ATA Accreditation

Whether members of the American Translators Association should be able to sit for its accreditation exams outside the United States has been a contentious issue for more than a year. The following e-mail to Association members from ATA President Ann Macfarlane represents the latest development.

March 24, 2000

Dear ATA member:

The Board of Directors of the American Translators Association has received some communications about the recent Survey on international accreditation examination sittings and the subsequent Board decision on this subject. The Board has asked me to pass the following comments and clarifications to our ATA members.

As was explained in the initial e-mail message that was sent out on February 14, this survey was not a referendum or a vote. The ATA Bylaws do not provide for the type of vote known as a referendum. Rather, it was an undertaking by the Board to learn the views of a substantial portion of the membership, in order to make a decision on the question of international examination sittings. For further information on voting, see Item #7 below.

The Board believed that it was important to have the Survey results in time for the March 4-5 Board meeting. As you may know this issue was first raised a year ago, in March 1999. In July 1999 the scheduling of all international examination sittings was suspended in order to study the issue. Because the Forum held at the Annual Conference did not produce a decisive opinion one way or the other, the suspension was continued until March. At the March 2000 meeting this issue had been “on the table” for a year, and the Board felt that a year was sufficient time to reach a decision.

The ATA conferred with Industry Insights, Inc., a professional polling firm that had conducted the Compensation Survey last year, in order to decide how to do the survey. Industry Insights advised that since 83% of our members had an e-mail address, an e-mail poll would have the best chance of success. We also arranged to distribute the poll by fax and postal mail to members who had not provided the ATA with an e-mail address.

The Board apologizes to any member who did not receive the Survey. However, a very substantial number of members did receive the Survey and did fill it out. The survey was sent to every member for whom we had an e-mail address (6299 members). It was faxed to every U.S. resident for whom we had a fax number but no e-mail address (550 members) and it was mailed to every remaining member (584 members). Over 25% of ATA members -1875 people-returned their forms, which is an unusually high rate of response for any such survey. Industry Insights has confirmed that the results are statistically valid. This response rate means that the Survey does give a fair picture of the Association’s views.

The Survey results (now posted on the ATA Website) confirm the Board’s anecdotal impression that the membership is divided on this issue. At the Forum in November, equal numbers spoke on both sides of the issue. Messages the Board has received have been passionate on both sides of the issue. The comments submitted with the Survey were very strong, on both sides of the issue. Late entries also have been received on both sides of the issue. There is not a clear consensus on one side or the other.

The only ATA examination sittings offered by the Association itself are those given at the Annual Conference. Under the Bylaws all members-active, associate, or corresponding-have the right to take accreditation examinations. By prohibiting members from organizing examination sittings in certain geographic locations and not in others, we would be restricting the rights of ATA members. The ATA is an Association governed by the laws of the State of New York and by our own Bylaws. Given this situation, the Board saw no alternative but to lift the temporary suspension on international examination sittings. In the Board’s view the clear preference expressed by the membership that all members be treated equally was further reinforcement for this decision.

Members of the ATA who do not agree with the provisions of Section III of the Bylaws on the rights and privileges of members have the right, now or at any time to propose an amendment to those Bylaws. Article XIV of the Bylaws gives the appropriate procedure. Such an amendment, if proposed according to the proper procedure would be voted on by the membership at the Annual Meeting in September. This right, like other membership rights, will be supported by the Association in the usual way (publication of information and opinions in the Chronicle and inclusion on the ballot for the Annual Meeting).

The Board of the ATA is made up of a diverse group of volunteers, who serve without pay. Board members are translators, interpreters, freelancers, company owners, and educators -the colleagues and peers you elected to make decisions like this one-who have struggled with this issue for a year now. We have taken this issue seriously and have not made our decision lightly. We recognize that there are several difficult issues clustered around the question of whether to prohibit International accreditation examination sittings. We continue to study the responses that were submitted with the Survey and to consider the points that were made very seriously. The decision to commission a policy review of the Accreditation Program, and the study on International Certification that is now being conducted, are part of the Board’s response to these concerns.

We ask your understanding that these are not easy issues, and people of good will can have different views. The Board will continue to try to direct the Association in ways that best serve all members in their areas of concern, in accord with the purposes of our Bylaws.

I hope that this letter has clarified some of the issues pertaining to the Survey and the Board decision. Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to share your views.

Sincerely yours,

Ann G- Macfarlane