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Psychology Faculty Criticize APA Stance

The Smith College Department of Psychology voted this week to endorse a resolution urging the American Psychological Association (APA) to change its position on the participation of psychologists in coercive interrogation practices.

Smith’s psychology department joined those at Earlham College and Guilford College in endorsing the resolution, which declares that psychologists should strive “to do no harm” and should “seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact.” The resolution was drafted by the Department of Psychology at Earlham College, an institution that adheres to Quaker edicts of nonviolence.

The Earlham College resolution takes issue with a resolution adopted by the APA in August that, “while condemning torture, continues to allow coercive interrogations so long as these interrogations do not cause ‘significant pain or suffering’ or ‘lasting harm.’”  The psychology departments maintain that the APA resolution errantly legitimizes violations of human rights and undermines the moral authority of the profession of psychology. Therefore, the resolution states, the APA “should prohibit the participation of psychologists, directly or indirectly, in interrogations” in foreign detention centers.

Michael R. Jackson, chair of Earlham’s psychology department, is soliciting the endorsement of many other colleges.

Smith’s psychology faculty voted unanimously on Oct. 10 to back the resolution. “Our reading of APA’s position most recently is that it is not true to the ethics commitment of the organization, and we conclude that it is improper,” said Fletcher Blanchard, professor of psychology and chair of the department. “The profession has ethical guidelines and we believe our organization is violating them.”

Last year, the American Anthropological Association voted to condemn “the use of anthropological knowledge as an element of physical and psychological torture.”

Read a related article in Inside Higher Ed.

10/12/07   By Eric Sean Weld
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