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Representative to APA Council
Lewis P. Lipsitt (8/04-07)
Emanuel E. Donchin (8/03-06)
University of South Florida
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Georgia Institute of Technology
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Cal. State East Bay
The Winter Meeting of the APA Council of Representatives convened the evening of February 16, 2006 and adjourned at noon, February 20. Your representatives, Lew Lipsitt and Manny Donchin, were present throughout the meeting faithfully suffering through long stretches of the inevitable ennui and actively engaged as some truly important issues were discussed and resolved. During the past few years the Ennui/Substance ratio has undergone welcome reduction as the long stretches of Death by Power Point, in which APA officials display to the COR the talents of the their graphic artists while passing on information that is much more effectively presented in a written report. The Council’s time is much better spent in active, floor discussion, of issues.
One such issue, to which considerable time on and off the floor was devoted was the petition for the establishment of a new Division at APA, a Division for Human/Animal Studies. A previous version of the proposal was on the COR’s agenda in February 2005 at which time it failed to achieve the necessary 2/3 vote required for the establishment of new Divisions. There was yet another episode of this serial during the August meeting about which we reported in detail previously. Having failed again in August the proponents of the Human/Animal Division added language to their petition that was intended to assure their opponents that the Division will not foster an anti-vivisectionist agenda and will not allow itself to be influenced by any animal rights movement seeking to constrain scientists from pursuing laboratory research. Asserting that this modified petition has the approval of all who signed off on the initial petition the matter was again placed on the COR’s agenda.
The discussion was long and impassioned. Division 3 joined in with the other members of CASAP to express strong opposition to the creation of the new Division. Colleagues who actually conduct research with non-human species, described the destruction imposed on their work, and life, by terrorists acting in the name of animal “rights.” Others noted that the declared interests of the proposed division can be accommodated by other Divisions. Eloquent arguments were made by the other side, yet in the end the opponents of the petition to create a new division prevailed, the vote being 108 to 45 against the new division. A noteworthy, and no doubt influential, contribution to the discussion was made by Past President Ron Levant, who informed the Council that he would cast his vote against the new Division in deference to, and out of consideration for, the strong feelings of colleagues in the Science community. He was impressed by the depth of the feelings expressed and by the concerns of the scientists, and would vote accordingly.
It is impossible to tell if there will be yet another try to establish this Division. The size of the no vote was impressive. Some have suggested that the interests of the proponents would be better served by creating a “section” within an existing Division.
One issue that arose during the discussion, to which CASAP intends to address attention in future Council deliberations, is a serious infelicity in APA procedures for creating a new Division. A petition must have a certain number of validated signatures. One would assume that if the text of the petition changes, the signatures must be obtained afresh. After all, the signatories approved a certain petition, not its alternate versions. It turns out, however, that the Bylaws are not entirely clear on the point. This is why the Board ruled that even though the human-animal division petition had been materially revised there was no need to get 800 signatures explicitly endorsing the new text. A change in the Bylaws is very likely to be proposed by CASAP.
While on the topic of new Divisions, the COR did approve by a very large majority the creation of a new Division on Trauma Psychology. An effective case was made at the pre-Council caucuses to the effect that, while Council needs to be concerned about the proliferation of APA Divisions, trauma psychology now looms large as a multifaceted scientific and clinical field which no existing divisions fully encompass.
A substantial segment of the Council was devoted to a discussion of a report of the Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS), which asserted in a very detailed policy statement a strong and unequivocal opposition of APA to the participation of Psychologists in interrogation practices involving any sort of torture. The resolutions adopted unanimously after a long discussion asserted clearly that the Ethical Code of APA applies to all Psychologists, no matter their assignment, employing organization or specific role and that as a consequence no Psychologist can engage in, or assist, in torture. While the discussion was long and impassioned, it mostly consisted of statements of strong support for the resolutions.
A considerable amount of time was properly devoted to a review of the APA’s financial position. An impressive array of good news appeared in the reports of the Treasurer, the Chief Financial Officer, and the CEO. Members of the APA can rejoice in being part owners of a massively affluent organization that seems to manage its resources ably and effectively. Indeed, there was a substantial budget surplus this year, sufficient to provide each member of the APA hard working and effective staff a $1000 bonus (which, given the number of staff members added up to a million dollars). The affluence is, to a very considerable extent, deriving from the electronic publishing enterprise. We are again faced with the paradox that the Science publishing community is responsible for a large share of the APA’s revenue while its members fail to join the APA. Thus, science, while generously supported, has a much weaker voice than it deserves at the APA.
Of interest to many of us was the very positive report that CEO Norm Anderson gave about the prospects for the 2006 convention in New Orleans. Those of us whose impression is shaped by the images of devastation in New Orleans were reassured that the segments of the city that make a difference to conventioneers are already in good enough shape and will accommodate the convention. So, the next installment from this reporting duo will be fortified with oysters and jazz…