Friday, December 5, 2008

APA Presidential Election's Dismal Results

The results of the presidential election in the American Psychological Association were reported yesterday. The election had been closely watched by many, due to the candidacy of psychologist Steven Reisner, who had run on an explicitly reform platform, opposing previous APA policy on interrogations, and callling for full transparency in dealings of APA figures with governmental agencies.

Unfortunately, Dr. Reisner came in third. Carol Goodheart won the election, as tabulated by Intelliscan, Inc. via mail and internet ballot. She will be the 2009 President-elect.

As can be expected, Reisner supporters were dismayed. A few wondered how the results could have been so small for Reisner after the great turnout and vote for the anti-torture referendum he supported last September. For better or worse, without any evidence of fraud, the results will have to stand as is. It seems to me that the bulk of the APA membership -- at least those who voted -- were not ready to make a fundamental change in leadership, and/or listened too closely to the scare tactics generated by the APA bureaucracy during the election.

The implementation of the anti-torture referendum now lies in the hands of the conservative APA Council of Representatives, who meet next February and will consider concrete steps to take around the member-initiated new policy. The election of Goodheart does not bode well for the pro-referendum supporters. Goodheart is on record as against the kind of policy change re interrogations that the referendum was meant to implement.

The following excerpt concerning Dr. Goodheart is from an article I wrote about the election last April:
Goodheart is, as Steven Reisner once labeled her, an "APA stalwart." A psychotherapist in private practice, and a clinical supervisor in the psychology training program at Rutgers, she has served on the APA Board of Directors, and most recently was APA Treasurer. Currenly, she's working with APA President-elect Bray on his 2009 Presidential Task Force on the Future of Psychology Practice. Is part of that future staffing the BSCTs for the military at Guantánamo and elsewhere?

When psychologists mobilizing to withhold their dues from APA in protest against APA's interrogation policy queried Dr. Goodheart about her position, she replied:
I know that some psychologists in good conscience and good faith want APA also to prohibit psychologists from any participation whatsoever in military interrogations. There is serious debate within APA about the appropriate role for psychologists and I do not know if we will ever be able to reach total agreement. I, along with the majority of the Council of Representatives, voted against a moratorium, after listening carefully and considering all views seriously. As my own act of personal conscience, in the hope that we will be able to influence policy and practices related to interrogations, I believe that we must support psychology's promotion of ethical interrogations to prevent violence, safeguard detainees' welfare, and facilitate communications with them. We must stay engaged and work with the people, both military and non-military, who are working with great dedication to prevent torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment.
In other words, as one prominent member of APAs Division of Psychoanalysis put it:
She feels that to exclude psychologists from morally problematic places may leave prisoners even more vulnerable, and she argues that defining psychologists' presence as unethical would jeopardize ethical professionals who have been in this situation.
This makes Goodheart's stance on psychologists and interrogation a mirror image of APA's official position: psychologists make interrogations safer for detainees. Yet overwhelming evidence implicates psychologists in both the construction and implementation of a torture paradigm that emphasizes sensory deprivation and overstimulation, sleep deprivation, inculcation of debility, psychological regression, and dependency.
The following is the official tally of votes:
Carol D. Goodheart, EdD....... 13,898 votes
Ronald H. Rozensky, PhD....... 7,755 votes
Steven J. Reisner, PhD........... 4,674 votes
Robert E. McGrath, PhD........ 2,552 votes
Jack Kitaeff, PhD, JD............. 1,767 votes
No matter what the results, both psychologists and non-psychologists owe Steven Reisner a debt of gratitude for the courageous race he ran, standing up publicly against militarism and abusive state policy. I know he took a lot of heat for it. He may have lost the race, but he certainly showed he was a winner.

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