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APA Council Update
Working Behind the Scenes at APA Council of Representatives
by Maureen O’Connor & Allen M. Omoto
Division 9/SPSSI Council Representatives
We are honored to be serving as Division 9/SPSSI’s representatives to APA Council of Representatives (COR). Maureen is humbled to be following the legendary Bernice Lott in this role. Bernice’s prowess at shaking up the foundations of APA when necessary and her effectiveness in moving important social issues forward at APA cannot be over-stated. Her work on the interrogation and torture issue and her success in bringing issues of socio-economics and class to the forefront at APA are legacies of which SPSSI can be proud. For Maureen, being able to continue to work with Bernice’s original partner, Allen Omoto, makes the long hours spent locked in hotel rooms in Washington and elsewhere working through lengthy COR agendas an absolute pleasure as Allen has become well-schooled in APA governance and is an effective and thoughtful advocate for SPSSI’s concerns.
We thought it might be useful to briefly discuss one aspect of the structure and functioning of COR: the caucuses. Much of the important work that eventually comes to COR for review and/or approval begins in the hallways and caucus meetings that precede formal COR meetings. With over 160 voting representatives, COR floor debates can be unwieldy. Consequently, the caucuses are extremely influential in framing issues and marshalling votes. We have conceptualized our roles as voices for SPSSI concerns within the caucus structure as well as on Council floor when circumstances warrant. Specifically, we have focused on four key areas – social issues/public interest, science, diversity, and women’s concerns. Allen is involved in the Divisions for Social Justice (a coalition of APA divisions rather than a formal caucus) and in the Public Interest Caucus; he is also active in the Ethnic Minority Caucus. Maureen and Allen both attend meetings of the Coalition for Academic, Scientific, and Applied-research Psychology (CASAP) and the Women’s Caucus.
CASAP is an important focus for SPSSI because it is the cross-disciplinary group most concerned with advancing the cause of science at APA. As many of you know, particularly those SPSSI members who are no longer members of APA, APA is often viewed as putting practice concerns above science, in terms of resources, membership, governance, and policies. CASAP works closely with the APA Science Directorate and is trying to have more influence with the Board of Scientific Affairs (which is an elected Board within APA governance that recommends over-arching science policies for the organization). CASAP plays a watchdog role by monitoring policies or activities that might undermine science and at the same time encourages activities and initiatives that promote it. Maureen currently serves as Elections Chair for CASAP, in which capacity she serves on the Executive Committee of the caucus and also assists CASAP in identifying science-oriented psychologists to run for and get elected to positions within APA governance.
The Public Interest Caucus focuses on the advancement of psychology in the public interest and as a means of promoting human welfare. This caucus also develops and reviews APA policy and legislative initiatives with relevance for under-represented groups within the Association and society as a whole. It serves as a forum to support issues of social justice and public interest through psychological knowledge. Clearly, then, the focus of this caucus is closely and centrally aligned with SPSSI’s own concerns. Many of the recent “hot” issues within APA have centered on public interest initiatives and issues. This caucus works closely with the APA Public Interest Directorate as well as the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest and its constituent Committees in advancing the public policy agenda of APA. Allen previously served a two-year term as Secretary of this caucus and on its Executive Committee. He has recently been elected to serve a two-year term as its Chair-elect and then Chair. In this capacity, he will be responsible for helping set the agenda for this caucus, shaping the positions that it adopts on APA legislation and activities, and also in raising the profile of public interest concerns throughout APA and its work.
As members of the Executive Committees of two caucuses, we are well-positioned to advance SPSSI interests within APA. We STRONGLY urge SPSSI members who are APA members to let us know about issues that they would like to see addressed within or by APA. That is, as your representatives, we are eager to take advantage of and provide opportunities to bring SPSSI’s expertise and sensibility to the work of the APA. We would also like to bring more SPSSI members into APA governance. If you have any interest in being nominated for an APA Board, Committee, or Task Force, please let us know so that we can put your name and qualifications forward for consideration. Our work within COR and APA at large will be much more effective when there are SPSSI members at the table not just in COR caucuses, but throughout APA governance.