The following letter was penned by Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, ABPP, Past-President of the American Psychological Association (APA) and Susan H. McDaniel, PhD, its President-elect. It was shared with APA members on its listservs.
Dear Council Colleagues:
We promised more frequent updates. So this is the next in our series.
First to those of you pushing for accountability—thank you for your involvement and focus. We know that you want to ensure that the organization’s culture and people (elected and staff leaders) are not part of the collusive enterprise described by Hoffman. Ensuring that the future of our organization is on the best possible course is the big task we all have ahead of us. That said, we have enormous talent to draw upon and a large number of members who are committed to prioritizing our ethicality and our protection of human rights as the centerpiece of what we do. Indeed, it is why many of us went into psychology.
Some of you have asked how the investigation came about. Perhaps some history is helpful in terms of accountability. The 2014 Board of Directors with the full support and encouragement of the Executive Management Group asked for the investigation; it was clear that we needed to know the truth. However we did not select Mr. David Hoffman; that is outside our area of expertise. Ms. Natahlie Gilfoyle identified candidates who were interviewed by CEO Dr. Norman Anderson and members of the Executive Management Group (EMG) and they approved of her recommendation to select Mr. Hoffman as the individual most dedicated to getting to the bottom of the issues. We believe you know the rest of the story, the most critical part being as an association our profound sense of regret and apology to our members, our students and potential future psychologists, our critics, the public, and all others that were affected by these actions. We struggle with how best to communicate this, and appreciate the feedback you have been giving us.
On a more personal note, we are both averaging 1000+ emails/day and doing our best to answer them thoughtfully. It is our responsibility and our privilege to do our very best at this cross-road for APA. Whenever possible, given the complexity, sensitivity, and volume of what we’re dealing with, we ask for your patience and understanding. In addition, we are certain to make mistakes. We hope they are few and far between, but the experience is going to bed very late and waking up very early to hundreds of requests and concerns, all of which need and deserve a meaningful response. We ask for the benefit of the doubt from those of you who know us well. For others, we understand (and agree) that benefit of the doubt was given far too freely in the past. In the meantime, we are doing are best to juggle the myriad perspectives and to do what seems to be in APA’s best interest.
There is no question that the contents of the Hoffman Report are extremely troubling, painful, and humbling. We are feeling profoundly sad. We appreciate those who can express their own feelings and suggestions, including intense differences, without personal attack. We all have a significant job to do in determining corrective actions and implementing them. And it is our actions, in the end, that matter the most.
Among them, we are extremely committed to creating an open culture of respectful feedback and discourse, one in which we can use self-correction as part of our checks and balances. We are very interested in and plan to engage individuals and groups within APA and affiliated with APA with expertise in organizational management and culture to assist us in this process.
Below please find responses to questions posted by Council members for which we have answers.
- Action Steps – The Board is considering potential additional action steps based on the input we have received from the listservs and in the comments section of the website. We look forward to Council developing additional action steps as well.
- APA Staff – A number of Council members have asked about how the APA staff are doing. Wednesday, Norman Anderson, PhD, APA Chief Executive Officer, Archie Turner, APA Chief Financial Officer, Nancy Moore, PhD, Executive Director of Governance Affairs and Ann Springer, Associate General Counsel, led 3 town hall meetings for staff. These meetings were well attended and afforded staff the opportunity to receive information and ask questions. We, on behalf of the Board, sent a letter of care and support to the staff. We encourage those of you who wish to do so to reach out to staff and offer support. We know it is most appreciated.
- Decision Makers – Right now, the Board members making decisions regarding the Independent Review are the non-recused members of the Board. Both the non-recused Board and the Council are making decisions with regard to action steps, as different matters fall within their respective purviews. We look forward to this being a largely collaborative endeavor.
- APA’s Lawyers for the Independent Review Process – Our lead attorney is David Ogden from WilmerHale, who has been APA’s long-time outside counsel with much knowledge and history about the organization. Additional senior outside counsel has been obtained in an ongoing fashion from Jeannie Rhee, also from WilmerHale, who has expertise in Special Reviews. Their colleague, Jessica Leinwand is also providing assistance. Our internal legal counsel is Ann Springer and Jesse Raben.
- Adopting the Report by Mr. Hoffman – The question has emerged about adopting the report and there has been a lot of discussion about this on the listserv. We are looking into this matter and will give you an answer when it is available.
- Additional Mechanism for People to Give Feedback – In our last communication, we gave people a web address for sharing their views on the report. Another mechanism for doing so is via email at IRfeedback@apa.org.
- Mechanism for Named People to Respond – We have heard from many people asking about APA providing a space for people who have been mentioned or otherwise with personal knowledge about the events discussed in the final Independent Report to respond based on the facts presented or provide their own account of issues pertaining to them. The page for this can be found off of our main IR page: http://apa.org/independent-review/ and there will be a clearly marked section for this. The plan is for this section to go live tomorrow.
- Social Media – APA staff are working on bolstering our social media efforts regarding the report and APAs actions related to the report and findings.
- Council Meeting – The CLT has sent out the agenda book of Action/Discussion items for the Council meeting, and Council received access to the Independent Review report through a secure site. A detailed schedule for the meeting is being finalized. The meeting will be held in accord with APA Bylaws. Council cannot suspend the Bylaws. Bylaws can only be changed by a vote of the membership. The Association Rules can be amended by Council. In addition Council can choose at a particular meeting to suspend a rule although this is not a recommended or common practice (30-1.1).
- Ethics Office – The Deputy Director of the Ethics Office, Lindsay Childress-Beatty, JD, PhD, is running the day-to-day operations of the office at this time.
- Cost of the Independent Review – There have been a number of questions about the cost of the independent review. This information will be discussed in Executive Session. We want to note that the costs associated with the Independent Review will not affect membership dues. APA does have the resources to pay for expenses related to the Independent Review.
- Personnel Matters and the Press Release – Given recusals as previously listed, the non-recused members of the board and the Acting CEO made the decisions within the areas of their responsibility, and the Press release reflected those decisions and the significance of the contributions these individuals made during their long years of service to APA. Any discussion of the process for personnel decisions needs to occur in Executive Session. Under APA Bylaws, personnel actions are not within Council’s jurisdiction. The CEO reports to the Board and all other personnel decisions are under the jurisdiction of the CEO. In this case, Acting CEO for the Independent Review, Mr. Archie Turner, asked for Board input. All personnel receive appropriate due process.
- Town Hall Meeting at Convention – We have received many emails expressing concerns about the timing of the Town Hall meeting, which is scheduled for 3-4:30PM on Saturday. We regret that the timing conflicts with other programming and that all Council members may not be able to be there. There was no ideal time for this meeting at this late date. And honestly, we needed to find a time that we were both available. We hope many of you will be there and that you will encourage others to attend.
- APA Membership Resignations – We are all aware that some people are tendering their resignation from APA. We are buoyed by the fact that a small number of members have decided to rejoin and help with the change process. We sincerely hope that each of you will remain actively involved in helping to change our infrastructure so that APA is a highly functional, productive, and ethical organization of which we are all proud to be a part.
We are tracking everything that is written on the CoR listserv and doing our best to answer your questions as answers become available.
We are truly committed to meaningful change. The fact that we commissioned the Hoffman report and publically disclosed the report in its entirety was an act of courage and transparency on behalf of our organization. We know of few, if any, organizations that open all of their electronic and financial records, without restriction, to an independent investigator and publish the report in its entirety without modification.
Many organizations – business, governmental, religious, educational, non-profit- have stumbled. However, the mettle and integrity of an organization is not measured by whether it stumbles, but rather its response to that stumble. Commissioning the review was the first act of many that need to be taken for meaningful change to occur.
Nadine and Susan