RECENT POSITIONS, PUBLIC COMMENTS, AND OPEN LETTERS
In October of 2018, a leaked memo suggested that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sought to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance. According to the memo, key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” In response to the memo, SPSSI partnered with GLMA (Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality) and a number of other organizations to issue an open letter. The letter condemns the suggested policy change and explains why such a definition of sex/gender would a) be inaccurate and b) threaten the rights of many people.
In October of 2018, SPSSI joined with many other scientific organizations in writing to the Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to express concern about basic human research being divided into "clinical trial" and "non-clinical trial" categories. The letter calls for NIH to create a registration and reporting system that is appropriately tailored to basic science.
In advance of the August 2018 meeting of the APA Council of Representatives, SPSSI issued a statement reaffirming its longstanding opposition to torture and longstanding commitment to human rights. SPSSI articulated that it does not believe that either the science or ethics supports re-engaging psychologists in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law or the U.S. Constitution, regardless of whether they are working for detainees or military personnel.
In July of 2018, SPSSI joined with APA Division 45 (the Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race) and other APA Divisions in strongly standing against any policy that criminalizes parents fleeing poverty, violence, and political persecution in search of a safe and better life for their children and that is more frequently resulting in immoral “zero-tolerance” practices.
In June of 2018, SPSSI issued a public statement condemning the forcible separation of thousands of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border by the U.S. Federal Government. Drawing from research findings on the harmful and long-lasting effects of forcible family separation, SPSSI articulated that it is our responsibility as a society to ensure that the practice of separating immigrant families at the border never returns. This statement was based on a longer piece written by SPSSI's Virtual Special Issue Editor Masi Noor, Ph.D.
In February of 2018, SPSSI submitted a public comment on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray of the U.S. Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) Committee. The comment focuses on the importance of preserving U.S. federal student aid programs, including grants, loans, Work-Study, income-driven repayment plans, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
In February of 2018, SPSSI joined with the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP), and other social science associations, in expressing deep concern about current threats to academic freedom in Turkey for signatories of the 2016 "Peace Petition." The statement calls on Turkish authorities to immediately stop legal proceedings against signatories and to reinstate academics to their university positions.
In September of 2017, SPSSI commended a bipartisan group of six U.S. Senators who introduced and advocated for the passage of a Joint Resolution which condemns the violence perpetuated in Charlottesville, VA by white supremacists and other hate groups; rejects white supremacy and other hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define Americans; and urges the Executive Branch to use all available resources to investigate and prosecute acts of hate-based violence and domestic terrorism, improve the collection and reporting of hate crimes, and speak out against hate groups and the messages they seek to advance.
In August of 2017, SPSSI joined other psychology stakeholder groups in calling for the Board of Educational Affairs at the American Psychological Association to develop guidelines addressing concerns about psychology programs at non-affirming faith-based colleges and universities that, due to religious convictions, explicitly or tacitly discriminate against students, faculty, and staff on the basis of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and/or religion.
SPSSI issued a statement of its own and added its name to several sign-on letters in response to this executive order. The statement by SPSSI was drafted by SPSSI UN/NGO Committee Member David Livert, Ph.D., and SPSSI UN/NGO Committee Interns Michelle Herrera, Ph.D. student, and Gina Roussos, Ph.D. student, in collaboration with SPSSI UN/NGO Committee Member Corann Okorodudu, Ph.D., SPSSI Policy Committee Chair Linda Silka, Ph.D., and SPSSI Policy Director Sarah Mancoll, M.S.
In July of 2016, SPSSI joined the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and other societies in calling for Turkey to uphold the human rights of the scientific community, including the freedom to think independently and innovatively, and the freedom to engage with scientists around the world.
In light of the Pulse nightclub shootings of June 2016, SPSSI leadership urged national lawmakers to reinvest in federally funded gun violence research, including within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This letter was authored by SPSSI member Dr. Arie Kruglanski, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland-College Park, in collaboration with SPSSI Policy Director Sarah Mancoll.
In an open letter addressed to Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), SPSSI's leaders stated that "Now is the time to choose a woman as Secretary-General."
In May of 2016, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to reallocate all funds in the budget of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville for fiscal year 2016-17, and banned the university from spending state funds to carry out a number of programs organized by the Office for Diversity and Inclusion. The Governor allowed the bill to become law. In an open letter, SPSSI leaders urged Tennessee policymakers to reconsider their decision. This letter was authored in collaboration with SPSSI member Dr. Kim A. Case, a UTK alumna.
The Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects or the “Common Rule” was published in 1991 and codified in separate regulations by 15 Federal departments and agencies. In 2015, the Federal government announced proposed revisions to the Common Rule. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was published in the Federal Register, seeking comment. In January of 2016, SPSSI leadership issued a comment on behalf of the organization, articulating that, “As scientists, we share the desire to reduce delay or burdens associated with research administration to facilitate promising research that offers considerable benefits for society at large. As professionals who conduct research on issues of human rights and social justice, we share concerns to provide better protection of human subjects.” The public comment identifies proposed revisions that improve on the 1991 regulations and also identifies areas where the proposed revisions might be improved.