The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - 13

Discussion on Two Proposed
Bylaws Amendments
We received a variety of opinions, both pro and con, regarding two
proposed Bylaws amendments on this year's ballot: 1) clarifying the rights
and privileges of membership, and 2) having multiple candidates for each
elective position of the Association.
DECOUPLING:
IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO
Ted R. Wozniak, CT
ATA President
ATA-certified (German>English)
New Orleans, Louisiana
The issue of removing membership as
an eligibility requirement for taking the
certification exam (aka "decoupling")
has been around for at least 20 years
now. ATA's Board of Directors is
proposing a Bylaws amendment that, if
approved, would clarify that taking the
certification exam is not an exclusive
right of membership. (The proposed
amendment appears on page 11 of this
issue.) This would allow ATA to move
forward with decoupling as approved by
the Board in 2013.
www.atanet.org

Arguments and statements both in
favor of and against decoupling have been
published in The ATA Chronicle. If you
have not read them, I encourage you to
do so. I won't repeat all the arguments in
favor or against here. But I will present
what I personally believe to be the
most pertinent reasons why decoupling
membership from the certification exam is
the right thing to do.
First, however, I would like to comment
on the arguments made by opponents of
decoupling. Opinion pieces and letters
to the editor arguing against opening the
exam to nonmembers were published in
the January/February 20201, March/April
20202, May/June 20203, and July/August
20204 editions of The ATA Chronicle. In
every instance, these concerned members
presented rebuttals to the pro-decoupling

arguments and made arguments for why
decoupling is not a good idea. Some
asked valid and pertinent questions about
ATA's Certification Program. I can even
acknowledge that some of their rebuttal
arguments may have some validity. But
not one of these members presented a
single argument or statement on why
membership is a valid eligibility criterion
for taking the exam.
And that's the crux of the matter.
Membership is not a valid eligibility
requirement. This is why the Hamm
Report5 specifically recommended
that "the current membership-based
requirements for eligibility should
be eliminated" and why the recently
commissioned opinion by Lenora Knapp,
another certification specialist, stated that
"requiring ATA membership is contrary to,
and inconsistent with, current, accepted
practice and quality standards pertaining
to professional certification programs."6
Both statements were based on
principles and standards for eligibility
requirements for certification programs.
When applied to the certification exam,
these principles require that eligibility
requirements should be directly linked to
the ability to translate from the source
to the target language. There is no direct
link between membership and the
ability to translate-as Hamm stated,
"paying dues...has nothing to do with
one's knowledge, skills, or ability." These
standards also require that eligibility
criteria should not be used to limit the
number of applicants or exclude qualified
candidates. A membership requirement
does just that.
Most important to my mind, however,
is the fact that limiting the exam to
members only is inconsistent with, if
not directly contrary to, our Bylaws. The
first objective stated in our Bylaws is "to
promote the recognition of the translation
and interpreting professions." They go
on to say that ATA shall strive to meet
its objectives by "supporting programs
of accreditation and certification for
translators and interpreters who meet
specific standards of competence" (emphasis
added). They do not say that ATA should
support certification programs for ATA
members only. Membership in ATA is not
a "standard of competence" and therefore
American Translators Association

13


http://www.atanet.org

The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020

Contents
The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - Cover1
The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - 2
The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - Contents
The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - 4
The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - 5
The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - 6
The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - 7
The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - 8
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The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - Cover4
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