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Campaign statement for write-in as Director October 14, 2019

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA.
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For those who don’t know me, this should serve as a brief introduction. My name is Jill R. Sommer, and I am running as a write-in candidate for the ATA Board of Directors. I have been a full-time freelance German>English translator since 1995. I hold a dual BA in German and Russian from Bowling Green State University and an MA in German translation from Kent State University. I was on the board of the Northeast Ohio Translators Association from 2001 to 2017, with 15 of those years as Chapter President. I have been active in the German Language Division and Medical Divisions, was a moderator of the Business Practices listserv, and am on the ATA’s Ethics Committee, where I am currently serving as Chair.

As an active member of ATA since 2002 I have a long history of volunteering for the Association. I have always said I would rather be a squeaky wheel outside the Board, but I feel the time has come for me to be a squeaky wheel on the Board.

I feel that the recent ATA board decision to decouple certification from membership is a core issue that goes against the Bylaws, and to implement such a change requires a bylaws amendment vote by the voting members. I think critical issues such as declining membership or decoupling or even thoughts on continuing education should more frequently be put to the members. Individual translator and interpreter members are the heart of the ATA, and I see my role on the Board being to speak for those members.

I will work to promote greater diversity of educational opportunities, such as smaller, more specialized conferences being offered. Through smaller, regional seminars, we can make many valuable connections with colleagues that are more difficult to make at the annual conference. Such smaller events can also be more affordable and can draw in a diverse range of members.

Robert Sette and I have been conducting a write-in campaign for the ATA Board, for the following positions:
For President-elect (2-year term): Robert Sette
For Director (3-year term): Jill R. Sommer

Robert and I respectfully ask for your support and your vote. If elected, we will work with determination on behalf of the membership’s right to have a fair debate on decoupling with the views of both sides presented. This is the only fair option, given that the ultimate decision—on the part of the membership—will truly shape the future of our association.

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(Almost) Wordless Wednesday October 9, 2019

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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Guest post by Robert Sette: In reply to Dr. Koby October 6, 2019

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA.
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[Note from Jill: I turned this into a blog post because Robert wanted to include a graphic in his reply to Dr. Koby’s comment. This just seemed like the easier way.]

This is a reply to Professor Geoff Koby of Kent State University, specifically to his comments on this blog:

Professor Koby,

I accurately stated at the Denver Board meeting on August 3, 2019 that “5 of us [are] driving this petition movement”. At that time, ATA was in possession of 35+ signed member petitions, including those signed Chapter Presidents, current and former committee chairs and certification graders as well as former Board members other than myself. Also two former Certification Committee chairs were among the petitioners.

As you are aware, this petition effort had been rejected while in process because it failed to meet a deadline contained in a policy that had not been published since its approval 3 years earlier. Said policy was not available in the “Policies” section of the ATA website, nor was it able to be found by a reasonable keyword search (only by the name of the policy, which had nothing to do with “bylaws amendments”. Further, the submission form referenced in that policy had never been prepared by ATA, and it took over a week for me to subsequently obtain it. When I did, it was time stamped 20 minutes before being sent by the Chair of the Governance Committee, who when I asked later, said, “I knew you would see that and I meant to change that date before sending it to you.” He also said, “Well we wouldn’t reject your petition because you didn’t have the form.” But our petition was rejected because of a procedural, purely arbitrary, deadline that was never published, and not available on the website. So does the Board enforce its policies or does it not?)

Back to our petition: We requested a waiver of the 120 day deadline, which was denied, and we were instead told by President Corinne McKay that “[the Board had] decided to hold a referendum on the decision to open the certification exam to non-members. This will appear as a referendum question on this year’s ballot, and all voting members will be able to vote on it.” (see email screen cap below).

And so we stood down. But there had been no Board decision to hold a referendum. We were given false information (i.e. lied to) ostensibly to get us to stop our efforts, at a time when a bylaws amendment vote or a referendum still could have taken place quite easily. You were vocal at the following Board meeting with your opinion to forge ahead with decoupling, without regard for the consequences to the ATA.

As you will see soon, many people have disagreed with this decision over the years. Frequent dissent has been brought up on ATATalk. Member-driven bylaws amendments to protect our credential were submitted in 2003, 2006 and 2009 to Headquarters (though none of them were beneficiaries of the reach of social media, so they only obtained around 35 signatures each time. For the record, neither I nor the other drivers of current efforts were involved in those petition efforts). This shows that HQ was aware of opposition, and current leadership should also have been aware of it.

My guess, and it is an educated guess, is that the Board knew they would and do now face a huge uphill battle to have the membership approve a bylaws amendment allowing decoupling. So the board has hidden for years behind the word “policy”, and now “ambiguous” in reference to the bylaws.

Lastly, you say that this matter is on the agenda for the upcoming Board meeting, but there has been no real discussion of a vote so far. This one-sided “information” campaign does not fool us. The debate cannot be one-sided, and I dare to say that the approach employed so far has tainted the process. Any debate and discussion of this decoupling issue must be balanced, fair, and, dare I say, bipartisan. Otherwise, it violates the fiduciary duty of ATA Board members to represent the whole of the membership.

Unless true freelancers who represent a diversity of opinion are elected to the Board at Palm Springs, dissenting opinions will continue to be ignored and quashed.

Robert Sette, CT
Full-time freelance translator
Write-in candidate for ATA President-elect
Co-founder of ATA Members Voice (on Facebook)
@ATAmembers #ATAmembers

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday October 2, 2019

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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Decoupling and the ATA October 1, 2019

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA.
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ataTwenty years ago the ATA hired a consultant, Michael Hamm, former executive director of the National Organization for Competency Assurance and the principal of Michael Hamm & Associates, to “[review] and [evaluate] ATA’s accreditation program and [provide] the association’s leadership and members at large with a number of valuable insights. The purpose of what came to be known as the “Hamm Report” was to point the way toward strengthening the program and improving the benefits of accreditation… Michael Hamm observes that while most credentialing efforts are initially developed to meet the needs of the members, the most effective ones are not tied to any membership criteria for participation, since competence and quality have nothing to do with the payment of dues to an association. The credibility of the credentialing effort is enhanced if it is viewed as a service to the wider public rather than a service to members. The move from a membership-based to a freestanding credential is a significant one in the evolution of any voluntary certification program.” Stejskal, J., “International Certification Study: ATA’s Credential,” ATA Chronicle 32, no. 7 (July 2003), p. 14, available at http://www.atanet.org/chronicle-online/wp-content/uploads/2003-July.pdf.

See also Hamm, M.S., “An Executive Summary: Review of the ATA Certification Program,” available at http://www.atanet.org/bin/view.pl/24113.html.

Twenty years later questions have arisen that probably should have been asked over the last twenty years. In his report on the ATA certification program Mr. Hamm wrote:

“Most certification programs have moved away from association membership requirements because no one has ever demonstrated a strong relationship between paying dues to any organization and professional competence.”

Many changes have been made in the ATA, such as recruiting active/voting members who are not certified (I was one of the first – and paid for the Peer Review) and making member benefits and rights such as the ATA Conference and Certification Program self-sustaining (which led to higher fees all around), leading up to this final act of decoupling. The problem is that the ATA Bylaws specify certification as a “right of membership.” Changing this requires a Bylaws amendment by membership vote. Robert Sette is one of a number of members asking the ATA Board to put it to a vote of the voting members. He responded to the above quote:

“Most”? In 2000? So why can’t we find them today? In an admittedly brief search, I saw a regional association of speech therapists in Australia that offered its certification to non-members. That was the only one I found.

If this is a “trend” as Hamm said elsewhere in his report, why do we not now, 20 years later, see more non-member certification programs in a wide variety of fields?

I contend that this was flat-out an inaccurate, false statement. And it has served as the basis for the ATA to waste volunteer time and member funds for much of the past 20 years.

The ATA Bylaws require an amendment in order to decouple certification (exam & credential) from membership. ATA has steadfastly refused for 20+ years to seek such an amendment, so we are working to demand a voice in this decision for the voting membership of the Association before decoupling occurs.

In fact, one ATA member pointed out that NAJIT implemented a decoupled exam and it was unable to sustain itself and failed, after 33 people became certified in approximately 10 years.

Robert made a couple other points that are worth noting:

Just a thought or two on the ATA certification credential:

a) ATA certification already is the gold standard. The CT credential, along with MITI and DipTrans, are the 3 most prestigious credentials in the translation industry.

b) It is a voluntary credential, not a license. As such, a membership fee associated with maintaining the credential is logical. Why should non-members ostensibly benefit from the expense of promoting the CT mark while not contributing financially to that promotion?

Paula Gordon also did a great job explaining her thoughts on decoupling back in 2017 in a blog post entitled Why I Will Vote Against ATA’s Bylaws Amendments. It was about an amendment to the Bylaws expanding voting rights, but she rightly ties it into decoupling. Be sure to click on the link and check it out.

As for me, Jill R. Sommer: I feel it will harm the association as a whole. I know several members who have already left ATA because they feel it does not fully represent the members’ interests. President-Elect and incoming President Ted Wozniak has told me the Board does not feel they will lose many members as a result of the change, but I am not sure they can estimate the ramifications – especially since people have already left the association because of it. Additionally, many members are feeling ongoing frustration at ATA leadership’s refusal to allow a member vote on the matter. A vote is proper, just, and overdue.

Also, as head of the Ethics Committee this does affect me in that the Ethics Committee would really not have much power to sanction misbehaving non-members. Sure, we can yank their certification, but I already know of one or two members who continue[d] to claim they are certified (until they received our cease and desist letter). As NOTA President, I would sometimes go on Proz and try to police the people claiming NOTA membership when they lived in other countries. And I only had 100 member names to go through. It is hard to patrol an association of 10,000+ members. Yes, members submit complaints, but at the moment we cannot sanction non-members and have to dismiss the complaint. We are a committee of 10 volunteers just trying to pay our rent while help the association out.

In conclusion, forging ahead without a vote, continuing to tell us—educated, well-informed members—that ATA leadership alone knows what is right for the Association and needs to “inform” us, will do nothing but tear the Association apart, causing further decline of membership numbers and even less respect for the actions of the ATA Board.

If you would like to be part of the ongoing discussion on decoupling and calling for a vote, consider joining https://www.facebook.com/groups/atamembersvoice/