Crisis of confidence in AOTA governance

A crisis of confidence is defined as a situation in which people have stopped believing that something is good.  Such a point has been reached with the American Occupational Therapy Association's Representative Assembly.

Here is some data for those interested in understanding our current Representative Assembly and the meeting that is happening that is precipitating a crisis of confidence.

FIRST OF ALL, it is clear that there are many dedicated people who are attending the meeting, voting, and representing you as is their responsibility.  It takes time, energy, and commitment to volunteer.

However, here are some statistics to consider:

1. At the time for discussion on an item that was pulled from the consent agenda, only approximately 61% of those eligible to vote had even responded to a roll call.  Only two representatives discussed the item, which is only 4% of the members.  Both of them were from NY, which does not bode well for the rest of the country.

2. At the time that voting closed on an agenda item, 80% of those eligible to vote responded to roll call.  However, only 54% bothered to cast a vote.

3. 17% of those eligible to participate and vote in the RA meeting didn't even bother to respond to a roll call at all.  3% showed up after the original meeting was supposed to already be over.

Numbers are as close to accurate as possible.  It took a lot of time and energy to compile all of the data and all attempts were made to be as accurate in compiling as possible.  Unfortunately, the time and date stamp on these forums does not correspond to the correct time and date, so there might be small percentage changes in any direction, depending on when votes stopped and started.  I used gross date data and did not analyze it down to the actual hours of voting.  If anyone would like to see my Excel spreadsheet where I have entered all of the data gleaned from the Online Meeting please email me and I will happily share it.

I am deeply appreciative of those who responded to roll call and those who voted.  I am particularly deeply appreciative of my NY reps who have been very engaged and active.

What is happening now is that there is a motion to 'reconsider' voting on the item that only 54% of the people even bothered to vote for the first time.  I strongly suggest that the motions on the table be withdrawn/postponed, the meeting adjourned, and our leadership to address the serious problem that is obvious re: inadequate participation from the elected body.  Important matters come up to our Representative Assembly and we need to have confidence that this is a functional body.

Representative Margaret Frye (NY) summarized the current issue particularly well:

A quorum was established, time for questions and deliberation scheduled and provided, a rationale for the elimination of the ASD vote requested and provided.

Abridged Guidelines for Parliamentary Procedure (p. 9), “It (reconsideration) is used to reconsider a decision made under a misapprehension or with inadequate information.”

I disagree that the RA’s decision was made under these circumstances. It is obvious that the COE SOPs generated very little discussion among the members of the assembly but this lack of deliberation should not be interpreted to meet the criteria for reconsideration.

Some members have had difficulty posting. We had obvious difficulty with the election site. My concern is that if the discussion were to continue these problems will still exist, limiting participation.

The lack of discussion, for technical or other reasons, should be addressed, but in my opinion this is a separate, larger issue than the decision made on the COE SOPs. We met the criteria for a quorum, our process was followed, decision was made. Ultimately we must stay true to our process in order to serve members fairly and effectively.

The current RA meeting should be of significant interest to the occupational therapy community and all of its stakeholders because it is evident that there is very low participation and debate on matters that are coming in front of the Representative Assembly.  Ultimately, the entry level doctoral issue will come before the Representative Assembly.

The problems that are evident in the current meeting are a concern because although the COE SOPs are an important issue for our Association, moving to an entry level doctorate as a single point of entry is an even larger issue.  The SOPs are just an internal matter - the entry level doctorate will set a policy in place that will impact the entire country, including who will and will not enter the field and what our future workforce will look like in composition and in numbers.

If the BoD wishes to have any legitimacy to its process it is imperative that significant and noticeable efforts are made to publicly address the problems with the low participation in the RA.  I have several suggestions to improve the process:

1. Consider more robust quorum rules, particularly since this doctoral issue has national public implications.

2. Consider the educational and orientation process for incoming RA members so that we can achieve greater vote rates than 54%

3. Consider the timeline that will be offered if such a large issue ever comes in front of the RA.  People in the RA have complained about the timeline and scheduling, indicating that it has impacted their ability to participate.  Some, including President Stoffel herself, have stated that attending a conference has limited her participation.  She stated:

I speak in favor of this motion.

I apologize for my voice not being more present as an RA member as I have been at the WFOT Council meetings and now the WFOT Congress having left home on the early morning of June 7th. Although I have attempted to be involved in  listening and following the discussions on each of the parts of the meeting forums, I have also had difficulty with the time differences and trying to juggle that with fully participating in the international forum here in Japan.

I shared my concerns about the level of participation in the discussion that occurred in the US on Saturday with VP Amy Lamb and Speaker Francie Baxter asking about what steps could be taken to allow for greater participation without a time lag of several months before action could be taken. I am used to an RA that offers amendments if they feel their concerns would shape the policy along the lines they feel would strengthen the document being considered. I appreciate that Vice President Lamb initiated this motion, as I believe it reflects a sincere effort to gain greater clarity on what aspects of the original proposed COE SOP.

As others have stated, I hope that more time to discuss the 2 proposed changes in the document separately, 1) the student vote on COE and 2) the membership of the ALC- OT and OTA could occur to better inform our future decisions. I also hope that when questions are raised, that resource people be invited to offer their perspectives and input so that we can all benefit.

Whatever the outcome of this motion, I look forward to our work together on behalf of our Association and our profession!
That she was allowed to exceed the 200 word limit is something I brought up to my representative and indicates additional problems with inconsistency in applying Rules.

4. Consider eliminating the 200 word limit during debate, as it is nearly impossible to present a complete argument for such a complex issue as entry level doctoral education in 200 words.

5. Consider if the online format is even adequate for such complex issues.  If there are problems handling internal matters like SOPs in an online format then how can there be confidence in that format for larger issues?

These are beginning suggestions. 

AOTA is VERY FORTUNATE to have these kinds of issue come up as concerns PRIOR to votes on even larger issues like the entry level doctorate, because this creates a context for understanding  how to improve the process and to be sure that there is legitimacy and confidence in the governance of the Association.

A crisis in confidence is not a good thing - but it presents an opportunity.  I am very hopeful that this will be used as a springboard for improvement.


Note: 6/19, 10:15am - President Stoffel's post which exceeded the limit was just truncated to 200 words. The full post will remain in the blog entry above for reference. The truncation was only done after it was brought to the Speaker's attention by an RA member and posting the concern here.
Unknown said…
Thanks for doing this research. I agree that the doctoral issue is an important one and should be given due diligence.
Our local university recently asked me to write a letter of recommendation to move from a master level OT degree to an OTD. I would like to think that the RA is focusing hard on this subject.

Scott Harmon OTR/L
Thanks for your comment Scott. I would like to think that they are focusing hard on it too, but there is no reason to think that.

In the recent RA meeting they had a voting participation rate of only 40-50%.

In addition to the low voting rate there were multiple other procedural errors including credentialing incorrect people to vote, use of improper form for motions, and broad confusion about the motions themselves.

None of this gives much reason for confidence. I have documented all of the specifics in the Education SIS Forum on the OT Connections site, if you would like to view the source data.
Lack of forward progress: From reports given to me by members, I was told that only 60% of all the RA reps who were eligible to participate in the Fall 2015 meeting even bothered to cast a vote.

Even worse, now the votes are done by SurveyMonkey, so the tracking and reporting that I previously did is not even possible any longer. Now there is no way for members to know if their reps even voted, much less what their vote was.

Use of SurveyMonkey is fine for expediency, but unless the member association also publishes a record of who voted and what their votes were it is a record lack of transparency for AOTA.

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