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Update on ROPA

Vin Steponaitis

As reported by Secretary Lynne Sebastian (page 3), SAA's members just voted to adopt the "Proposal for the Establishment of the Register of Professional Archaeologists," also known as ROPA [for additional background, see SAA Bulletin 15(3):6-14]. The proposal passed convincingly, by a three-to-one margin. At the same time, the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) also held a membership vote on this proposal; their members passed it as well.

These two votes, coupled with the earlier endorsement of the proposal by the Society of Professional Archeologists (SOPA), mean that steps will now be taken to formally establish ROPA under the joint sponsorship of SAA and SHA. The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), which also collaborated in drafting the proposal, has not yet voted on whether to join the consortium of sponsoring organizations, but is expected to decide soon.

Under the terms of the proposal, ROPA will be legally established as a nonprofit organization, separate from SAA, and will be governed by its own board of directors. The ROPA's initial "transitional" board will consist of three of SOPA's current officers--President Bill Lees, Treasurer Rochelle Marrinan, and Secretary John Hart--and one additional member named by each of the sponsoring organizations. I have just appointed our immediate past president, Bill Lipe, to serve as SAA's representative on this transitional board. Bill took an active part in drafting the ROPA proposal and understands the key issues as well as anyone. I'm very grateful to Bill for taking on this important task.

The first meeting of this transitional board will take place at the SHA annual meeting in Atlanta on January 10, 1988. The sponsoring organizations and AIA have been invited to send additional representatives to this meeting if they wish. Bill Lipe and I will both attend on behalf of SAA. Among the topics to be tackled at this inaugural meeting are the drafting of bylaws and the mechanics of starting ROPA.

As soon as ROPA is created, it will take over SOPA's day-to-day functions, and SOPA itself will become "dormant." That is, SOPA will retain its legal status as an organization but will become inactive. If ROPA meets its membership targets and proves to be financially viable, SOPA will disband. On the other hand, if ROPA doesn't flourish (hopefully, an unlikely event), then SOPA will revive and ROPA will dissolve.

The members of SAA, SHA, and SOPA have already taken an important step toward enhancing professionalism in our discipline by passing the ROPA proposal. But that is just the first step. It's now up to all of us to make ROPA work. The key to ROPA's success lies in the participation of a large fraction of SAA's members. The more of us to become Registered Professional Archaeologists (RPAs), the more credibility that credential will have, and the more effective ROPA's grievance procedures will be in enforcing professional standards. All current SOPA members will automatically become RPAs, but these alone will not provide the critical mass that ROPA needs to be successful. So I encourage all qualified SAA members to register with ROPA as soon as the application procedures are set up. More information on these procedures will be published in future issues of the Bulletin and will be made available through SAA's web site (

Vin Steponaitis is president of SAA.

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