Tag Archives: Hoffman Report

APAGS Dedicates Pages to Institutional Transparency

Transparency in government—in ensuring accountability, reducing barriers for involvement, and building institutional confidence—is perhaps one of the greatest assets a representative body can provide to its constituents. It can help ensure the dissemination of information, the empowerment of individuals to partake in their governing, and promote societal progress.

Volumes have been written on its importance, and many organizations espouse it as a tenet, including our federal government.  And yet, secrecy seems to be an insidious and ever-present danger in most all institutional settings, and examples of misuses of institutional secrecy abound (see Maret & Goldman’s 2011 Government Secrecy for a good review).

The extent to which transparency must be balanced with other elements of good governance—such as privacy, efficiency, and power—remains fervently contested. And yet, it is my belief that transparency is essential to both APA’s and APAGS’s missions.  APA’s mission, which emphasizes the broad dissemination and application of psychological principles and practices, mandates transparency to ensure that psychology is seen as a public science rather than a private interest.  APAGS’s mission, which emphasizes serving as a united voice to advocate for graduate student development, necessitates transparency in order to see itself as an inclusive enterprise.

Members of the APAGS staff and committee are working hard to improve transparency in our procedures.  As one step toward that aim, we are very eager to make our operations documents available online. There, you will find:

  • foundational aspects of our constitution and bylaws;
  • the proceedings of our meetings;
  • the ways we have spoken on behalf of graduate students through position statements;
  • our reports to other governing bodies; and
  • information outlining committee appointment and election procedures.

getinvolvedIt is indeed up to both our organization and to us, as members, to participate actively to promote institutional change. I strongly encourage you to peruse the documents listed on the page as a first step. If, in reading these sources, you’d like to get more involved in APAGS to ensure its success at all levels, please consider running for an elected position or subcommittee chair, applying to be a subcommittee member, serving as an APAGS Ambassador at Convention, writing a blog post, or joining the group I chair—the Advocacy Coordinating Team—as a Campus Representative.
We look forward to hearing your voice.

My Journey through Outrage

Jennifer M. Doran, M.A.

Like so many of you, my reactions to the Hoffman Report ranged from shock, to disgust, to outrage. I couldn’t wrap my head around the report and its findings – that some senior leaders at APA colluded with the Department of Defense in order to allow psychologists’ involvement in settings where detainees were being tortured. As someone who has spent the past 5 years involved in the leadership of APA, I questioned my own judgment, sense of respect for the organization, and passion for engaging in its work. My outrage gave way to embarrassment and sadness. What I previously viewed as a professional achievement now felt like something to hide and run away from.

To make matters worse, the formal responses by APA felt hollow and woefully insufficient. I didn’t see my outrage reflected by the organization, and felt anger in response to what appeared to be “managed” communications. Such was my mindset as I traveled to the 2015 Annual Convention – with a heavy heart, and a suitcase full of disappointment.

But then I arrived. I sat in APA’s Council meeting among many colleagues and friends. And what I saw surprised me. Despite the stress and horror of everything that had transpired, I witnessed the most civil and respectful Council meeting that I had seen over the past three years. I heard passionate pleas for action, personal stories and perspectives on the underlying thread of racism in what had transpired, a range of emotions, and a general will to do good and correct the course of APA. When resolution NBI 23B passed (instituting a policy that clarifies the definition of torture and preventing psychologists from participating in interrogations where detainees are not afforded Constitutional protections), via a verbal roll call, I watched the room erupt in excitement. In a flurry of emotion hugs, cheers, and tears followed. This moved me.

Throughout the convention I witnessed a similar constructive and emotional tone. I heard graduate students share and process their reactions in the APAGS town hall, and the views of the larger membership in the general APA town hall. I watched leaders reflect, listen, feel, and (most importantly) truly show remorse and apologize. Through these events, I felt inspired by the genuine desire to take strong action, correct the problems in APA, and address the horrific transgressions that were perpetrated.

I am still outraged. But that outrage is now blended with small glimmers of hope. I believe that there is much work to be done. “Fixing” what transpired goes far beyond the torture issue alone; rather, such a task necessitates addressing larger cultural problems deeply embedded in the organization. Issues of transparency, collaboration, power and privilege, checks and balances, and the disconnect from the voices of the membership must be addressed. This is no small feat.

But I can see a better APA. An APA that is truly a members-first organization; an APA that prioritizes its values and human rights above other interests, such as prestige and profit; an APA that strives to be a force of good in the world above all else.

And building that APA will take time. It will take strong, dedicated, impassioned leaders to help steer the ship back on course, to rebuild the foundation that has fallen. When I first read the report, I (like many) considered leaving APA. Did I really want to be part of an organization where such things occurred? No, I could not stay.

But then I realized that I had to. Change can only be made by those who are outraged, by those who wish for change to occur. If you choose to leave the table (via your membership or your activity in leadership), you give something up – your voice, which is worth holding on to. For if the most outraged among us – if those who truly value social justice and human rights – choose to leave, change will not occur. We need to stay, and stay loudly.

APA needs the perspectives of graduate students and ECPs to help shape what it will become. It is our future at stake, and our voices must be part of the dialogue. Our outrage can be productive, particularly when combined with passion, hope, and a vision that we can heal. This is why I am choosing to remain a part of the organization. For only with our collective voices can we advocate for a better future – for APA – and, more importantly, for psychology.

To keep up to date on the Independent Review and the actions of APA and APAGS, see: http://www.gradpsychblog.org/ir/#.VdPlFrGFNZQ.


Hoffman Report: Two More Resources and a Request

Since our latest posts on APA’s Independent Review (better known as the Hoffman Report), here is where we’ve been focusing our energies:

1. APAGS created a dedicated page (gradpsychblog.org/ir) where we’ve attempted to compile requests from students who came forward with specific concerns and questions. The list will be frequently updated, and we hope you find it useful.

2. APAGS members have assembled a student-focused town hall at APA’s Convention this coming week in Toronto. On Friday 8/7 from 2 to 2:50pm, come to room 707 in the Convention Centre to share your concerns, discuss potential solutions, and hear from your peers. The dialogue will intentionally be structured in a safe and constructive way.

Download the PDF file .

3. Finally, we are asking all students to fill out a feedback survey from APAGS Chair Emily Voelkel. The survey will be open for a week following Convention. YOUR feedback will help guide the ways that APAGS leaders advocate to APA’s Board of Directors and membership council, and it will inform how APAGS sets its own course as a committee and constituency. A summary of results will be posted on this blog. The following word cloud shows common reactions to the findings of the Hoffman Report, as reported by the first three hundred responders.

wordle 3

Thank you for being a part of APAGS during this difficult time. Please keep bringing your opinions to the forefront.

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

A Message from your APAGS Leadership in Response to the Hoffman Report

Fellow students,

The last few days have not been easy ones for our APA community. As many of you are aware, David Hoffman’s independent review report became public Friday (you can view the report and the Board of Director’s response here). If you are like us, you have likely experienced a variety of emotions while reading the report and conclusions. It is a sad and difficult time for us all.

In the coming weeks, APAGS is committed to providing you updated and additional information as it becomes available. The Executive Committee of APAGS (the current Chair, Chair-Elect, and Past-Chair) and staff are working diligently on the best ways to communicate with our membership and ensure the student voice is heard throughout this process.

In the interim, we wanted to highlight a few things:

  • There are many voices responding to and framing the findings, particularly the media. We encourage you to read the report in its entirety so you can be fully informed and respond with all the information.

  • Actions are being taken with the future of APA in mind, particularly to ensure a strong APA for students and Early Career Psychologists (refer to the initial action steps in the report from the Board)

  • The student voice has been, and continues to be present, heard, and valued throughout this process as members of the APAGS Executive Committee are at the table in our roles as Board member and Council Leadership Team (CLT) representative

  • For those of you attending Convention, we encourage you to attend the planned Town Hall meeting to voice your opinions. We will post information about the Town Hall as it becomes available.

  • On the APA website related to the Report of the Independent Reviewer, a public comment section was added where anyone can add comments and those comments can be viewed by members and the public.

We remain hopeful that through this process we can learn and grow together, creating a strong and vibrant future for psychology and our association.


Emily Voelkel (APAGS Chair, Board of Directors) and Christine Jehu (APAGS Chair-Elect, CLT representative)