and committees of the APA and has been circulated among these bodies for comment. The work of these groups is reviewed by the council's Agenda Planning Group. Based on this review, many of the upcoming items (i.e., items that would generally approved with little discussion) are placed on a consent agenda and stay there unless a council member asks that an item be removed and placed in the open agenda. Thus, most of the discussion during council meetings involves some of the more controversial issues, as was the case at the August 2016 meeting, although compared to previous meetings, this one was relatively civil and effective. A continuing point of discussion consisted of follow up to the Independent Review (IR) performed last year by David Hoffman of Sidley Austin.

Agenda Items Related to the Independent Review
  • Revision of Standard 3.04 (Avoiding Harm) of the APA Ethics Code.
    By a vote of 74 percent, council favored adding a second clause to Standard 3.04. The new clause includes language prohibiting psychologists from participating in torture and specifically defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person.” The revised standard focuses on the behavior of the psychologist rather than on the setting in which the behavior occurs.
  • Resolution in Favor of Providing Support and Assistance to Military and National Security Psychologists Striving to Abide by the APA Ethics Code and APA Policy.
    Council considered this resolution, which would have allowed military psychologists (in addition to other psychologists working for the detainees) to  provide mental health services to detainees at sites where they are denied protections under the U.S. Constitution and/or international law (as determined by APA’s 2015 policy). After much discussion, council voted almost unanimously to defer the item until February 2017 pending revisions to be made by a select group representing various sides of the issue.
  • APA Apology to War-on-Terror Victims of Torture and Abuse.
    Council voted against adding this item to the agenda due to the fact that it was not received on time in its final form. The item will be on the February 2017 council agenda.

Council received an update on the Ethics Committee's plans for a complete revision of the Ethics Code. In addition, the Commission on Ethics Processes, which was formed to address concerns stemming from the IR and the functioning of the Ethics Office, reported on its activities. The commission is co-chaired by Paul Root Volpe and Melba Vasquez and has established four subcommittees to deal with: (1) ethics adjudication and education, (2) ethics policies and procedures, (3) APA institutional and organizational culture and (4) benchmarking against other organizations' management of ethical issues. A report on the Commission's work and recommendations will be presented at the February 2017 meetings of council.

Additional Action Items considered by Council
  • Proposal to Establish a New Membership Category for “Friends of Psychology.”
    By a vote of 91 percent, council approved forwarding a bylaw amendment to the membership. This amendment would establish a new affiliate category of membership for individuals who are not eligible for other types of membership but are interested in supporting APA's mission. Stay tuned for a vote on this item which will be forwarded to the membership as a proposed bylaw amendment with pro and con arguments in November 2016. If approved, this would allow those individuals without graduate training in psychology (e.g., the 114,000 students with a bachelor's degree who do not go on to pursue graduate training) but who want to remain involved in psychology to have a connection with the APA.
  • Resolution on Psychologists in Integrated Primary Care and Specialty Health Settings.
    Council adopted this resolution meant to enhance initiatives in those areas of practice by a vote of 99 percent in favor.
  • Revision to the Resolution on Data about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
    Council agreed, by a vote of 98 percent, to adopt this revision to the resolution that was adopted in February 2016 to make it reflect current consensus in this rapidly evolving field.
  • Diversity Training in 2017.
    Council approved the topic of “Unconscious bias and micro- aggressions” for its February 2017 diversity training session.
Items of Special Interest to Div. 5
  • Removal of Barriers to Admission to Doctoral Programs in Psychology Created by the Use of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Scores.
    Council voted to refer this item to a work group comprised of the item mover and representatives from multiple interested groups, including the Committee on Psychological Tests & Assessment, for clarification. As proposed, the motion discouraged the use of GRE cutoff scores in admission to doctoral programs. This issue was controversial because the language of the proposal seemed to conflate the use of GREs in admissions with the use of cutoffs rather than because of the specific recommendation it made. As is well known, the use of cutoffs is a bad idea from a psychometric point of view and is not recommended by Educational Testing Service or supported by research.
  • Transparency of Decisions.
    Both of your Div. 5 council representatives were among the 18 COR members who moved this item. It called for all votes taken by the APA Board of Directors, Council Leadership Team and the COR (with the exception of votes on personnel decisions and those made in executive session) to be recorded by names of voting individuals and made accessible to APA full members on the password-protected APA website. Due to legal advice related to a wording conflict with the current bylaws, the item was referred to the Work Group on Organizational Policies and Procedures. We will continue to keep track of progress on this matter.
Consent Agenda Items of Possible Interest to Div. 5
  • Renewal of Recognition of Forensic Psychology as a Specialty in Professional Psychology
  • Extension of Recognition of Family Psychology as a Specialty in Professional Psychology
  • Extension of Recognition of Treatment of Alcohol and Other Psychoactive Substance Use Disorders as a Proficiency in Professional Psychology
  • Adoption as APA policy of the Guidelines for Integrating the Role of Work and Career into Professional Psychology Practice.
  • Adoption of the Resolution on the Maltreatment of Children with Disabilities.
  • Adoption as APA policy of the Resolution on the Free and Responsible Practice of Science, Freedom of Movement Scientists, and APA International Engagement.
Highlights of Financial Affairs
  • Total revenues are expected to be $107.68 million which reflects a mixture of publication income, membership dues, and income from the two APA owned buildings.
  • Publication revenues continue to grow, primarily through licensing and database access fees ($67 million in 2015, up $3 million from 2014) although print journal revenues continue to decline ($10 million in 2015, down from $11 million in 2014). Additional product sales (e.g., books) amounted to $12 million, for a total publication revenue of $89 million in 2015.
  • Membership dues revenue has continued to decline ($10 million in 2015, down from $10.5 million in 2014 and representing a $4.5 million decline from the high point in 2009).
  • Unfortunately, a deficit will be incurred, as budgeted operating expenses are expected to be $116.9 million, in addition to an expected $7.4 million of non-operating expenses and special projects.
  • Cash to cover the deficit will come from an additional draw from our buildings, from our normal draw from our investment portfolio, and from a supplemental draw from the investment portfolio.
  • The goal of the budget is to have a balanced running smoothed operating surplus over a three year time frame. We seem to be on target for that goal.
Other Items of Note
  • On Wednesday morning, we were welcomed to Denver by Gov. Hickenlooper.
  • On Wednesday afternoon, we met in executive session to receive an update from APA's General Counsel on threatened and pending claims and litigation.
  • On Friday morning U.S. Rep. Timothy Murphy who has a PhD in psychology and has been advocating for reform of the mental health delivery system spoke to us.
  • In response to complaints that were raised at the August 2015 meeting, a special work group “to develop civility principles and procedures” was formed. Their report considered ways of developing a more civil APA. This report, as well as an online survey done at the end of the first day of Council, seemed to increase the effectiveness of the meeting on Friday morning.  
Further Comments

The COR has 173 members representing 56 divisions and 59 geographic units (D.C., U.S. states, Canadian provinces and U.S. territories). Relatively few of the divisions represent what could be called the “core science” part of the APA (i.e., Div. 1 [Society for General Psychology], Div. 3 [Society for Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Science], Div. 5 [Quantitative and Qualitative Methods], Div. 6 [Society for Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology], Div. 7 [Developmental Psychology], Div. 8 [Society of Personality and Social Psychology], Div. 12 [Society of Clinical Psychology], Div. 14 [Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology] and Div. 15 [Educational Psychology]). Because representation is based upon the apportionment of votes by the members, most of these divisions have just one member. One way to influence APA policy is through the COR caucuses. There are 12 caucuses that represent a variety of interest groups, such as women, ethnic minorities, applied psychology, health care, rural health care, practicing psychologists, etc. Caucus meetings are open to all COR members, but representatives of the “core science” divisions typically attend the Coalition for Academic, Scientific and Applied-research Psychology (CASAP) caucus to discuss how to improve the representation of science in journals and meetings. Members from the Board of Scientific Affairs, the Board of Educational Affairs and the Publications and Communications Board usually attend the CASAP caucus meetings as well, as do associated staff members.