Council Corner

Christopher J. Ferguson

Chris Ferguson

At the August 2017 meeting of the APA, we had our biannual meeting of the Council of Representatives. What follows is an update on some of the important issues going on in Council.  As usual, these highlights popped up for me while I was at the meeting and from ongoing Council listserv conversations.  If there’s an issue I missed or failed to consider adequately, please email me with any questions.

First, as an important issue we should keep our eyes on, there was a move to give the APA’s Division Relations folks more control over what Divisions could say/release as (broadly defined) public or policy statements. This was advertised as a “consistency” issue, and there’s a fair point to be had there about divisions and the APA contradicting each other among policy makers.  Apparently, this has happened before; however, this had some pushback from the Council.  There were concerns that the APA created these problems by not consulting divisions on important issues relevant to those divisions.  Concern was also expressed that the APA often takes erroneous policy positions and then divisions need follow-up to correct the record and hold the APA accountable (the APA’s flawed resolution on video game violence and failure to adequately consult with Division 46 is one example).  Some reps were concerned that the APA is trying to censor/silence divisions.  Due to these concerns, the motion has been tabled at least until the next meeting, so they can work on the language.

There was another interesting debate on transparency and whether the votes of council members should be publicly recorded and available. I thought there were some fair points on both sides of this issue.  Transparency is important.  Other Council members brought up fair points about visible voting making Council members feel pressured to vote in “politically correct” ways. This may be popular, but not in the APA’s interest (here, the Hoffman Independent Report was used as an example).  Others noted that this could result in group think.  For the moment at least, it looks as if such votes won’t be public.

Numerous issues focused around master’s programs in psychology and how involved the APA should get regarding having standardized learning outcomes for them (for example, whether they should all have a research class), or whether the APA should get involved in accrediting such programs. There seemed to be less controversy over the standardized learning outcomes issue with most Council members supporting it.  There was greater controversy over the issue of accrediting (I’m using that term loosely for the moment because I don’t think the APA has any clarity of what this would mean) master’s programs.  There seems to be some significant competition with the counseling folks over Masters level programs, but Council does not yet have a clear direction on what to do.  There was a feeling this issue should have been resolved 20 years ago, but the APA missed the opportunity, and a clear direction on what to do was still lacking.  Undoubtedly, we’ll hear more about this.

The lawsuit over the Independent Report trundles on … not a lot to report other than it just got refiled in Washington, DC.

There was a major issue over diversity which erupted into a brouhaha at Council giving the impression that the issue was given a short shrift because some folks weren’t allowed to speak because of time constraints. A discussion of diversity was reserved for the end of the Council meeting, but as often happens, we were sorely out of time.  Predictably, this went over less than well.  The ensuing discussions and concerns have carried over to the listserv; I expect it will be a prime issue at the next meeting.

Related, there is still considerable dissatisfaction that the US Virgin Islands lost their Council rep (they still have an observer who does not vote). Hurricane Irma possibly increased sympathy toward the VI.

The APA has affirmed its position supporting ethical research with non-human animals despite the best efforts of PETA. There were some concerns that PETA and associated allies within the APA were going to torpedo animal research, but that position didn’t appear to have very much sympathy on Council.

I should note that division members Grant Rich and Ilene Serlin were confirmed fellows of Division 46 by Council! Congratulations to Grant and Ilene!

These were the major issues we discussed during the Council meeting. It was a good meeting until it degenerated at the end regarding the Board of Directors’ (I think unintentional) failure to recognize diversity as an issue Council members wanted to discuss in detail.  However, the Council Choir recovered the mood nicely and gave the closing a feeling of people from different backgrounds coming together in unity.

Since the meeting the listserv has been talking about the “Goldwater Rule,” namely, whether it’s ok to give our “professional opinion” that a politician (I’m sure we can all predict which politician this may focus on) has a mental health problem. The APA’s position maintains the Goldwater Rule (short version: you shouldn’t be saying this), but some Council members have raised a “duty to warn” (short version: we should be at the forefront of fighting authoritarianism, especially if the authority is unfit) counterargument.  There’s actually a book (The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump) coming out on the president coauthored by 27 different mental health professionals diagnosing the president (unfavorably I presume). That should be interesting!