In This Issue

APA Council Report

News from the front.

By J. Bruce Overmier, PhD

These are my personal reflections on the experience. I may be a little unusual, but every year I look forward to APA Convention. It is a time of renewing friendships with colleagues from across the country, even around the world. And yes, there are many good lectures to attend; more than I can get to.  Although I am not a fan of posters, there were some really good ones, too. 

But attending Council meeting is another thing altogether, especially in the last few years. It can be over-filled with accusations, such as, “You support unethical behavior,” or “You don’t like me.” It can be conflicted by self-reflections about “improving” governance — a worthy goal — but offering solutions that revolve around additional layers of governance (e.g., Council Leadership Team) and removing Council (and thus member) oversight on finances and how APA works internally. Lawyer opinions, thoughtful thought they may be, seem to block Council at every turn.  It is an exercise in frustration. The agenda runs to over 1,000 pages and is way too packed for the time allotted, so serious discussion is always truncated. Yet, good things are going on and do happen.

The Board of Scientific Affairs and the Science Directorate reported on their vigorous efforts the get some redress on the newly adopted new rules being imposed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on research with humans that make nearly every experiment we do a clinical trial with all sorts of additional approval and reporting burdens and a likely clogging of Institutional Review Boards. The problem arises from the new NIH definition of “clinical trial.” If you are not yet alerted to this, get informed before you try to start a new research study. It could very well now be classified as a clinical trial. And APA belongs to consortia (e.g., Federations of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, FABBS) that are advocating directly with agencies for change.

Council also adopted as APA Policy a resolution important to many of us: Resolution Affirming Support for Research and Teaching with Nonhuman Animals. This supports the research and teaching of many of our Div. 3 members and of course, those in Divs. 2, 6, 25 and 28 as well.

Other resolutions adopted included: Guidelines for Education and Training in Consulting Psychology/Organizational Consulting Psychology, Guidelines for Education and Training in Industrial/Organizational Psychology,Resolution on Palliative Care and End of Life Issues, Resolution on Assisted Dying, and Multicultural Guidelines: An Ecological Approach to Context, Identity and Intersectionality.

Multicultural and diversity issues inside of APA continue to be a hot topic, made even hotter by the lack of time left for discussing Council’s Diversity Work Group Report. Although only scheduled as an information item, some wanted to discuss the report. The Work Group Report recommended policy and procedure shifts, participation and representation and diversity training and cultural shifts within Council and APA as a whole so as to make greater strides in promoting the greater inclusion of diversity issues and the promotion of psychological health for racial and ethnic minority communities within the business of the Council.  It was complemented by a Working Group Report on Stress and Health Disparities.

While the latter is very informative to psychology in general, the former has more of an internal focus on matters of perceived incivility and under representations in Council. One action taken by Council illustrates this internal focus: Council voted to request that: (1) each APA board or committee chair or assigned designee serve as the civility ambassador for the respective board or committee Listserv, (2) the Council Leadership Team assigns a member of the CLT to serve as the civility ambassador for the Council Listserv and (3) the APA president assigns a member of the Board to serve as the civility ambassador for the Board Listserv. Civility ambassadors are responsible for sending an annual statement to their assigned Listserv regarding civility expectations and for providing corrective feedback to individual members when necessary.  In some ways, niceness and civility are confused.

The so-called Hoffman Report or Internal Review about the APA actions and positions a decade ago on torture — something that APA never endorsed and routinely opposed — continues to plague both Council and the legal team. And presumable errors in the report are yet to be acknowledged.  It is always before Council in Executive Session nowadays, and I cannot discuss it. But Council did for hours.

Council voted to send to the membership for consideration two more changes in the bylaws that affect divisions and senior/retired members, respectively:

  1. Council voted to approve forwarding to the membership amendments to Article XIX: Dues and Subscriptions of the bylaws, which remove the two dollar discount for membership in one division. If the amendment is approved by the membership, the funds will be redirected for use by the Office of Membership Recruitment and Engagement to allow them to be more creative on incentivizing members to join divisions and to experiment and try different methods to see what provides the best results for members joining divisions. The ballot was sent to the membership for a vote on Nov. 1, 2017.
  2. The Council also voted to approve forwarding to the membership amendments to Article XIX: Dues-Exempt Category of the bylaws to remove the details associated with the criteria for the dues-exempt category from the APA Bylaws and instead to give Council the authority to determine eligibility requirements for the dues-exempt category. The ballot was sent to the Membership for a vote on Nov. 1, 2017.  

I take no real position on either of these changes, although I opposed both in voting. What is really needed in place of this annual succession of small amendments to our bylaws — the implications of which are never really understood by anybody — is a thorough going revision by Policy and Planning Board of the bylaws to modernize and to get little things moved from bylaws to administrative oversight while keeping major concerns in the bylaws.

Financially, APA has run a deficit in the last few years because of “off books” projects, but that budgeting process has been corrected and the deficit is being eliminated (too slowly in my view). Nonetheless, APA is a 125 million dollar operation with healthy reserves and investments and spends millions on advancing psychological science.

In summary, Council was much as has been in recent years. President Puente was a most positive chair and master of ceremonies under challenging circumstances. Hats off to him.

2016 APA Annual report: