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Comments from the Membership on the ROPA Proposal

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Certification and Professionalism
Mark J. Lynott

Archaeology has changed a lot during the last 25 years. In addition to phenomenal growth in the number of jobs available, we have witnessed a diversification in the types of jobs in which people trained in archaeology are employed. As part of this diversification, we have seen a shift from a largely academic and scholarly discipline to a rapidly growing profession. While we certainly applaud the growth in the archaeological job market, we must recognize that we have not planned or prepared ourselves for the responsibilities that now fall on the profession.

Twenty-five years ago, archaeology was mostly an academic discipline. Employment was largely limited to universities, colleges, and museums, where archaeologists were engaged in teaching and research. Training at that time was appropriately focused on method and theory, and most graduate students aspired to a university-based career. When cultural resource management came rushing into the picture in the 1970s, we were all pleased at the influx of funds, jobs, and research opportunities. However, very few anthropology/archaeology programs offered formal training for careers outside of academia. A wide range of ethical and practical challenges were suddenly thrust upon a new generation of archaeologists, who were forced to cope with new situations without any formal training or guidelines.

Anticipating the need for guidelines and standards in the rapidly developing field of archaeology, an SAA committee formed the Society of Professional Archeologists in 1976. Although only a relatively small number of eligible archaeologists chose to join SOPA, the SOPA Code of Ethics and Standards of Research Performance have been adopted or used by many state and local government agencies in implementing archaeological programs. SOPA remains the only organization in North America that provides criteria to certify individuals as professional archaeologists. While the concept of professional certification was new and radical in 1976, it has been generally accepted by participants in the cultural resource management field.

Between 1991 and 1996, I had the opportunity to serve as cochair on the SAA Ethics in Archaeology Task Force. We were originally asked to consider the ethical issues associated with using data from looted contexts in research and publication. However, it became apparent that our real task was to provide an updated ethics policy for SAA. The culmination of this effort was the development of eight Principles of Archaeological Ethics. These principles are intended to be guidelines, which differ greatly from standards of minimum levels of professional conduct, such as the SOPA Code of Ethics and Standards of Research Performance.

SOPA was organized at a time when there was a growing need for professional certification, but archaeologists as a group were unwilling to recognize the need for certification and professional standards. At that time, archaeology was developing into a profession, and archaeologists were learning that a professional is more than someone who earns a living in a particular field. During the development of the Principles of Archaeological Ethics, it was apparent that few people have been trained in ethics and professional conduct. It was also apparent that there is no consensus of what is appropriate professional behavior in the wide range of activities in which archaeologists are now engaged.

Mature professions all develop certification criteria, and most maintain self-policing programs. The proposed Registry of Professional Archaeologists offers archaeology the opportunity to establish a solid foundation for professionalism in the next century. Combined with the increasing attention being paid to ethics by SAA, AIA, and other archaeological societies, ROPA can be one of the factors that encourages consolidation of archaeological practitioners. There has been a lot of discussion about the fragmentation of archaeology since the advent of CRM. I maintain that the fragmentation can be neutralized if we recognize that archaeology is a profession, and we have an obligation to define professionalism, and live up to the standards of our profession however we may be employed. ROPA represents an important step in the maturation of our discipline into a profession.

Mark J. Lynott is with the Midwest Archeological Center at the National Park Service in Lincoln, Nebr.

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A Vote for ROPA is a Commitment to Increased Professionalism
Charles M. Niquette

To be quite honest, I was extremely skeptical when the idea of ROPA was first brought to my attention. As I recall, this occurred at a time when it appeared that SAA was attempting to be all things to all practitioners of our discipline. For example, we were told by Ralph Johnson (SAA's previous executive director) and Bruce Smith (SAA past president) at a seminal meeting held in Lexington, Ky., that there was no need to create what later became the American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA); SAA was perfectly capable of meeting the needs of its CRM constituency. Similarly, there were rumblings (real or simply perceived) about bringing Teresa Kintz's newsletter for archaeological technicians, "The Underground," into the fold. Through a newly created ROPA, SAA could fulfill the needs of those in SOPA. For the first time, we learned that a field technician's union had been formed and many of us initially learned that, indeed, SAA's dues were climbing, its operating budged soared, and it appeared that something was amiss. In retrospect, much of my apprehension can be attributed to growing pains for the society, perhaps to fear that SAA would be successful in warding off the creation of ACRA (an effort to which I was deeply committed), and to changing workplace conditions and what appeared to be threats to our livelihoods. Change is something that is constant in our lives. For some, the prospect of change is invigorating; whereas for others, fear of the unknown reigns. As one who wears or has worn hats in multiple organizations--SAA, SHA, SOPA, ACRA, to name a few--in my view ROPA was simply one more source of unnecessary change. Nevertheless, my position on ROPA has shifted 180 degrees.

I believe that ROPA has the potential to accomplish that which SOPA set out to do over 20 years ago, but which the organization has never achieved. This is to inject a major degree of professionalism into our discipline. If the majority of the members in each of the sister organizations join together in the effort to create ROPA, SOPA's standards of research performance and code of ethics will become the standard by which individual professionalism may be judged. In a nutshell, we will add that which has been lacking to date: accountability. Every qualified archaeologist in SAA should vote in favor of this initiative and should support the Register. To do otherwise maintains the status quo and fails to foster a commitment to professionalism within the discipline. ROPA does not negate the ideals espoused by SOPA; it enhances them for the professional growth and improvement of all of us. My biggest concern at this time is that perhaps we are not going far enough toward fostering a national system of continued education requirements, certification, and licensing for those who engage in archaeology in this country.

Charles M. Niquette is with Cultural Resource Analysis in Lexington, Ky.

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SOPA/ROPA: Important Both at Home and Abroad
Richard E. W. Adams

I believe that all qualified members of SAA should join the Society of Professional Archeologists (SOPA), which is likely to become the Register of Professional Archaeologists (ROPA) in the near future. The board of SAA and the board and members of SOPA have recently voted to make the conversion. The Archaeological Institute of America and the Society for Historical Archaeology both are supporting the conversion. In any case, the major activities of SOPA will continue. These are to credential archaeologists, affirm professional standards, and to establish, promote, and enforce professional ethics. These are matters that, strictly speaking, are outside the purview of SAA, although an SAA statement of ethics has recently been developed. Therefore, SOPA in either its present form or a converted form performs functions that are of vital interest to all professional archaeologists whether academic or CRM and whether working in this country or outside it. It should also be an indispensable part of all graduate student documents, and one should urge one's students to join as soon as they qualify.

Those of us who work in foreign countries have an equal stake in promotion of ethical and professional standards, as well as in certification of ourselves and colleagues. In Latin America, to take a case in point, government officials are often at a loss in judging the credentials of a foreigner. They have had some very bad experiences but have no objective measure of performance with which to judge. Credentials from SOPA or ROPA would be of considerable use to all concerned if they are backed by the major archaeological societies of the United States.

The matter of all qualified individuals becoming active participants in either SOPA or ROPA, in my opinion, is a matter of urgent and vital concern to all members of the profession.

Richard E. W. Adams is at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

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