Advocacy is a key part of the APA's mission, and as such from time to time the APA's board of officers releases letters on issues of public interest. These letters can be found on our Statements, Policies, and Reports page.
The following lays out the process for requesting a letter from the board of officers on an issue of public interest.
What kinds of issues are appropriate for a board letter?
Letters from the board of officers are best suited to issues requiring a more timely response that fall into one of the following categories:
- Academic freedom
- Government funding for the humanities and higher education
- Philosophy departments threatened with closure, merger, severe funding cuts, or similar crises
- Conditions of the professional work of philosophers
Other issues of public interest, and especially issues relating to public policy, are best addressed through APA resolutions, which are voted upon by the APA membership. See the association bylaws for more detail on the resolution process.
Further, in order for a board letter to be appropriate, the following conditions must be met:
- The issue must be of clear professional interest or concern to the APA membership.
- The issue must be related to the APA’s mission and/or strategic plan.
- If the issue is controversial, there must be a clear majority viewpoint of the membership on the issue (that is, the membership is not, to the best of the board’s knowledge and judgment, deeply divided).
- The facts of the issue must have been sufficiently established. (The APA does not have the investigative capabilities to discover the facts independently.)
- There must be a specific audience/recipient for the letter (e.g., institutional administration, governmental body).
- Going through the longer resolution process will significantly reduce the effectiveness of an APA response.
Who can request a board letter?
A letter from the board of officers can be requested by any APA member (including board and committee members), committee, or task force, as well as by any philosophy department (including interdisciplinary departments, regardless of the APA membership of their faculty) or learned society. In addition, any member of the board of officers (including the executive director and chair) may place a request for a board letter on the agenda of the next regularly scheduled board meeting.
Multi-Society Letters and Statements
From time to time, one or more scholarly societies jointly organize a letter or public statement for multiple scholarly societies to consider endorsing. In these cases, because the APA board has little or no opportunity to request revisions and there is usually a short deadline for endorsement, the board will consider the letter directly in a fast-track process, rather than through the longer review process described below.
Committee on Public Statements
The board of officers has established a standing committee of the board for the purposes of signing and issuing public statements on behalf of the board of officers outside of meetings of the board of officers.
The Committee on Public Statements includes 12 members of the board of officers, all serving ex officio:
- Vice Chair
- Executive Director
- Divisional Presidents (3)
- Divisional Secretary-Treasurers (3)
- Members At Large (3)
The committee is authorized to make statements on behalf of the board on issues of public concern if, after consulting with the board in person or via electronic means, the committee is confident that such statements are consistent with the general consensus position of the board (rather than a mere majority). If there is doubt about whether a statement reflects the general consensus position of the board, the statement must not be taken up by the committee, though it may be put to a full board vote, either electronically or during a board meeting.
In order to sign or issue a statement, at least two-thirds of the committee members (8 members) must be in favor of the statement and no more than one committee member may be opposed. If the committee cannot reach the threshold needed to approve the statement, the statement may be put to a full board vote during a board meeting or via electronic means.
This procedure must be renewed on an annual basis at an in-person meeting of the board of officers. If the board votes against renewal, the authority to sign and issue public statements will return to the full board.
Note: In an electronic vote separate from a board meeting, to approve a statement or other action, the board must be unanimous; that is, every member of the board must vote and every member must vote “yes.” During a board meeting, to approve a statement or other action, a quorum must be present and a majority of those present must vote “yes.”
How do I request a board letter?
To request a board letter, submit the following information to the executive director, preferably via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- A brief summary of the issue about which a letter is requested.
- A clear case justifying board action on the particular issue, including answers to the following questions:
- How/why is the issue of professional interest or concern to the APA membership? How does the issue affect the discipline and/or profession of philosophy? If the issue does not directly affect the discipline and/or profession of philosophy, how does it affect the APA’s constituencies?
- What specific position and/or action is the board of officers requested to take on the issue? Is there evidence that this position/action will be supported by the majority of APA members?
- Who is the intended audience of the letter/resolution?
- What contribution can the APA make to the public debate about the issue? What special knowledge or perspective can philosophical inquiry offer on the issue?
- How is the issue related to the APA’s mission and/or strategic plan?
- What impact is the letter intended and expected to have?
- Have the facts of the issue been sufficiently established? If so, what are they?
- What is the appropriate timeline for responding to the issue?
- Draft text for the letter from the board. (The board reserves the right to revise the provided text or draft entirely new text as it sees fit.)
What happens after a request has been submitted?
Upon receipt, the executive director will share the request with the board chair and vice chair for initial review.
The executive director will research whether there have been any previous letters from the board or actions of the APA related to the issue. If so, the request will be supplemented with those materials.
If one or more APA committees or task forces have expertise related to the request, the request will be provided to them for further review and recommendation on board action. If no APA committee or task force has expertise related to the request, the chair of the board of officers will appoint a group of 3-4 people to review the request and make a recommendation on board action. The executive director, chair, and vice chair may be appointed to the review group, and in any case will serve as advisors to the review group.
For either review process, the executive director will set a deadline for completion of committee/task force review based on the urgency of the issue, the dates of upcoming board meetings, and other relevant factors.
For either review process, if the reviewing committee/group decides to recommend that the board issue a letter, it must provide a draft of that letter for board consideration (which may or may not be based on the draft provided by the requester).
Upon receipt of recommendations on board action following the review process, the executive director, chair, and vice chair will determine appropriate next steps, which will normally be one of the following:
- Placing the issue on the agenda for the next regularly scheduled board meeting.
- Calling a special board meeting to consider the issue.
- Drafting a letter/statement to be considered by the Committee on Public Statements, a subcommittee of the board authorized to issue letters/statements on the board's behalf in certain circumstances.
- Drafting a letter/statement that the full board will be asked to vote on without a meeting (requires unanimity).
- Declining to take board action.
The executive director will notify the person or group making the request upon the final resolution of the request and at any other points during the process that s/he deems appropriate.
The board’s decision is final and not subject to appeal.
If the board declines to take action in response to the request, the executive director will provide the requester(s) with information regarding the resolution process.
No APA division, committee, or task force, nor any individual member or non-member, may assert or imply the association’s position on a policy issue or other issue of public concern except through the process described herein or through the resolution process.