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Patrick R. Grzanka


From Our President:
Doing Psychology in Times of Change and Crisis

Patrick R. Grzanka, SPSSI President, Divisional Dean of Social Sciences and Professor of Psychology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Since our last edition of SPSSI’s Forward, many professional organizations within and beyond psychology have issued statements about the violence in Palestine and Israel that have sparked intense and often painful conversations. Many of the statements issued were received as empty political gestures; many performed a kind of ‘both-sidesism’ that were unsatisfying to all; and even well-crafted and researched statements placed organizations and their leaders in defensive postures. Institutional statements have also resulted in coordinated political attacks on prominent leaders in education, perhaps most notably Dr. Claudine Gay, the first Black president of Harvard University.

Rather than hastily make such a statement, alienate our members, and join the chorus of institutional pronouncements, which typically do not have the effects they name (see Sara Ahmed’s [2006] classic analysis of institutional diversity statements), I have convened a task force to develop a positional statement on the violence in Gaza that is focused on providing you, our members, with resources to inform how you respond to the war in your professional lives as educators, researchers, policy makers, consultants, therapists, and advocates. I have convened a diverse group of thoughtful scholars I trust to take care in identifying resources that will help all of us make sense of the multifarious consequences of the conflict, which extend far outside the Middle East and implicate generations worth of trauma, displacement, and harm. I look forward to sharing this with you in the coming weeks.

I am so pleased that Sam Abbott, our new Policy and Communications Director, is helping to lead this initiative, as well as all of our policy and strategic communications efforts here at SPSSI. If you have not already interacted with Sam, I hope you will soon! Sam brings with him over a decade of experience working across policy and advocacy domains. We are very lucky to have him in our SPSSI community.

Another major development is the announcement of our 2024 SPSSI conference co-chairs, Drs. Gigi Awad and Sarah Hermann, as well as our conference theme: “Frontiers of Justice: Using Psychological Science to Reinvigorate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” I am so grateful to Gigi and Sarah for the incredible work thus far planning what is sure to be an exciting and intellectually meaningful convening in Philadelphia. Please mark your calendars for June 21-23, and be sure to submit your work for consideration by the February 5th deadline. We’ll be announcing our keynote speakers—true luminaries in the field—very soon.

I hope you all have had a restful winter holiday break and are taking care of yourselves in this new year. Thank you for your continued support of SPSSI and for all you do to make psychology a better place.


Ahmed, S. (2006). The nonperformativity of antiracism. Meridians, 7(1), 104-126.

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