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Letters to the Editor

March 30, 2012
Dr. Lisa Steelman, Editor of TIP

Dear Lisa,
We have written this letter in response to the continuing series of articles concerning divisions between science and practice in SIOP that have been published in the last several issues of TIP. We feel that while many of the issues raised are interesting, it is time to put a stop to the tone of a dialog that creates both divisions and barriers within our profession. It is, we feel, contributing to creating unnecessary schisms in our Society. There have been many positive responses to these publications for creating forums for I-O psychologists, and we applaud these efforts but wish that this divisive dialogue dies a happy and well-rewarded death.

Our Society (a term that can be defined as “companionship”) is the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology not the “Society for Scientists and Practitioners.” We advocate, as all of us do, a scientist–practitioner model where research and practice support each other. We recognize that obviously different reward systems exist for those of us primarily employed in either activity, but our common goal should be the same: supporting each other through research and practice. Focusing on the differing reward systems for those of us in different settings does not achieve this goal of the Society.

On a personal note, both of us are colleagues and coworkers who have been friends since our MBA student days over 50 years ago. Both of us have been proud recipients of SIOP’s most prestigious awards for practice and science. Neither of us can recall a time, in any of our many conversations about our Society, where we made an issue of being a “scientist” or a “practitioner.” On the contrary, it has been a source of excitement and inspiration in each of our roles, and if anything, we tried to be both.

We encourage our publication outlet, TIP, to continue to support this perspective.

Respectfully submitted,

Joel Moses and Ben Schneider

To the Editor:

I am writing to offer some historical perspective about the issues raised in the Letters to the Editor in the April 2012 issue of TIP regarding the need for election reform within SIOP.  The issues pertain in large part to the perceived lack of openness regarding the election process and the appearance that power rests in the hands of a very few individuals who can fashion the election outcome.  I have no insight to offer about the election process, per se, but the issues under consideration are part of a long standing pattern with SIOP.  SIOP has been perceived by some as being elitist in its governance.  The image is not only one of a small group of power brokers, but also they are rather smug about it all.  Here are a few exemplars.

Some time in the 1980s there was a readership poll of what SIOP members thought of TIP.  The members loved it, with the exception that some members tended to be cited in gross disproportion to the rest of the members.  The perception was the in-crowd always got their ink.

A colleague told me about an incident witnessed at a meeting of the Executive Committee. The name of one of our members was mentioned as a deserving recipient for our Distinguished Service Award for all the work he had done for SIOP and that he should be nominated to the Awards Committee. Upon hearing the comment, an officer of the Executive Committee pronounced that someone else would be receiving that award this year (the pre-chosen recipient’s name was identified), and the nomination of the other individual should be delayed for another year.  This incident occurred prior to the cutoff date for nominations to be received by the Awards Committee for that year.

I was always put off by the haughty language that in certain years some SIOP awards were “withheld” from our membership.  There may have been a good reason for not granting an award in a given year (as due to a lack of nominations), but the expression “award withheld” connotes condescension.  So in the January 2003 issue of TIP in The High Society column I did a spoof on “Award Withheld.”  I noted that its articulation has been the official reason why SIOP did not grant certain awards in certain years in the past.  Apparently that column hit a few nerves.  Through a stroke of revisionist history, the awards that had not been granted in the past were now chronicled as “Award Not Given” as opposed to “Award Withheld.”

The issue of Fellowship within SIOP is another topic worthy of open disclosure. In the 1980s only two or three people per year were elected Fellows, far fewer than in other divisions of APA of comparable size. Now it is typically over a dozen new Fellows that are elected each year. I don’t know the reason for the increase, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the members of SIOP grew tired of the restrictive controls used to keep the priesthood pure.

Now we are learning about issues associated with the election of officers within SIOP. In my opinion it is all part of the same fabric pertaining to exclusivity and control. I don’t know if SIOP is any more or less engaged in opaque cloaking compared to other professional organizations. Based upon the response to the letters, apparently not releasing vote tallies is standard operating procedure. However, when the organization itself uses expressions like “award withheld” and “at the discretion of the Executive Committee,” our choice of words gives us away.

All members of SIOP take their work very seriously.  Some members of SIOP take themselves very seriously.  The title of my column, The High Society, was selected to reflect my attempt to provide a humorous analysis of ourselves. I never seem to run out of material.

Paul M. Muchinsky

To the Editor:

Regarding David MacDonald’s criticism of Paul Muchinsky’s January 2012 High Society column, I understand where he’s coming from. In fact, I too cringed (e.g., about Jerry being a prick), but then I cracked up and couldn’t stop laughing. I have so missed Paul’s sense of humor (at least in print; I get a good dose of it directly at each SIOP conference). From my perspective, Paul is the perfect ambassador of off-color humor...he treats everybody and every topic with an equal amount of disregard. And I say thank goodness. Welcome back Paul...

I very much missed your column.

Art Gutman