On Wednesday at the Annual AOTA Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans, I had the unusual experience of being asked to leave a Representative Assembly (RA) Task Group. As I understand it, the request was initiated because the Assembly had had conversation about keeping Task Group discussions confidential. By confidential I assume the intent was that Task Group members not do things like live Tweet about deliberations and that they not report out specifics about who said what or perhaps even the tone of the debate. Unfortunately this was misunderstood and interpreted as the meetings being “closed” and not open to observers. The problem with this is that AOTA has a policy on open meetings.
AOTA Policy A.6 states, “All official meetings sponsored by the Association shall be open to the members except in the following instance(s), in which the meeting would be an executive session (a to f list these specific instances and the full policy is at the end of this blog post).
I brought this policy to the attention of the Task Group leaders and offered to stand in the hallway while they checked. A few minutes later one of the Task Group leaders came out, introduced herself, apologized and invited me back to the room, as I was correct about my right to be at the meeting.
The confusion seemed to ensue because of the time the Task Group had just spent discussing confidentiality. After all, how could be deliberations be confidential if any AOTA member can walk in and listen?
This experience highlights several concerns for me that I have already communicated to the incoming Speaker of the RA and to the AOTA Executive Director. They are concerns that require immediate attention to some extent, but that are not fully within AOTA Leadership or staff control.
Subject: Open Meetings
Code: RA Motion 4/78, 4/89, 2003M54, 2007C7, 2007CO136, 2009FebCS128
PURPOSE: To establish an open meetings policy for all Association meetings.
IT SHALL BE THE POLICY OF THE ASSOCIATION THAT:
This post was edited on 4/8/19 after hearing concerns from the originator of Motion 1:
What do you do when you organize a grass roots group and work for 2 years to create change and then realize your goal? Celebrate? Say thanks! Sure, oh and then go on the attack and malign fellow members of your professional association because, well that is just how you roll.
On Wednesday and Thursday of this week the Representative Assembly (RA) followed the process it always follows. Task group discussed motions and changes were made to motion 1 after getting the originator of the motion on the phone to clarify her original intent. There has since been wide discussion as to whether the final product out of Task Group matched the originator's intent.
I was not able to remain for all of Task Group 1 but my understanding is that concerns were expressed over whether it was most appropriate to say “recommend and support” or “require” and whether the most appropriate conjunction was “and” or “or.” It may seem like small matters but RA members are typically committed to details, and long-time RA members know that unintended mistakes can lead to unintended consequences. It is important that the final product accurately represent the desired intent of the Task Group.
For those unfamiliar with the Task Group process, the Task Groups are like Congressional Committees that make sure motions are “in order,” and frequently make changes to motions. They then pass the motion to the full RA with a recommendation that can include, 1) adopt, 2) adopt as amended, 3) defeat, or 4) defeat but with a substitute motion. I assume the recommendation was to adopt Motion 1 as amended in Task Group.
On Thursday the RA met and I am not sure if any additional changes were made through amendments on the floor as they finished deliberations and their vote before I could make it there. However, here is what was posted on the AOTA Website as approved by the RA (see https://www.aota.org/Publications-News/AOTANews/2019/Results-RA-Spring-Meeting-Motions-Include-Entry-Level-Mandates.aspx) .
Motion 1: Update Policy E.6 Entry level of OTs and OTAs
Following robust discussion, the RA has voted to support dual entry-level degree levels. OTs may earn an entry-level master’s or doctoral degree, and OTAs may earn an entry-level associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
It shall be the policy of the association that:
1. The Association require entry-level education at the associate or bachelor degree level for occupational therapy assistants.
2. The Association require entry level education at the master’s or doctoral level for occupational therapists.
I assume the conjunction “or” ended up in the final version to indicate that programs are not required to offer both and that offering one OR the other is fine.
The motions were shared on the AOTA Website and over on the OTD Mandate Uncertain Future Facebook group there was some celebrating and even some “thank you’s” expressed to the RA and AOTA. This good will lasted less than just two short days.
On Saturday, a mistake was made at the Annual Business Meeting and the language on a slide shown did not reflect the language of the motion passed. Members who participated in the RA discussion rose to call attention to it and a short discussion ensued. Members sitting by me were confused and concerned that the motion reflect the intention which was that the Association requires that dual entry be offered for both the OTA and the OT.
It was clarified by President Lamb after questions from the audience that the RA is the policy making body that decides entry-level and that ACOTE carries out that policy. The language that passed the RA was stated, it was made clear that the motion did not indicate that programs had to offer both degree options, and the mistake on the slide was noted and a mia culpa offered.
The mistake was unfortunate. It was an unforced error. It caused momentary confusion and makes it look as if leadership does not have its act together. Unfortunately, it also gave an opening for more conspiracy theory and accusations of games or shady tricks. Leadership, let’s be a little more careful in the future.
But still, enough said right? Elected leaders of AOTA are making it clear that the desired outcome was in fact achieved. We can go back to celebrating and move on to other important issues because in the long run the voices of ground roots stakeholders were heard and they got exactly what they wanted…….right?
Nah, of course not! Why just enjoy getting what you wanted when instead you can find a way to stir up more dissent, bash a few reputations and slide a few subtle insults in. Instead of saying, “a member went to the microphone to……” you can write, “some members of AOTA who are academics and hold themselves out as leaders.” Because after all, there is nothing more suspect than being in academics, and the backhanded phrase “who hold themselves out as leaders” is a nice way of insulting someone by making it somehow seem as they are the bad actor (and not you).
And moreover, my God! There was a call for civility today and that can’t stand without attack! You have to find a way to gaslight members in your discussion by making it seem as a call for civility is really a call to stop debate, to silence you, to stop you from speaking. It’s the tone police who are being unreasonable! This call for civility can’t be a positive thing to promote respectful discourse, it’s just another trick!
My Lord, give me a break.
OTD Mandate Uncertain Future. Seriously, WT?
The opinions expressed in my blog are personal and neither represent the views of my employer nor any organization.