RID: Retraction Leaves Interpreters with Deaf Parents in Doubt

March 27, 2013

Brandon Arthur interviews Laurie Nash, Vice Chair of the Interpreters with Deaf Parents (IDP) Member Section of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), on the stunning  retraction of the referendum, that if passed, would have established a designated position on the RID Board of Directors for an IDP Member at Large position.

Highlights

“Many of us felt that the passage of this referendum was important in order to help RID reconnect with the deaf community and the values that were the foundation of the establishment of RID 50 years ago.”

“I am here to talk about IDP but I do want to acknowledge that other members feel disenfranchised by RID as well. I cannot speak for them but they do have similar feelings of not being involved in the decision making process. IDP believed that if we had a position on the board then that would guarantee a place at the decision making table.”

“The president somehow misunderstood that a 2/3 majority of the vote was required as opposed to the a simple majority she used to determine the initial passage of the referendum.”

“We were told this late on Wednesday night and the announcement from the board was made Thursday. Obviously the RID board had already prepared their announcement and video and were ready to announce this to the membership.”

“I think for many IDP members there is a desire for our organization and our members to recognize that indeed many interpreters with deaf parents bring something unique to our field.”

“I think it is important to emphasize that respectful dialogue is the key to moving forward. I encourage all members of RID be mindful of respecting each other as we move forward.”

Interview Transcript

Brandon: Hello everyone. I am Brandon Arthur from StreetLeverage.com. I am here with Laurie Nash, Vice-Chair of RID’s Interpreters with Deaf Parents Member Section. Welcome Laurie.

Laurie: Hello. Thank you for hosting this dialogue and inviting me.

Brandon: We are here to discuss RID’s announcement from last week about Motion E, the referendum that if passed, would have established a designated position on the RID board of directors for an IDP member at large.  With the announcement that the referendum did not pass, I imagine there to be a lot of emotional responses to the announcement. Before we get into the retraction and the response from IDP, I’d like to back up a little bit to the beginning of March when RID announced the historic passage of a bylaws referendum that would establish an IDP seat on the Board of Directors.  Can you share with us the feeling and thoughts that the IDP membership had when they learned of the referendum’s passage?

Laurie: Clearly many people, including IDP members, who supported this motion, felt that after a long time we would be getting some change in the direction of RID. Many of us felt that the passage of this referendum was important in order to help RID reconnect with the deaf community and the values that were the foundation of the establishment of RID 50 years ago.  So yes, many people were relieved and happy. I know for myself, I felt that after many years, I now have a way to reconnect with RID.  The passage of the referendum gave me faith in RID again.  Learning that the referendum has passed in the first week of March left people feeling positive and pleased with all of the hard work done to get the referendum to vote

Brandon: You mention “having faith”’ in RID again. So, describe for us what the leadership of IDP, members of RID, and allies feel that this position represents for the future of RID.

Laurie: I believe that IDP members are not unique in feeling that they are underrepresented within RID. There are other groups of interpreters that feel the same way. We have all felt frustrated at some of the decisions made by the RID Board of Directors. These decisions show again a divergence from the communities we serve; their culture, their norms, their values. We have strayed away from that. So an IDP position on the board, we felt, would guarantee that along with the Deaf member at large that is already a part of the board, there would be a stronger connection to native language users and deaf-world natives  and those board members would be involved with the decisions of RID from this point forward. Historically there have been a lot of frustrations among many groups. I am here to talk about IDP but I do want to acknowledge that other members feel disenfranchised by RID as well. I cannot speak for them but they do have similar feelings of not being involved in the decision making process. IDP believed that if we had a position on the board then that would guarantee a place at the decision making table. This motion was initially made taking into consideration the current structure of RID. Many people have brought up different ideas for a restructuring of the board and changing the composition of the board.   I think that re-evaluating the board is a good idea but that’s not our current reality.  The current board composition is what was in mind when the motion was made. Let me clarify, the motion came out of the 2010 Region II conference. The motion carried and was then brought to the floor of the national conference in 2011. A lot of people were involved in the discussions to ensure that the position would work within the current board structure.  Members were both in support and opposition for various reasons but for the collective IDP membership was in support of this motion and the concept behind it: that our voice was missing from the board. Our current board has 3 people who are interpreters with deaf parents. 2 are deaf and 1 is hearing but that was not always the case. For many, many years there were no native voices on the rid board.

Brandon: You have recognized that IDP is not the only group within RID who may not feel that they have access to the decision making tables of the organization and by extension our field. That being said, to be told that you had a place at the table and then for that place to be taken away with the retraction must create an environment where there is little to no trust in the leadership of RID.  How did the news that the referendum did not pass actually unfold for IDP? How were you notified?

Laurie:  Well the announcement came out last Thursday. On Wednesday at 9pm, the 4 members of the IDP executive council, participated in a video conference call with President Prudhom and many members of the board of directors. On that call, we were told that there was a mistake made in determining the required number of votes needed to pass the referendum. The president somehow misunderstood that a 2/3 majority of the vote was required as opposed to the a simple majority she used to determine the initial passage of the referendum. Now you should know that during the drafting of this referendum it was clearly understood by everyone involved that a 2/3 majority vote was needed to pass. This referendum was a change in our bylaws and required a higher standard than other referendums. So, she seemingly made a mistake and erroneously informed Shane Feldman, the Executive Director of RID, and others that the referendum passed.  We were told this late on Wednesday night and the announcement from the board was made Thursday. Obviously the RID board had already prepared their announcement and video and were ready to announce this to the membership. Hearing this news, we were floored and were at a loss on how were we to respond and we wondered how our members would respond to this announcement.  We asked President Prudhom for some time to organize and coordinate a respond. They gave us a little time but by 3pm on Thursday, the announcement went out to the general membership. As a result, the IDP council was unable to prepare a coordinated response right away. Unfortunately RID went ahead with their announcement.

Brandon: So what would IDP like to have seen done differently in a situation like this in the future. If we as an organization have learned anything from this, it won’t happen again but if you could advise the board on how better to handle something like this, what would you ask them to do?

Laurie: Well…when we learned that the referendum did not in fact pass we were of course disappointed. Many people worked very hard on this referendum, however; it was compounded by the lack of checks and balances and the realization that RID made a mistake.  We were left wondering,  How could something like this happen? Is it possible that only one person is counting the vote? It was very hard to understand how this could have happened. We are collecting a vote on a referendum that impacts the bylaws of our organization. Not a business as usual item.  These are the guiding rules of our organization, our bylaws.  We were disappointed that the referendum did not pass but we could move on from there. Our disappointment was further exacerbated by this mishandling of the vote and our experience that this was also one more example in a series of blunders the membership has experienced from the RID board. We believe that the IDP membership should have received a personal apology. The president of RID made a general public apology to the membership; however, this motion held great significance to many people connected to IDP. This general apology did not recognize the significance of the referendum and did not recognize that many members had very strong connections to it.  This fact seemed to be overlooked by the board of directors and I think that is just another example of perhaps a cultural disconnect from the membership. RID does have members of diverse backgrounds. President Prudhom’s manner of apology and announcement did not give enough attention to the significance of this referendum to members of IDP.

Brandon: Thank you. What do you hope the membership, the RID board of directors, and even the national office staff can learn from this situation?

Laurie: I wish they didn’t have to learn anything at all. I wish this didn’t have to be a learning experience for them to begin with. However, I think all members of RID, after seeing this; can agree that mistakes are consistently made within RID. This is not an isolated instance.  I am not sure what kind of oversight may be needed and I am unsure how the board functions. For vote counting, do they work together? Who is responsible for vote collecting? How does it work when voting happens through the internet? There need to be safeguards in place to make sure this kind of thing ever happens.  With a mistake of this magnitude, we all have to question how it came to be. I believe RID members have a right to know how this kind of mistake happened. It certainly shouldn’t have happened on such a large issue as the bylaws and leads us to wonder if this kind of mistake is allowed to happen, then what other mistakes are happening? I don’t want to get off the point here but we do need to wonder what is going on. I think the mistakes issue is not simply an IDP complaint. It is a systemic organizational and leadership problem that all of us have to be very concerned about.

Brandon: Clearly, you have said that representation at the decision making tables of our field is important to interpreters with deaf parents and other underserved groups. In considering the future of RID and perhaps the perspective of people seeing this interview, people who will see the passion that IDP has about this issue, what do you want them to know about your collective desire for more representation and collective diversity at the decision making tables of RID?

Laurie: I think for many IDP members there is a desire for our organization and our members to recognize that indeed many interpreters with deaf parents bring something unique to our field. We have a variety of deaf-world experiences that many if not most of our members within RID do not have.  Each interpreter brings their unique set of life experiences to their work.  The experiences of an someone who grew up in a deaf parented home instills the values and norms of the community in their work. Interpreters with deaf parents possess the ability to broker meaning in culturally appropriate ways. That is the value we need to have on the board. I think many of our members historically have felt those inherent skills have been negated in a systematic way within RID.  On an individual level, interpreters with deaf parents have certainly felt valued by many colleagues but we feel this must be a integral part of the board. During the national conference in Atlanta in 2011, Dennis Cokely commented on the logo for the conference. The logo was a tree. On the stage at the business meeting, he pointed out that the tree was missing its roots.  The roots have been missing for a very long time and It’s not just interpreters with deaf parents who feel this way. There are many people in our field, including leaders in our field, who believe that interpreters with deaf parents have something unique to offer. We recognize a unique skill at play but we believe that recognition of this skill needs to be an integral part of our national organization, RID. There may be talk about restructuring  and changing the composition of the board. I think that may be a great idea but let’s work together to make it happen if the membership agrees that to be our goal.  For now, the board structure is the way it is. We can work toward improvements but again with the kind of mistake that took place we have slipped back and the membership has lost faith once again.

Brandon: If you had the opportunity to send a message to the general membership and to IDP members what  would you say about the desire to again reconnect with our roots?

Laurie: To the general membership, I think it is important for us to consider why we do what we do. If we claim to value the deaf community and value their norms and culture, if that indeed is what we are saying, then great.  Let’s move on and do it in our actions and in our words. Live it. Show it. Prove it. And if not, then if people do not want to achieve that then why are we here talking about this? Why does RID even exist?   We need to figure out our organizational purpose, values and goals. What we do is not just collecting a paycheck. For many of us our profession is not simply a job. Unfortunately for some it appears that they are here only to collect a paycheck and there is no authentic connection to the deaf community and certainly no investment.  For those of us vested, it feels exploitative of those interpreters. We really need to figure out why we do the work we do. To IDP members, I think it is important to say that your hard work bringing this referendum forward and the progress that we made was successful in many ways. The discussion we are having now is also housed within a broader context. We have all had our individual discussions and experiences with each other and with our colleagues. We have also had our experiences discounted and shunned.  It is time to move forward. We are now having a bigger discussion and this process is necessary in order for us to recover from the last 50 years.

Brandon: I really appreciate you being here with me today to lay out the issues. I hope this dialogue will help create some perspective for the people who are seeing all of the thoughts, emotion, and dissention on this issue.    At the end of the day, I hope that as an organization we can keep our eyes on the mission of service. If we can dialogue with respect then we can move forward. Thank you for taking the time to be here today.

Laurie: I am happy to be here but I do want to add something if you don’t mind. I think it is important to emphasize that respectful dialogue is the key to moving forward. I encourage all members of RID be mindful of respecting each other as we move forward.  Unfortunately, some public comments have been made that were not respectful and for many were insulting.  If we truly want our field and our organization to recover we have to maintain a respectful dialogue. I hope we can all remember the person receiving the message when posting comments via any open forum. Keep it honest and respectful.

Brandon: StretLeverage.com we try to create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves so I can appreciate you bringing respect up. Laurie, thank you for your time. I appreciate you making time in your schedule for this discussion.  I hope that this dialogue will help others who have wondered about the debate and differing opinions surrounding this referendum so that we can all move forward to a successful future. Thanks again.

Laurie: Thank you.

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60 Comments on "RID: Retraction Leaves Interpreters with Deaf Parents in Doubt"

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Member
I too am unhappy and disappointed that such a situation came to be. There definitely needs to be more oversight and a larger involvement with future referendums to ensure it will not happen again. I would like to comment though, however, how Ms. Nash feels IDP is owed a direct, formal apology. It seems that RID acknowledged the IDP Member Section’s vested interest in the matter by means of video conferencing before the announcement was made to the general membership. In addition, we have been bemoaning the lack of transparency in our leadership for some time now, and this interview… Read more »
Member
Michelle Monahan

Hey Albert….I can appreciate concern. Please take a moment to check out this link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_Gs0Tm6mzo&feature=youtu.be

Hope this helps.

Member
I want to appologize to our IDP collegues. I must have been busy with life when the email request to vote on this went out. I don’t really remember it and I wish I had lent my vote in support of a position on the board for an IDP member. They are truly our greatest resource in so many ways. I deeply regret not voting. The only thing I can do to make ammends is be more vigilant in the future and let all IDP members know that you are truly valued though when you needed us most, some of… Read more »
Member
Terri Hayes

I never received any information about this vote. The retraction is the first I heard of it… (and I check my email in a very addicted way)…
wonder if someo of us were missed.

Terri Hayes

Member
While I agree the the RID board should be comprised of a diverse group, I’m not sure that specific board make up is the answer. The make up of the board, as it is, has a large IDP representation. I’m disheartened that this forum was used as an opportunity to take another stab at the RID board. This board has gone above and beyond to be transparent in their decisions. They’ve make a primary objective to “rebuild trust.” There are bound to be hiccups along the way. I think this event is an opportunity to applaud our national organization in… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
It’s not accurate to say that the membership voted against this bylaws change.  A sizable majority voted for it, just not sizable enough.I’ve heard a number of perspectives against the referendum that boil down to this:  The lived experiences and informed perspectives of IDPs are no more central to the endeavor we’re all engaged in than any other identity one might consider in ensuring diversity on the board, and that IDPs can be adequately represented by running for any board position without having one reserved for them.  I whole-heartedly disagree. Brokering/mediating/interpreting the interactions (and power differences) between Deaf and hearing… Read more »
Member
The debacle, as the IDP group has pointed out, is not unusual in this very inefficient organization. I hope that Shane will improve the our organizational efficiency, but we will have to wait and see… the fact that such a small minority of members even bothered to vote is what bothers me most. If the majority of RID members don’t care about our core values, which are embodied in the IDP members; if they are members only in order to keep their certification valid through membership and earning CEUs; if, in fact, they are ASL/English interpreters as a job only,… Read more »
Member
I agree that such a debacle is not unusual in this very inefficient organization. Let’s not forget that they told 34 people “Congratulations! You passed the NIC!,” and then a year and a half later said to those people (with families, jobs that require certification, homes that require mortgages to be paid…) “Oops! We can’t prove that you didn’t pass nor can we explain specifically why you were chosen, but fraud occurred within our organization, so those certificates we issued with the raised seal signed by Board members… we’re gonna invalidate that unless you pass the exam again…an exam we… Read more »
Member
Terri Hayes
I appreciate your comments friend… but where you and I have stood on the same step for these many years – its very hard to walk away when your income relies on their stamp of approval… I dont believe I will ever be able to retire – so I am somewhat captive… and yes – I see that the organization is changing (has been changing) into something more supportive of the “pulled out of the population and generally educated” interpreters than those of us Deaf-made or Deaf raised… the shift away from Deaf influenced interpreters has been going on for… Read more »
Member

Why is it “frightening,” “disheartening,” and “heartbreaking” that the next generation of interpreters looks different? What do they have to offer the field? Might they have some quality or skill that will contribute to the field and perhaps bridge the “us” vs “them” mentality that is so pervasive in our rhetoric?

Is different always bad? If there is something lacking, can we offer to mentor them and/or tell them why it is important to our practice? Perhaps their values aren’t different but their behaviors, does that have to be “defeating”?

Why do we feel threatened by change? What are we afraid of?

abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
“Fear” and “threat” are interesting concepts. In my career I have mostly witnessed fear and the feeling of threat from non-IDPs towards IDPs. What, exactly, are they (we) afraid of in having an IDP MAL position on the board? Might it be a fear of having someone of marginal power consistently bringing to our attention the ways in which our (non-IDPs’) intuitions about our practice *consistently* valorize our sense of our own professionalism over what constitutes effective service in the eyes of Deaf and hard of hearing people? Any “us” vs. “them” fears I have seen have been generated by… Read more »
Member
(I can’t seem to reply to you directly) So, if I understand correctly – “you (we) are afraid that current and future generations of interpreters won’t have a full appreciation (or understanding?) of what native language-users contribute to the field” (As an extension – and without that appreciation, may not have a full sense of their own limitations thus compromising services provided) Is that accurate? I think that is quite helpful to articulate as it is something we can address in a direct way. There is MUCH value in native voices and I agree, wholeheartedly, that non-natives cannot bring an… Read more »
Member

PS – I think words like “heartbreaking” and “frightening” lack hope and connote giving up (I think that is what I was responding to in my question reply).

I happen think there is much hope for current and future generations with appropriate guidance. We cannot expect them to come to the same conclusions we did since their experiences and paths have been so different but that doesn’t mean they can’t come to an appreciation and understanding of what is important and critical to our field.

I don’t think our field is a lost cause.

abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
I think we’re bumping up against the site’s limits on nesting of replies- that’s why there’s no “reply” button on our recent postings. And is there any chance you’d be willing to introduce yourself as something more than “AS”? It feels odd to be addressing someone I’ve never met using only his/her initials. I’m not *afraid* of the outcomes you mention- they are here and in evidence on a daily basis, and have been since non-IDPs like me took an interest in becoming interpreters. We come to the endeavor keen on learning, without understanding the depth of what we need… Read more »
Member

Bill,

I too feel disheartened and share your shame. I feel compelled to make one additional comment, however. If the core values of RID are ONLY embodied by our IDP members, then we have a larger issue at hand than simply adding a CODA position to the board. The “if’s” you bring up about our membership feel very real and seem more like fact at this point.

Looking forward to the discussion at the Community Forum this August. Here’s hoping we find a way to turn our organization around, for the benefit of ALL our stakeholders.

Member
BJ, I just reread the transcript and I haven’t been able to identify any stabs or low blows mentioned in your comment. I see a frank and assertive discussion. Can you clarify where and why it seems that way? While I think the errors that transpired are not only specific to this vote and it is not just an IDP issue, I also think the comparison is inaccurate. This motion had to do with a particular member section’s representation on the board after a long history of discussion, and the fact that it was granted and later retracted. Comparing it… Read more »
Member
john hendricks

Well stated Aaron!

Member
john hendricks
I don’t believe Streetleverage or IDP was taking any kind of “stab” at the Board of RID. The facts were simply stated and IDP certainly has a right to respond and share their point of view. It was mentioned that RID has gone above and beyond to be transparent in their decisions and made it a primary objective to “rebuild trust”. If this was so, why the need to, as was said, “rebuild” something? For many years now there have been issues that have been mishandled which one would not use an innocuous word as “hiccup”. While someone may choose… Read more »
Member
Deaf and Anonymous
First of all, I want to state why I am commenting anonymously. I am a member of RID and I am deaf. I voted against the Deaf MAL position, as well as the IDP position, and will elucidate why shortly. But for those reasons, I do not want to be easily identified and potentially bullied or slandered (I know Brandon will not allow that, but this community is what it is.) I have been involved with other nonprofit organizations and served on boards. The larger the board, the more difficult it is for the board to function effectively. Additionally, Boards… Read more »
awilliamson
Member

IDP’s response to RID can be found here at the IDP website. There are English and ASL versions available.

awilliamson
Member
Amy Williamson
Member
Hartmut Teuber
This only short, indeed of 2 cents (smile). There are many points I could say here, but I needed to go out of the house shortly. One I wish to comment is, how the interviewer use the fingerspellled acronym “R-I-D”. Who do they mean by that? President of RID? Board of RID? The National Office? An invisible power pulling the strings of power of the organization? Just the organization by the official pronouncements? Or an individual member when they talk about the organization to an outsider? Avoid using the careless use of the acronym. Be more concrete by what it… Read more »
Member
Hartmut Teuber

Another issue, a quickie again:

There is a problem of understanding of the legal position of a referendum, obtained through an email vote. This may have influenced in believing, a majority vote was sufficient. But “sufficient” for what? Does it have a binding force?

Also whatever a parliamentarian says has only the force of advice, certainly is not a ruling.

Hartmut

goliva
Member
A short response from me also: 1. I am a member of RID and I did not know there was a vote going on 2. I support that there should be a designated position on the Board for a CODA interpreter, as well as for a Deaf person. Many Boards have a variety of designated positions so that key, recognized perspectives are included. 3. I wonder why this was voted down. I guess the nay-saying voters need to read more of the articles posted on Street Leverage about disempowerment, transformational leadership, interpreters having more moral responsibilities in public schools, etc.… Read more »
Member
I also didn’t know about this issue and I do try to keep up on things. I am not a CODA/IDP but I greatly value interpreters who are native ASL users and have Deaf values. We sometimes bring very different skills and values to the table. Interpreters seem to feel alienated form each other, from the Deaf community and feel very disempowered about our future. It is time to LEAN IN as they say. Perhaps some people did not vote for the IDP referendum because they feel there are so many diverse groups within RID and we can’t give all… Read more »
Member

This is a great discussion. I appreciate the perspective shared in the interview and the comments. I value the contributions of the diverse people who make up our field! I think the native and non-native alike bring different skill sets, as Laurie mentioned, and that we need to respectfully acknowledge what we all bring to the table. Perhaps I’m too optimistic but I hope this brings us to a place of more unity and appreciation for one another and away from the place of hierarchical status and division.
Thanks for sharing the interview and prompting discussion!

Member
This is the perspective of a Deaf person who was one of many Deaf persons who functioned as ‘interpreters’ in the Deaf Community before the word ‘interpreter’ became a byword for ‘hearing interpreter’. This was before RID existed. My message is delivered with respect and a goal towards bringing attention to an essential part of the dialogue regarding the Deaf Community and RID. Hence, with all due respect to Interpreters with Deaf Parents (IDP) and ‘connected’ interpreters, RID was never connected to the Deaf Community and its values thus its foundation was built on ‘sinking sand’ from day one. The… Read more »
bcolonomos
Member
Hello all, I so wish we had been having these discussions for the past 10 years; maybe we wouldn’t be in this place. I want to thank Aaron, Bill and other non-IDP (I don’t like this label…codas often call you “real hearing interpreters”) interpreters for your passion and eloquence in saying what we cannot say. You are valued, respected, and trusted friends of the coda/Deaf communities. You acknowledge IDP contributions to the work and you complement our work with your own gifts. Those who don’t “get it” gain much more from your insights than ours, which appear to be self-serving.… Read more »
Member
Hi Betty, I saw your comment and that struck me as odd, because I remembered receving emails from RID and seeing reminders. I checked my inbox and found two emails: The first one was dated 12/19/2012 and was only about the Bylaws. The subject of the email was “RID Member Vote NOW OPEN”. The next one was the January 9 eNews sent out by RID, and the same information in the 12/19/2012 email was included in the eNews as the fourth item. I’ve copied the text from those emails below. I also subscribe to RID’s Facebook page and I feel… Read more »
bcolonomos
Member
Hi Hilary, Thanks for your response. Perhaps I should have been able to figure out that when RID announced 2-3 months ahead of time that a vote was now open that they really meant “go respond to a survey.” I was looking for a “ballot” for two weeks until someone from IDP enlightened me. Why wouldn’t RID have their webmaster update the site to allow for VOTING? I did not imagine that a professional organization would categorize a By Laws referendum as a survey. Given the meager numbers of members who care enough to read these emails, this issue was… Read more »
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[…] Brandon Arthur interviews Laurie Nash, Vice Chair of the Interpreters with Deaf Parents (IDP) Member Section of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), on the stunning retraction of the referendum, that if passed,…  […]

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