A Personal Letter to Students from your Chair

*Disclaimer: The following document does not necessarily represent the views of the APAGS Committee or APAGS staff.

To the student community:

It is with a heavy heart that I write this message to you in the wake of the Hoffman report. The report’s claim that some leaders in psychology were involved in inhumane or unethical actions that in any way supported torture is inexcusable. As your Chair and current Board of Directors representative, I believe it is my responsibility to include you in my personal process, and certainly in the actions of APAGS.

I am acutely aware of my privileged status and want to own this before delving into this letter. My position within APA affords me additional information and understanding of our organization that few students have. As a Board member, I have had access to the report for a longer period of time, giving me additional space to work through my thoughts and feelings.

Speaking to my personal process, at different points during my reflection I have felt my faith in psychology shaken almost to its core. The last month or so has been the most difficult and challenging time of my professional career. I personally was shocked, discouraged, and appalled while I read and digested the findings of the report. I went through periods of denial and anger. I often feel confused and unsure of how to effectively move APAGS forward through this crisis and represent you all well. I feel unclear about how to be a good leader in these difficult moments and am turning to my mentors and fellow leaders for support and guidance.

Like me, many students feel lost, confused, disappointed, and unsure of how this organization can continue to be a home for their professional careers. Some students are wondering what these findings mean for their futures. These feelings are legitimate, and the questions students have about whether to remain involved in APA are fair. Indeed, the following weeks, months, and years will be difficult times for our APA community. Although I certainly do not have all the answers for how to move forward at this time, I do want to let you know explicitly what action steps APAGS is taking now to ensure that the student voice serves as an active agent of change in APA.

Our current action steps include:

  1. The APAGS Chair-Elect and I co-wrote an informational post that can be found on the gradPSYCH blog.
  2. I am co-authoring a blog post with Angela Kuemmel, Co-Chair and Public Interest representative of the Committee on Early Career Psychologists, on reasons to stay involved with APA. This post will highlight the unique position students and ECPs are in to create change within the organization. When this is available, you can access it at the same link as above.
  3. Your elected and appointed APAGS Committee and Subcommittee Chairs are holding calls to discuss the report and work toward actions steps APAGS can take.
  4. The APAGS Committee is formulating the best and most efficient way to collect feedback from students and deliver this feedback to APA governance so that student recommendations have a prominent position in the decisions being made by APA.
  5. We are discussing creating an APAGS position statement after eliciting feedback from members like you.
  6. We are encouraging continuing student presence in governance and encouraging you to reach out to us. Please know that you and all fellow student members of APA are represented on APA’s membership council, the Council of Representatives, by me and by Christine Jehu, Chair-Elect of APAGS. You should feel free to contact us anytime (emily.voelkel08@gmail.com; christinejehuapags@gmail.com).
  7. To all fellow APA Convention attendees:
    1. Provided that Council is in open-session, please come by to listen in to the governance process. The schedule and format of Council is still being created, so please understand it is possible an open-session might not occur.
    2. I encourage all my peers to attend a town hall meeting on the Hoffman report Saturday, August 8th from 3pm to 4:50pm in the Convention Centre to process your thoughts and feelings openly about the report.
    3. As I write this, APAGS is actively discussing holding a students-only forum in addition to the general town hall. Stop by the APAGS booth for updates and location information about any of this.

As you digest the report and reflect, I hope you will find ways to remember why you have been proud in the past to be a part of this Association and continue your membership so that you can influence change. I know that despite the wealth of good APA and APAGS does on a daily basis, the report’s findings cast a shadow over that goodness. It is our collective challenge to hold both the good and the ugly together. It is our duty to steer APA in directions that restore our confidence and preserve the field of psychology for the future. I have full confidence that the involvement of students and ECPs is necessary to right this ship and create an APA based in integrity, ethics, and a commitment to human rights. When and if you are able, I encourage you all to join with me in hope. Hope that we can create a better APA together.

Emily Voelkel

9 thoughts on “A Personal Letter to Students from your Chair

  1. Kelli Vaughn-Johnson


    Several lists have student’s wondering if might be possible to broadcast the meeting (even if on closed channels) to members unable to attend. The town hall and student meeting. Can APAGS please look in to this?

    Thank you for this open letter as I it could not have been easy. Thank you also for remaining with us.

    Kelli Vaughn-Johnson
    (A Former APSSC President)

    1. K. Vaughn-Johnson

      Sorry for the typos above (if it & random I). I am having some keyboard issues with my desktop and the blog does not allow for corrections.

      1. Emily V

        Thank you for the inquiry. I will certainly convey this message and see what can be done.

        1. Emily V

          Hello again, Kelli. I wish I had better news for you, but there will be no live streaming or videoing of the events. I am working diligently with my Committee to find as many ways to get student input as possible over the next few weeks.

          1. Kelli Vaughn-Johnson

            Not unexpected. Keep doing what you can and hang in there. I will pass along the word.

            Thank you,

  2. Katherine Ramos

    Thank you Emily for your words. It is a privilege to have you as a leader and honor to know you personally. I believe the viable actions you outline are encouraging. This is a difficult time and thank you for taking action.

  3. Modern Psychologist

    Students” are not members of the American Psychological Association, according its own rules and bylaws. They are affiliates, with very few actual rights in the organization (other than to pay to receive its publications and journals — something that anyone can do).

  4. Alyssa Frye

    Thank you for your hard word and honest words, Emily! It is certainly very encouraging to be informed of the action steps that lie ahead. I think it is an excellent idea to hold a students-only meeting at Convention. While I understand that there will be no videoing of the town hall or student meetings, would it be possible to write another blog post outlining the major points brought up during the meetings? Regardless, I am appreciative of the opportunities for student involvement!

    1. Emily Voelkel

      Thank you, Alyssa. I think this is an excellent suggestion. Whether on the blog or via another medium (e.g., member email, etc.), I believe we can find a way to convey the major points brought up at the student Town Hall so others can hear what was discussed.

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