The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - 15

A MEMBERSHIP ASSOCIATION OR A
WORLDWIDE CREDENTIALING BODY?
Jessica Hartstein, CT, CI
ATA-certified (Spanish>English and
French>English)
Credentialed Interpreter Legal (Spanish)
Houston, Texas
Burden of Proof: The first sentence
of our Bylaws describes ATA as a
"membership corporation." The onus is
on ATA to make a convincing case that
our membership corporation should
open its exam to nonmembers. General,
nice sounding statements that decoupling
(i.e, opening the exam to nonmembers)
will positively impact the profession
and ATA have been provided without
evidence, but some very real risks to the
Association have also been presented.1
Are members missing out on concrete
opportunities because only ATA members
can take the certification exam? For most,
probably not. ATA has not provided the
names of any large freelance translation
buyers who do not recognize ATA
certification due to this. No indication has
been made that coupling membership with
certification has hurt our credibility among
any large segment of translation buyers.
We have a credible and valuable program
thanks to the hard work of so many.
Members Decide on the Future of the
Certification Program: Thanks to the
Certification Program being established in
the Bylaws as a member right, the future
of the program is in your hands if you
choose to vote in this year's election.2
Bylaws Amendment Wording Is
Indirect: I expected that when members
were asked to vote on decoupling, the
proposed Bylaws amendment would say
what it means and mean what it says. I
thought the Bylaws amendment would be
presented as follows:
Article III, Section 3-Rights and Privileges
a. Active members have the right
to attend any of the Association's
membership meetings, use all of its
membership facilities, and receive
all of its regular publications free
or at special membership rates.
They also have the right to take
certification examinations, to vote,
www.atanet.org

to hold Association office, and to
serve on the Board of Directors and
all committees of the Association.
With this wording, we would know
exactly what we were voting for: opening
the exam to everyone.
I was disappointed to see that
the actual amendment that will be
presented to members includes several
other (arguably unnecessary) changes,
making the intention and impact of the
amendment less obvious.3 Members
should not have to read between the
lines of the amendment wording to know
what they are voting for. Certainly, some
members will only look at the wording
of the amendment and carelessly miss
the fact that a vote to give members the
privilege to take the test "at a discounted
price" will be considered by ATA as a
vote in favor of opening the exam to
nonmembers. This is a very indirect way
of presenting this issue.
For your information, the Board takes
an AGAINST vote to mean "I do not want
to open the exam to nonmembers."
Opening the Exam Does Not Directly
Help Most Members: I have yet to see
ATA provide a clear, logical, and specific
example of how the average member who
supports themselves with translation and
interpreting work will directly benefit
from opening the exam to nonmembers.
I would like to share some things that
otherwise happy members who have
not been participating in these public
discussions have told me: "What would
be the point of ATA, then?" "I'll be the
first to leave if they do this!" "This will not
help my business." These members don't
see tangible benefits for the Association
or their own businesses. If the fact that
members expect ATA to prioritize the
professional lives and Association benefits
of paying members seems outlandish or
in conflict with our purpose, perhaps
we need to rethink our purpose. Are we
fundamentally a credentialing entity or a
membership association?
I recently saw longtime ATA Spanish
Division members with decades of
translation experience discuss leaving
the industry because they are unable
to support themselves. I wish we were
having this passionate of a debate about

what we, as an association, can do directly
to change this. We have limited resources
and opening an exam to nonmembers
does not seem like the most direct route
to positive change.
I want to recognize that ATA has
presented the first concrete example
of one subgroup of ATA members who
would directly benefit from decoupling:
active members of the armed services.
Their employer, the Department of
Defense, would pay for their exam if
we decoupled.4 ATA's Government
Linguist Taskforce has been hard at work
recruiting active members of the armed
services and ATA has recently offered
military personnel 50% off their first two
years of membership.5

Are we fundamentally a
credentialing entity or a
membership association?

Experts Weigh In: ATA's Certification
Program Needs Eligibility Criteria for
the Sake of Credibility: Lenora Knapp, a
credentialing expert, wrote in the July/
August issue of The ATA Chronicle that
eligibility requirements should not "be
such that unqualified individuals can
earn the credential simply by passing
the exam."6 With no educational or
experience requirement to take the exam,
ATA is not currently able to prevent
non-translators from taking it. Thus, it is
not ensuring that its exam candidates are
"translators and interpreters who meet
specific standards of competence," as
stated in ATA's Bylaws.
In my opinion piece in the January/
February issue of The ATA Chronicle
regarding opening the exam to
nonmembers, I reported that Michael
Hamm (a credentialing expert engaged
by ATA 20 years ago) also made the case
that educational/experience eligibility
requirements were essential to credibility.7
If this exam is aimed at mid-career
professional translators, candidates would
be able to meet certain educational/
experience requirements. Why don't we
bring these requirements back?
American Translators Association

15


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
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The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - Cover4
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