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Discrimination Complaint Procedure
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For more information on discrimination and sexual harassment and how the APA can help, see our Discrimination & Sexual Harassment FAQ.

The APA's nondiscrimination policy is as follows:

The American Philosophical Association rejects as unethical all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religion, political convictions, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or age, whether in graduate admissions, appointments, retention, promotion and tenure, manuscript evaluation, salary determination, or other professional activities in which APA members characteristically participate. This includes both discrimination on the basis of status and discrimination on the basis of conduct integrally connected to that status, where "integrally connected” means (a) the conduct is a normal and predictable expression of the status (e.g., sexual conduct expressive of a sexual orientation), or (b) the conduct is something that only a person with that status could engage in (e.g., pregnancy), or (c) the proscription of that conduct is historically and routinely connected with invidious discrimination against the status (e.g., interracial marriage) . At the same time, the APA recognizes the special commitments and roles of institutions with a religious affiliation; and it is not inconsistent with the APA's position against discrimination to adopt religious affiliation as a criterion in graduate admissions or employment policies when this is directly related to the school's religious affiliation or purpose, so long as these policies are made known to members of the philosophical community and so long as the criteria for such religious affiliation do not discriminate against persons according to the other attributes listed in this statement. Advertisers in Jobs for Philosophers are expected to comply with this fundamental commitment of the APA, which is not to be taken to preclude explicitly stated affirmative action initiatives.

APA members may make complaints in regards to discrimination they believe to be in violation of this policy. The following outlines the procedure for submitting and responding to discrimination complaints.

1. Making an Informal Complaint

Any individual may bring concerns about violations of the APA’s nondiscrimination policy to the attention of the APA ombudsperson concerning discrimination and sexual harassment. The ombudsperson will try to resolve the matter. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the ombudsperson may refer it to the Committee on the Defense of Professional Rights of Philosophers (CDPRP), the executive director, or other APA authority.

Discrimination complaints may be brought to the APA in the following cases:

  1. Discrimination by an institution (college or university)
  2. Discrimination at an APA divisional meeting or other APA-sponsored event, including discrimination in the context of placement activities at APA divisional meetings
  3. Discrimination by or against members of the APA staff, board of officers, and divisional executive committees acting in their APA capacities

The APA's ombudsperson concerning discrimination and sexual harassment is Laurie Shrage, who can be reached at

If you wish to make a complaint during an APA divisional meeting about discrimination at that meeting, you are advised to contact either the ombudsperson or the executive director, Amy Ferrer, as the executive director is on-site at all meetings and, depending on the nature of the complaint, may be able to act upon it immediately. The executive director can be reached at or through the APA staff at the registration desk.

For more information about the ombudsperson concerning discrimination and sexual harassment, see the position description.

2. Filing a Formal Complaint

Only APA members may file formal complaints. The following complaint procedures apply only to complaints against institutions; the APA does not sanction individuals.

If an APA member who has brought an informal complaint feels the complaint has not been satisfactorily resolved by the ombudsperson or other APA authority to which it was referred, s/he may request the board of officers to investigate and apply sanctions if appropriate. To do so, s/he shall make a written request to the executive director, specifying the violation of the APA nondiscrimination policy, identifying the perpetrator of the violation (for example, an individual, a university department, or an administration), and presenting the available evidence of the violation. The evidence may include the ombudsperson’s report on the attempted informal resolution. S/he also shall state whether s/he requires anonymity.

In cases in which relevant details of the complainant’s case are unique, it may be impossible for the APA to pursue the matter while preserving the complainant’s anonymity, while in other cases this may be easy to do. If the ad hoc committee determines that the case of a complainant who requests anonymity is in the former category, the complainant should be informed of the problem and enabled to make a decision about the acceptability of the risk.

The APA executive director is Amy Ferrer, who can be reached at

3. Ad Hoc Committee Charge

Upon receiving a formal complaint, the executive director and the ombudsperson shall confer to create an ad hoc committee, whose charge shall be to make a determination regarding the complaint and to recommend a course of action to the board of officers.

4. Ad Hoc Committee Membership

Such ad hoc committees ordinarily shall consist of the following:

  • the ombudsperson (or designee)
  • the chair of the committee on inclusiveness in the profession (or designee)
  • depending on whether the complaint is about current or past employment or about prospective employment, the chair of the committee on the defense of professional rights (or designee) or the chair of the committee on academic career opportunities and placement (or designee)
  • the executive director, ex officio

To these three members may be added, if appropriate to the issue(s) raised by the complaint, the chair of the relevant diversity committee or designee. The executive director is empowered to expand the ad hoc committee’s membership if a majority of the members express the need for an additional APA member with specific expertise.

Thus, the ad hoc committee may be as small as four members or as large as six members. The executive director shall appoint a committee member as chair.

5. Ad Hoc Committee Operation

The ad hoc committee shall decide on a timeline for executing its work and shall notify the individual who has filed the complaint about the likely lapse of time until a report is made to the board of officers. The committee will normally seek additional evidence, including a response from the party or parties identified as discriminating. Situations in which a formal discrimination complaint is filed can vary in many ways, from those in which the evidence presented in the complaint is overwhelming to those in which it seems to be no evidence at all, and from complainants who expect publicity to those who require protection from publicity. Ad hoc committees therefore must be given a great deal of discretion in how they approach their specific case.

6. Confidentiality

The work and the report of the ad hoc committee, including materials the committee may acquire during its deliberation, shall be confidential, except from the board of officers and from any party to whom the board decides to release information, unless disclosure is required by law. The board may decide to release the ad hoc committee’s full report to the complainant, whose identity will remain anonymous insofar as feasible and allowable by law, and/or to the administration and department which was alleged to have discriminated, but need not do so in cases in which parties deemed innocent might be exposed.

Confidential communications with APA officials, including the ombudsperson, are subject to legal discovery.

7. Ad Hoc Committee Report

The ad hoc committee shall report its findings to the board of officers, including recommendations for sanctions if the committee judges these are warranted.

8. Board of Officers Determination

The board of officers shall determine the final disposition of the complaint. In case the board decides that no violation of the APA nondiscrimination policy has occurred, the complainant shall be so notified. The department or university shall also be notified if made aware of the charge during the course of addressing the complaint. In case the board decides that a violation of the APA nondiscrimination policy has occurred, both the complainant and the department or university responsible for the discrimination shall be informed of the judgment, the reasons for the judgment, and any sanctions the board will impose.

9. Appeal

A department or university may appeal to the board, on the basis either that the reasons for the board’s decision are inaccurate or that the discriminatory practice or policy has been reformed.

10. Ombudsperson’s Report

The ombudsperson prepares two annual reports. The first report, containing very general information about the number and types of complaints received, is provided to the board of officers and is available to APA members as an addendum to the minutes of the board meeting at which it was submitted. The second report describes each complaint received and action taken, with all identifying information removed. This report is held as a confidential record in the APA’s national office and may be consulted only by officers of the APA in the course of their duties.

Last updated: May 2016

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