2016 APA Council of Representatives Report

Spring 2016: Volume 72, Number 1
by Marta Miranda, Psy.D.

As the recently elected WSPA representative to the APA Council of Representatives, I attended my first Council meeting in Washington, DC in February.  Council is APA’s governing body and, as such, is responsible for policy and decision-making for APA.  Elected representatives from all APA Divisions and State Associations attend two meetings each year to debate and vote on emerging issues in psychology, as well as items related to the governance of APA.

It is important to note that Council representatives have fiduciary responsibility to APA.  As such, our business relates to the overall mission of mission of APA as a non-profit organization charged with “advancing communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.”  This should be distinguished from protecting the interests of psychologists, which is the mandate of APAPO.

Main Issues

Actions related to the Independent Review (aka the Hoffman Report) continued to be a central focus of the February meeting.  Council voted to take the following actions in response to the Independent Review Report:

Three work groups were established:

Work group to review best practices to develop APA organizational policies and procedures addressing issues such as organizational checks and balances, transparency of decision-making, and oversight of governance members in the execution of their roles and responsibilities.

Work group to develop aspirational civility principles as well as procedures for direct in-person, online messages and postings within and on behalf of APA.  (This work group arose out of concerns about the hostility and lack of civility that pervaded internal communications between and among Council members in the wake of the Independent
Review Report.)

Work group to develop guidelines, reduce bias, increase transparency, and promote diversity in the selection of individuals serving on APA task forces.

Council also voted to ensure that human rights, ethics, and social justice issues are prioritized in APA’s next Strategic Plan and in the development of Council Resolutions.

Although much of the meeting focused on members’ responses to the Hoffman Report, arguably the most powerful and impactful intervention occurred on the morning of the last day of the meeting, when a group of mostly ethnic and racial minority women spoke out about their experiences of being marginalized and discriminated against in Council meetings.

One-by-one these women (and some men) approached the microphone to relay their stories and to convey their anger at the way that Council has routinely discounted, invalidated, and silenced their voices.  Some expressed dismay that a resolution passed the previous day to make ethics, social justice, and human rights central foci of APA’s next Strategic Plan had been challenged by Council members wishing to downplay these core values.  Others pointed to some Council members’ reluctance to engage in meaningful and effective diversity training for Council.  (Some Council members believe that diversity training for Council is a “waste” of valuable time needed for decision-making.)The outcome of this intervention led to an afternoon of roundtable discussions in which Council members were asked to consider the concerns raised by the ethnic and racial minority members.  Many remarked that these discussions were much more useful and powerful than Council’s typical lecture-style presentations on diversity.  An ad hoc work group was established to advise the Council Leadership Team and the Board of Directors on how diversity issues should be addressed in Council.  As this topic is of strong interest to me, I volunteered to be on this work group.

Issues of social justice, marginalization of ethnic and racial minorities, and the concomitant power imbalance between majority and minority groups are at the forefront of our nation’s sociopolitical landscape; it seems only fitting that Council should address these concerns as they relate to its own decision-making processes.

Other Council Business

Council approved minor changes to APA Bylaw and Association Rule amendments approved in February 2015.  Revised Bylaws will be sent to membership for a vote in November 2016.  If approved, by membership, the changes will:

Allow membership to elect Members-at-large to the Board of Directors

Require one member of the Board of Directors to be an Early Career Psychologist

Include one public member on the Board of Directors

The APA Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) representative will be the APAGS Past Chair or another designee from the APAGS Executive Committee

Members-at-large and the Recording Secretary cannot succeed themselves in office, and while I office cannot run for any office on the Board of Directors other than President-Elect.

Council also approved Division 53’s request to publish a divisional journal, to be titled Evidence-Based Practice of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, and adopted as policy: Resolution on Data About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and the Resolution Opposing HIV Criminalization.

Council’s next meeting will take place in August at the APA Convention in Denver.