Summary of the APA Council of Representatives Meeting by Eugene D'Angelo, APA Council Rep. for Mass.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
I wanted to share a brief summary of the motions voted on by the APA Council of Representatives at their meeting in Toronto. The meeting occurred over 1 1/2 days. There were three major motions that were approved. By way of a full report to the MPA membership, I voted in favor of all three motions:
The first motion approved will be best summarized from an excerpt from the formal press release by the American Psychological Association:
“The American Psychological Association’s Council of Representatives voted overwhelmingly today to prohibit psychologists from participating in national security interrogations.
The measure passed by a vote of 157-1* (PDF, 87KB), with six abstentions and one recusal. The resolution (PDF, 302KB) states that psychologists “shall not conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any national security interrogations for any military or intelligence entities, including private contractors working on their behalf, nor advise on conditions of confinement insofar as these might facilitate such an interrogation.”
The moves came in response to a report commissioned by APA's Board of Directors (PDF, 2.62MB) that found there was undisclosed coordination between some APA officials and Department of Defense psychologists that may have resulted in less restrictive ethical guidance for military psychologists in national security settings.
“These actions by APA’s council are a concrete step toward rectifying our past organizational shortcomings,” said Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, APA past president and a member of a special committee that received the independent review. “We are now moving forward in a spirit of reconciliation and reform.”
Susan H. McDaniel, PhD, APA’s president-elect and another special committee member, pledged to help implement these new policies as she steps into her new leadership role in 2016.
“We have much work ahead as we change the culture of APA to be more transparent and much more focused on human rights,” McDaniel said. “In addition, we will institute clearer conflict-of-interest policies going forward, all of which are aimed at ensuring that APA regains the trust of its members and the public.”
The policy adopted today clarifies that psychologists can only provide mental health services to military personnel or work for an independent third party to protect human rights at national security detention facilities deemed by the United Nations to be in violation of human rights, such as the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions.”
Second, Council approved the establishment of a blue ribbon panel to evaluate and recommend changes to APA Ethics processes (including, but not limited to, the establishment of a Chief Ethics Officer, relation between ethics education and the ethics adjudication function, review of the efficacy and utility of the investigative and adjudication processes, and attention to the potential conflicts between human rights and other considerations), based on an assessment of current practices and procedures as well as benchmarking against ethics processes of other professional organizations. The panel will be appointed collaboratively by the Board and Council Leadership Team and will include psychologist members and non-members of APA and relevant experts from other fields. A matrix of expertise needed will be composed of and will include diversity of perspective, specialty, practice setting, and human diversity. As part of this process the panel will be charged with ensuring that the process explicitly invites, explores, and does active research to generate and ensure feedback and voice from general members through direct forums. The panel will report back to Council in August 2016.
Third, Council will establish a work group to review and make recommendations regarding conflict-of-interest policies and procedures for governance service in APA, either elected or appointed. One of the major points being reiterated is the desire by the APA to increase the specificity and guidance of its conflict of interest policies. These efforts will begin quite soon so that they are available for review in the near future.
—-There are several other Board recommendations and Council proposals that are or have been drafted and currently under review but not yet voted on by Council. I will share them with you as soon as they are formalized. They have to do with a number of additional points that MPA members have communicated as concerns, namely, (1) the need for action related to review and evaluate APA organizational procedures to address the appropriate oversight of elected and appointed officials; (2) procedures to assure that all relevant future policies are anchored in APA core values, including promoting human rights, human health and welfare and ethics; (3) a review of the Ethics Office and establishing a mechanism for immediate oversight in the processing of filed ethics complaints, including review of current adjudication and investigative procedures, and transparency and accuracy in the disclosure of current ethics office practices; and (4) implementation of greater checks and balances within the organization in the spirit of enhancing oversight throughout the Association. Again, there are several other issues/points that are under consideration and I will get these items for the MPA membership, once formalized and the new points to you as soon as they are reviewed by Council.
—-There have also been some questions asked of me regarding the cost of the Hoffman Report process. APA has released the following information: “The costs billed from Sidley Austin, Wilmer Hale, and Powell Tate for professional fees and expenses in connection with the Independent Review are $4.3 million through July 15, 2015. (We have not yet received a July bill from Sidley Austin).
An update will be provided as of September 30, 2015 and a final report will be provided once all of the costs have been billed. These costs will be paid from the net assets of the Association which were $61.5 million at December 31, 2015 per the audited financial statements.” I will provide you with a summary of the final costs once they are made available.
As was mentioned earlier in this report, these actions represent the initial efforts for change at APA. In future emails, I will send you any additional action items that are being reviewed by both the APA Board of Directors and Council. I'll try to keep you informed of these issues and deliberations as they emerge. In that context you are always welcome to contact me with any questions or comments. My e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Massachusetts Psychological Association