The following is a conversation that has been taking place between the CIT Board and one member, Betty Colonomos. The board has decided to open this conversation up to our membership as it is about the culture and identity of our organization.
October 27, 2014
CIT Board Members,
First, allow me to preface my remarks by saying that what I am describing here took place with previous boards so this is about what you have inherited. I hope you will take these comments to heart and see fit to shift CIT’s culture a bit.
If you haven’t seen the Street Leverage Webinar presented by Dennis Cokely and Anna Witter-Merithew, I strongly urge you to do so. For many of the audience it was enlightening, for others refreshing. It was the first public presentation I have seen from two of our field’s outstanding contributors and leaders that illuminated the reason’s for our failure in producing competent interpreters who are ready for work. More importantly for me, there was a plea for us to take responsibility to do something effective to address the current disaster (that is not likely to diminish any time soon.)
Perhaps in the minds of earlier Board members, the desire was to “upgrade” our status as a field. One of the subtle ways things changed was a (conscious?) shift to “academize” interpreter education by separating ‘educator’ —to mean a person affiliated with a post-secondary institution from—from ‘workshop presenter’. The problem with this categorization is that it excludes people who are excellent educators (meaning effectively helping people learn) who choose to work outside the university system. For a number of conferences, the CIT program committees have chosen to reject proposals from people like me, Theresa Smith, Sharon Neumann-Solow, Carla Mathers, and others who make a huge impact on the field.
These are the people who do what is not–and can not be—done within the confines of the academic setting; they contribute to the growth of interpreters currently in the field, students, and recent graduates. For example, I currently offer an eight part series on interpreting processes (92 hours) and have been leading a group called the Etna Project for twelve years in NH (and 4 years in MD) that focuses on developing reflective practitioners. I would hardly call these ‘workshops’, but CIT does not have a place for these long-term, intensive educational experiences. I am sure others are doing similar things.
In addition, we are often not financially supported by institutions and grants so it is sometimes quite a sacrifice to come to conferences. For me, the passion for the work we do has been more powerful than what I give up to come.
I do believe that members of the Board respect my work; however, I do not understand the need to make these kinds of distinctions. If it is a matter of academic rigor then people teaching in certificate programs should be separated from those teaching in Masters programs. I do not support this idea, but I am trying to understand the possible rationale for the decision.
In any event, I am hopeful that the current CIT Board wants to do the right thing and find better ways to group the membership. Despite the comments denying such a disparity, this Board needs to acknowledge that what has become CIT’s culture has been and currently is a place where people like me don’t fit.
Wishing you a successful conference. I look forward to attending CIT in the future.
Betty M. Colonomos, Director
Bilingual Mediation Center, Inc.
College Park, MD
November 17, 2014
Sorry to be so slow responding to your letter, Betty. I am finally digging out after the whirlwind of the conference!
I did share your letter with the other board members while we were at the conference and we had a discussion about it. The members of the board want to address the issue about proposals being rejected from CIT members like you who have so much to contribute. I have cc’d Kimberly Hale in this email. She is the Director of Research and Publications and would like to discuss the this issue further with you if possible.
Several of the board members are not affiliated with academic institutions (as well as many members), so as a group we definitely support the contributions of those who are not within the confines of an academic setting. We discussed possibly having your letter posted in the CIT News in order to generate further discussion with the members. Is this something you would be willing to do? We look forward to continued discussion with you and others so that the CIT culture is viewed as open to all members. Thanks again, Betty, for taking the time to write the letter and let us know your concerns.
What do you think? What ideas do you have to contribute for how CIT’s culture can appreciate the contributions of all of its members?