Council of Representatives Report

Update from our council representatives.

By Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, and K. Warner Schaie, PhD, ABPP

The Council of Representatives (COR) held two afternoon meetings during the APA convention. The majority of time was spent debating the proposed changes to APA governance known collectively as the "Good Governance Project" or "GGP." The purpose of GGP is to create a governance structure that would be more "nimble" than the present two-tiered system of the COR and the various boards and committees. In addition, GGP is intended to create a structure that will facilitate the APA's Strategic Plan. Finally, adopting the proposals of GGP is intended to increase member engagement.

There was a lively debate on several of the more controversial GGP motions. The most critical, in our opinion, includes the proposal that COR no longer have fiscal responsibility for APA operations but, instead, becomes a policy-oriented body. The responsibility for budget and internal policy matters will move to APA's Board of Directors for a 3-year trial period. The second major change will alter the board of directors so that it would include 6 members-at-large elected by, and drawn from the membership. Candidates would be selected based on a needs assessment following an open nomination process. Currently, the 6 at-large members on the board are selected by COR vote.

Those motions that passed with little debate include enhancing the use of technology in governance, to create a "triage" system that would allow governance to act quickly on new issues as they emerge, and to expand COR's scope so that it focuses on directing and informing major policy issues and ensuring policy is aligned with APA's mission and strategic plan.

Several key related GGP proposals were not addressed due to the fact that discussion was not held until almost the very end of the COR meeting. Although there was agreement that there needs to be an "implementation work group" or IWG to be appointed that would develop further a new COR model. In one model, each division and state, provincial, territorial psychological association (SPTA) would have one seat, and there would be additional seats for other perspective groups/affiliated organizations. The second model would include some elements from the first model, including one unit/one vote for divisions and SPTAs, and may add disciplinary/mission based seats (e.g., education, science, public interest practice and health) and diversity representatives (such as ethnic-minority psychological associations, early career psychologists, members of the American Association of Graduate Students). Both models would result in a smaller council.

Currently, the council has 162 members from divisions and SPTAs, plus members of the board of directors. It is anticipated that the new structure would include 134 to 140 members, not including the board of directors. The working group, which will be appointed by the APA president, is charged with developing an implementation plan for each of the motions approved by the council, in addition to further developing the two proposals to change the council's structure. The working group will begin to share its recommendations with council at its February meeting.

Any changes to the board of directors or council's structure must be approved by the membership through a bylaws amendment. The bylaw ballot is expected to be sent to members for a vote next year, once the council has given any approval for structural changes. The other changes approved by the council do not require a bylaws change.

As your divisional representatives, we are concerned that although GGP will include important revisions to governance, the possibility exists that the current system of checks and balances could suffer. With COR having fiscal responsibility, all proposals from the board (or any other group) with a price tag needed COR's approval. In the revised system, this will not occur. Second, we are concerned that by reducing divisional representation, our members will have less of a voice in governance. Third, left unresolved is the question of the fate of the boards and committees. Much was left unspecified, which is perhaps inevitable given the magnitude of the GGP's proposed changes. The GGP was well-intentioned, but with details of the IWG's selection process left unresolved, we are unsure about how these proposals will be translated into concrete action items. In the next few weeks, more details of these changes will be released through Monitor articles; please read these and let us know what you think.

Another issue that came before COR (in our current role as the fiscal overseers) was the revelation earlier in the summer that the APA budget will come in with an unanticipated $3.2 million deficit. The deficit was due to a shortfall in the APA publications revenue. COR had not learned about this deficit until several months after it had been discovered.

Most of the business items were on the so-called "Consent Agenda," meaning that they would not come up for discussion on the COR floor. These included the approval of the revised geropsychology guidelines as well as revised guidelines for the psychology major. These include new teaching tools as well as student learning and benchmarking measures.

At the graduate level, the council adopted a resolution on accreditation for programs that prepare psychologists to provide health services. The APA policy now states that to practice as an independent health service psychologist, candidates must graduate from an APA/Canadian Psychological Association accredited doctoral program and internship or programs accredited by an accrediting body that is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education for the accreditation of education and training programs that prepare students for entry into professional practice. The resolution gives unaccredited graduate programs five years to become accredited and seven years for internship programs to gain accreditation. (This policy will not impact students currently in the pipeline and allows for grandparenting of those graduates from unaccredited programs who are now licensed providers.)

At the professional development and continuing education level, the council adopted a resolution that details and codifies quality standards, including a call for evidence based continuing-education methods and program content. COR also adopted guidelines for the practice of telepsychology.

On a matter that caused considerable debate, COR adopted a resolution that reconciles APA's policies against torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and those related to psychologists' work in national security settings.

The new APA resolution does not create new policy but makes existing policy in the area more internally consistent and comprehensive. This reconciled policy rescinds of report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) and retains the Association's 2006 policy concerning torture and the 2008 member petition on psychologists' work in national security settings.

We wish to remind you that there will still be a council reapportionment vote this year, so please remember our "10 for 20." Finally, elections to boards and committees are occurring in October, and if you are running for a position, please be sure to submit your materials to the council caucuses. There will also be announcements of open slates for the 2015 elections that the division receives, so please consider running for a spot in one of these positions.

In closing, we are always happy to answer any questions you have about COR's actions or to hear from you about ways to improve how APA serves its members.