Dear SPSP community,

We are reaching out to acknowledge our receipt of several open letters, individual emails and requests, and petitions for action by the SPSP Board in response to anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic speech and behaviors directed toward SPSP members and to support university students and faculty's First Amendment right to protest.

We would like to begin this message by expressing our sincere respect for and support of our members, particularly those who have been most affected by the recent and ongoing events in the Middle East—including but not limited to our Arab, Southwest, and South Asian, North African, and Muslim members, and our Jewish members. We value your perspectives and experiences, contributions to our science (whether your work is related to intergroup conflict, intergroup violence, genocide, or religious prejudice or not), and membership in this vibrant and diverse community of scholars.

The SPSP Board of Directors condemns all forms of violence, including the ongoing violence against Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the aggressive actions taken against peaceful protesters on university campuses in recent weeks. Likewise, we acknowledge that Anti-Muslim prejudice and Antisemitism are systems of oppression that have historical antecedents and perpetuate systemic disadvantage among marginalized groups in the present. As personality and social psychologists who seek to understand people's thoughts and behaviors in different contexts and examine how people understand and interact with other people and groups, we condemn this violence and the hateful attitudes that have fueled it.

First, we want to assure the membership that we, the Board, have read each communication carefully and take every suggestion and recommendation seriously. Since SPSP's initial statement after the most recent crisis in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict began last October, and again in the months since the SPSP Annual Convention, the SPSP Board/Executive Committee has arranged eight meetings with various stakeholders in and outside our organization such as the Diversity and Climate Committee Co-Chairs (DCC), Convention Committee, and the affected parties to review racist actions in our online platform and physical spaces and the Board's various responses (with several more meetings being planned). These meetings have been designed to help the Board understand the concerns of affected members and our missteps, while collaboratively and proactively developing a process to make amends with those who have been harmed.

We are finalizing the development of a four-pronged action plan, which is currently undergoing review and revision by various stakeholders. This initiative is aimed at repairing harm and improving member relations by increasing the representation of underrepresented and historically marginalized voices on SPSP committees and the Board, as well as providing opportunities to contribute to personality and social psychological science research. We apologize for our missteps and are working proactively to repair the damage they have caused.

Second, we acknowledge that our response to the open letters, individual emails and requests, and petitions has been slow—slower than our members and we would have liked. The Board has wanted to create space for the kind of thoughtful discussions and reflection that are required for an issue of this magnitude. Still, we understand that the delay may have caused concern over the care we take to ensure voices are acknowledged. We want to assure the membership that we are working hard to be responsive by, primarily, ensuring that diverse parties have a voice and a seat at the table as we develop and execute a reparative process.

The letters we received are a call to action for SPSP, and we intend to address those aspects within our purview by dedicating SPSP time and financial resources. As individual citizens, scholars, and persons, we have a duty to address these matters; it is essential and morally necessary. SPSP will respond however we can, but in some instances, the organization is limited by law and policy (i.e., its non-profit status), as well as by its own power and resources. Thus, there are some requests that SPSP cannot directly address. While not exhaustive (and in summative form), we provide high-level information below regarding several initiatives the Board has begun to map out that address the concerns shared in several open letters, individual emails, and petitions. We have developed the following approach based on the resources available to SPSP and hope to devote continued effort and resources to addressing these systemic problems as time progresses. We do not view these as one-time fixes, but rather as a starting point while we create a longer-term plan and secure resources to support these actions. In the coming weeks, following discussions with affected parties and key stakeholders and anticipated revisions, we will offer specific details regarding each aspect of this plan.

  1. Request: Listen, engage, protect. The SPSP Board has been working on several fronts to address these concerns by convening meetings with several groups expressing a lack of support and protection (i.e., in our online forums, at our conventions, and at our universities in response to protest). These ongoing conversations have informed our (work-in-progress) plan of action. We offer several examples, as we will: 1) engage in ongoing conversations and guidance from diverse parties in the development of reparative, educational, and scientific initiatives, 2) revise the convention peer review process, 3) provide an on-site ombudsperson at the Annual Convention, and 4) provide support for the organization of a Free-Form Friday session or talk series about religious prejudice and hate, how protesters can protect themselves, how to support others, join unions, etc. (in collaboration with SPSP's DCC and impacted communities).
  2. Request: Create safe and welcoming spaces. We are planning to 1) evaluate options to provide an interfaith prayer and meditation space at the Annual Convention for all members, regardless of their religious beliefs, 2) develop systems for engaging the DEI representative on each SPSP committee (led by SPSP's DCC), and 3) provide educational sessions that help SPSP Board members understand how bias may be manifesting in the organization and research conferences, and ways to mitigate it (with recommendations from SPSP's DCC and impacted communities).
  3. Request: Support impacted communities—with time, space, and money. In supporting this request, SPSP has designed several initiatives to build and support our diverse communities and to diversify the SPSP leadership. For example, though not exhaustive, SPSP will 1) allocate a Community Catalyst Grant and rapid response grants to advance research on topics related to intergroup conflict, intergroup violence, genocide, or religious prejudice, 2) dedicate time at the Annual Convention for affinity groups to gather for support and networking, and 3) build a system to increase the representation of underrepresented and historically marginalized members on the Board including those who identify as Arab, Southwest and South Asian, North African, and Muslim (in collaboration with the Nominations & Elections Committee).
  4. Request: Sanctioning. SPSP is limited in sanctioning individuals beyond SPSP-sponsored events and in publishing or online resources. If, however, there is a finding from an external institution that conduct occurred that violates our Code of Conduct or Code of Ethics, we would then consider whether such conduct should trigger any action within SPSP. When harassment (including racism) occurs in our designated spaces, we can and will respond. We are currently working to revise our reporting system to capture harassment faced by members and our legally allowed response. In particular, academic freedom is a relevant issue to our society and is part and parcel of our mission, particularly if our members are threatened. SPSP is determining other approaches and guidance we can provide our members to support them during these challenges.

There are some recommendations provided by different groups that we cannot adopt now. The Board continues to thoughtfully consider these suggestions and will work directly with those who provided these recommendations to discuss alternatives that may be feasible for SPSP to enact.

The initiatives outlined above represent a first step at addressing the issues raised. We recognize that no plan is perfect and that some may feel that they were not heard or that their needs are not met. Though good solutions rarely appear rapidly, we hope that our willingness to continue the conversation, develop a plan of action, and openness to revision, communicates our sincere desire to improve member relations and advance personality and social psychological science now and in the future.

Sincerely,
The SPSP Board of Directors