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Decoupling and the ATA October 1, 2019

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA.

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/



1. Jacqueline Jugenheimer - October 1, 2019

Thank you for this thorough write up. First, I think it is a bad idea to act on a 20 year report in today’s fast paced world. Who would still want to use a computer to TM program from 20 years ago? Second, I think this is a topic that members have to be able to vote on. If the board is convinced that it is the right way, then pose the question to members. However, by changing a fundamental portion of membership just by a board decision is not appropriate. Third, the ATA board might not think that ATA will lose a lot of members, but there have been other organizations that completely misjudged what members/customers would do, and paid a high price. So, I for my part voted for the 2 write-in candidates in hope that they shake the ATA board up!

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