Tuesday, June 19, 2012

President's Blog: June 2012

I am writing to announce the results of the recent election of members and officers to the Board of Directors (BoD). All terms will be for three years. I am pleased to report the following results:

·        Dana Castellano will be our new secretary;
·        Marilyn Charles will be our new representative to APA Council;
·        Jill Bellinson, Mary Beth Cresci, and Dennis Debiak will serve as at-large members.

Thanks to those who competed in this election. We had a very full slate of nominees for this year and their many contributions to the Division will certainly continue. In fact, all candidates this year also serve as committee members or chairs and I trust they will continue their important.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation for those members who will be leaving the BoD. Usha Tummala-Narra will complete her term as At-Large member at the end of this year; and Tamara McClintock Greenberg has resigned as representative to APA Council and a new representative will be appointed by the BoD later in the month.

That said, I would like to address two issues that arise as I reflect on these results. The first is that very few of our members participated in the election. It looks like only 346 ballots were sent in. While I do not know the exact number of eligible voters, this figure must be less than 15% of our eligible members. I am puzzled why more of our members did not vote, especially in these very competitive elections. I would appreciate any thoughts about this, especially from those who did not vote this year.

My second issue is a broader one and concerns leadership development in the Division. In the past, the primary vehicle for members becoming active in the Division has been through participation at our Spring Meeting and involvement in our Sections. The Sections, in particular, were formed more or less as political entities to bring certain concerns and/or constituents into the Division. To give one example, Section III: Women, Gender and Psychoanalysis, was vital in bringing women into Division leadership and eventually Division governance. In recent years a number of Sections have lost members to the point that two became inactive and several others have lost certain rights and privileges within the Division due to declining numbers. While the sections served and continue to serve as an important function within our organization, we increasingly found that we also needed to appeal to other subgroups within psychoanalysis and the Division.

(Before addressing this issue, I want to make a distinction clear. Sections are independent subgroups of the Division that are able raise funds from their members and who may allocate these funds to advance their mission without any specific oversight or control by the Division. Committees are “creatures” of the Division leadership, appointed by the president for time limited terms for the purpose of carrying out the mission defined by Division leadership Their funds come solely from the Division budget.)

For a number of years a solution evolved to involve subgroups of members through our committee structure. Credit belongs to many in the Division, but probably Jonathan Slavin’s revamping of the Graduate Student Committee provided a model for others to follow. The general idea has been to see these “diversity” committees (Graduate Student, Early Career, Candidate, Multicultural and Gender Identities and Sexualities) as an entrĂ©e into Division governance and then to “seed” members of these committees into other, more broad-based committees. As a result, every committee is charged with having either a member or liaison who represents the diverse interests of the Division and members who started our on one of the “diversity” committees are expected to move into other leadership positions. This has worked quite well in having a very lively and diverse committee structure. To take only one example, many of our committee chairs are early career members. A number of our committees meet more frequently than our BoD and have been highly involved in supporting attendance at the Spring Meetings.

We have assumed all along that having more diversity within the committee structure would lead perforce to more diversity among our elected board members. With few exceptions, this has not happened. We have had many nominees in the past few years who have failed to be elected. There are many reasons for this, chief among them the fact that our members are more likely to vote for “known quantities,” and so early career candidates, in particular, tend to be overlooked. In my opinion, this is more or less inevitable and is certainly not likely to change.

The fact is that our campaigns for office rarely rise to the level of a genuine competition between competing visions for the Division and instead depend upon the more intangible and personal. And one reason for the low turnout is that members tend to vote only for those candidates whom they know personally. One example is that only 270 ballots were cast for Secretary and the two candidates were both early career members. As noted above, 346 ballots were cast for the At-Large positions and the candidates who won were among the better-known members of the Division. Again, this is democracy in action and may reflect as much as anything the ambivalence all our candidates have in politicking. Perhaps we need a Karl Rove to help lesser-known candidates. Then again . .

The BoD has begun to address this issue and to explore to what extent the Nominations and Elections Committee has the power to shape ballots in such a way as to increase the likelihood of more diversity on the BoD. Alternatively, we have considered whether and how to go to our membership with suggested changes to our governance structure. One suggestion would be to add members to the BoD by providing for an early career seat and/or a seat for a member of a racial/cultural/sexual minority. Another possibility would be to restrict one of our at-large seats each year to a “diversity” candidate broadly defined. The way this has worked in other Divisions is that this category is open to a defined category of membership, although members in that category might choose to run for another office as well. Either option would require a bylaws change.

We have been pleased in recent years with an active graduate student presence at out meetings and in our committees. I would suggest that it would be important to have a graduate student presence on our BoD and even more important to allow our graduate students to participate in our elections. This would require a change in our bylaws as well.

Another constituency in the Division consists of our Affiliate Members, those members, mainly psychologists, who join the Division but do not join APA. Our membership last year failed to approve a bylaws change that would allow those members voting rights in the Division. Without revisiting this issue, the fact remains that many colleagues who resigned from APA experience affiliate status in the Division as “second class.” One change that might be considered would be to allow Affiliates to have a representative on the BoD. This would also require a bylaws change.

Another set of ideas and concerns that arose from our recent Board and Committee Retreat has been the increasing absence of psychoanalytic ideas from undergraduate education, so that young psychologists come to graduate school with no background in psychoanalytic ideas, or worse a blinkered and inaccurate view of psychoanalysis as “failed science.” While there are a number of ways to reintroduce psychoanalysis into colleges and universities, and local chapters such as the Arizona Society are doing a great job attracting undergraduate students to informal “clubs” where psychoanalytic ideas are explored, one thing the Division might do is open up our membership to undergraduates.

One of the concerns raised last year during the bylaws debate was the fact that members felt surprised by the actions of the BoD, felt the membership had not been adequately informed and had even been deliberately left out of any meaningful input. I believe we have made an effort through these presidential columns, through InSight, and through the president’s lunch during our Spring Meeting to invite all our members to participate in Division governance, to be informed as fully as possible and to have a forum to discuss their concerns. We are considering developing a new interactive listserv for our members that will also provide a vehicle for member participation. I hope that members will review the concerns and suggestions I have reviewed above and offer their thoughts and opinions, either by commenting on my blog, or writing directly to me at drmacg@comcast.net

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