When the shoe is on the other foot.

I am going to try to keep this simple, but the underlying message is critical for occupational therapists.

The recent announcement from AOTA that places the entry level degree requirement decision of ACOTE in abeyance was a surprise to most people, whether they agreed with the decision or not.

This post is not going to address the background of the issue, or the reasons for the AOTA reversal, or what some of the controversial elements are.   I want to focus on the response of some OTs who disagree with the decision, most notably program directors who lead academic programs that have to deliver the curricula.

I agree with the fact that some academic programs who were set to follow through on the increase to entry level degrees are left in a difficult situation.  These are a couple of the legitimate complaints that I truly understand:

1. Financial resources have been expended in order to transition their programs.
2. Time and energy has been expended in order to transition their programs.
3. Some programs have not transitioned, and those programs who were transitioning early in the hopes of competitive advantage may find themselves in a point of disadvantage if they abandon their Masters level programs and students choose to go places that are less expensive or take less time.
4. Philosophically, some people believed that increasing the degree requirements was the best thing to do.

It is true that these issues are a real problem for some programs.

Some programs directors are so upset with this unexpected announcement that they are now commenting that the AOTA statement should be ignored.  Some are stating that program directors should band together to write a statement in support of ACOTE.  As part of these statements some program directors express that they believe that most programs were already transitioning and that most people agree with this point of view.  It is unclear where the evidence is to support this belief, but it is being expressed nonetheless.  What is most shocking is that some of these program directors ignore any aspect of any position other than the way this decision impacts them, and that program directors are in the unique position to direct the future for the rest of the profession.

There is a severe lack of insight in this situation.  Now that their own programs are being impacted by external decisions, they expect that everyone agrees with them and that everyone will write letters in support of solutions that will solve their problems.  Here is the big question for all program directors who believe that everyone agrees with them:

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN PEOPLE ASKED FOR HELP FOR THEIR PROGRAMS WHO WERE AT RISK OF BEING SHUTTERED?

WHERE WAS YOUR LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN TO SUPPORT SMALL AND RURAL SCHOOLS THAT DON’T ALREADY HAVE A DOCTORAL MISSION?

WHERE WAS ALL OF YOUR OUTRAGE WHEN SOME SCHOOLS COULD NEVER MAKE THE TRANSITION BECAUSE OF CHARTER LIMITATIONS OR STATE ED LAWS?

Now these programs who have legitimate concerns expect everyone else to suddenly start writing letters and doing everything to support them.  Not happening.

I will not support any academic program that did not stand with me when I raised concerns about what programs were going to do when they were threatened with closure, or when those students would have fewer choices, or when entire communities would be impacted by those school closures.

Program directors who want empathy and support need to take a step back, assess their approach that previously shut out and stepped on the necks of other programs, and stop assuming that everyone agrees with their position.  It is this exact elitism that contributed to the problem that forced this down everyone’s throat to begin with.

Now the shoe is on the other foot - they are aggrieved, and they think everyone sympathizes with their position and will join the letter writing campaign.  It is an absolute Ivory Tower Disconnect.

They can start with a better approach by having their conversations in a public forum, where everyone can read them, and not hide their scheming behind the privacy of the AOTA program directors listserv.

Then if they want people to be empathetic to their concerns, they need to seek some penance for ignoring the legitimate concerns of many other programs that were struggling with the timeline stress and the charter barriers and the institutional support challenges and all the other issues that they never had to think about when the winds blew in their direction.


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