Difference between pages "The Peace Corps' Shortage of Applicants" and "NPCA: Declining to Empower Peace Corps Volunteer Applicants"

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The Peace Corps touts how many initial “applications” it receives, but this is a cover for the fact that there is currently no surplus of applicants '''who are medically qualified to become Peace Corps Volunteers.''' Only medically fit applicants can become Volunteers, so emphasizing the number of initial “applicant” pool is irrelevant and misleading.
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Peace Corps Wiki has approached the National Peace Corps Association about posting the early quit rate data and the Volunteer survey responses on its website. It has also urged NPCA to post the data about the shortage of applicants. This information empowers applicants. Indeed Peace Corps Wiki said that if NPCA would do so, Peace Corps Wiki would be transferred to NPCA. NPCA has declined these invitations and offers – and refused to act to empower applicants so Peace Corps Wiki has remained independent.  
  
Indeed, for the Peace Corps to tout the number of initial “applicants” – the number before the medical screening process – is intentionally misleading. '''The Peace Corps knows that applicants might not be interested in joining the Peace Corps if they knew that the agency is having trouble filling its slots.'''
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Founded in 1979, NPCA has struggled financially because so few of the returned Volunteers find it in their interest to become members. As a consequence, NPCA has become financially enmeshed with the Peace Corps and has no appetite to defend applicants and the Volunteers because this might jeopardize this financial life-line. NPCA’s entanglement with the Peace Corps is clear: from 2003 to 2010 the Peace Corps provided $790,639.44 to NPCA to pay for operating expenses. Source: FOIA Request Number 10-065.  
  
'''The truth is that there is no selectivity at the Peace Corps''' – other than to determine if the applicant is ambulatory. 100% of the applicants who are medically fit are invited to training and service as a Volunteer.
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NPCA’s annual report for 2013 reveals NPCA’s financially vulnerable condition. Its membership revenues were only $198,120 compared to membership expenses of $147,962. It raised $247,137 in donations but its fundraising expenses were $102,097. The bottom line is troubling: NPCA ran a deficit of $148,000. It comes then as no surprise that this annual report emphasizes the bottom line for NPCA: “A close and collaborative relationship with the Peace Corps is fundamental to our organizational goals.
  
'''This means that applicants who are medically fit have virtually unlimited leverage with the Peace Corps to control the placement process.''' They can insist on being sent to a country with a low early quit rates (posted in Wiki) and one with the best survey responses from the Volunteers (posted in Wiki). The Peace Corps cannot say – as if so often does – “if you don’t accept this offer, there might not be another.” When there is no surplus, that ruse is a hollow bluff. The Peace Corps has no surplus of applicants it can turn to if one applicant become selective and refuses to adhere to the script of the bureaucrats.
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The NPCA won’t act to empower the applicants. It won’t defend the interests of the Volunteers in the field or press the Peace Corps to act more professionally in managing them. That’s too risky given its shaky finances and financial dependence on the Peace Corps.
  
Applicants should have no fear insisting that they be placed in a country with a low early quit rate and strongly positive ratings from the Volunteers in the annual survey. With the Peace Corps all the power rests with the applicants. This is a case where the buyer is king. In the commercial market place, if there are many more sellers than buyers, the buyers are king. That’s the situation with the Peace Corps application process.
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==WorldView - A Peace Corps-Controlled Publication==
  
The Peace Corps has tacitly acknowledged this situation with its recent statement that it will now – as it never has before – seek to honor the country and program requests of the applicants, seek to expedite the onerous medical screening process, and otherwise cater to the applicants. It would never do this if it weren’t forced to do so by a shortage of applicants. See [http://www.peacecorps.gov/media/forpress/press/2418/ http://www.peacecorps.gov/media/forpress/press/2418/] for more information.
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NPCA’s vulnerability to Peace Corps pressure was most evident in December of 2007. NPCA has acknowledged that the Peace Corps, which bitterly opposed the then-pending Dodd Peace Corps reform bill, threatened to cancel its subscription to NPCA’s flagship publication – WorldView – if NPCA did not give the Peace Corps an opportunity to review the articles prior to publication to make sure that they did not offend the Peace Corps, e.g. did not include articles that criticized management or advocated reform.  
  
'''It appears that there is no only a shortage of applications but that the number of Peace Corps Volunteers in the field is declining in real terms.''' In 2009 there were 4188 Volunteers who entered service, in 2010 it was 4338, in 2011 it was only 3431, and in 2012 it was 2871. '''This implies that the problem is worse than the absence of a surplus; the Peace Corps is contracting. It’s in decline.'''
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The Peace Corps purchases copies of WorldView to distribute to all of the Volunteers in the field. If it did not do so, the finances for WorldView would immediately collapse and NPCA would need to suspend publication. The article that led to the Peace Corps demand and threat apparently was an article given “final” approval to be published by the dozen-year WorldView editor, Dave Arnold, by Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff calling for Peace Corps reform, including protection for Volunteer whistle blowers.  
  
Would an individual want to attend a college that could barely fill its Freshman class and accepted 100% of the applicants? Or is not able to fill its Freshman class? What would this lack of selectivity mean in terms of the quality of their classmates and the value of the degree?
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Apparently because of the Peace Corps threat, the President of NPCA – compromising the editorial independence of WorldView and the independence of NPCA – cancelled the offending article. He has acknowledged the Peace Corps’ threat but denied that the article cancellation had any connection to it. Immediately after the article was cancelled, Arnold left NPCA and refused to explain why he did so.
  
Six years ago Wiki received data from the Peace Corps – via a FOIA request – that in FY 2007 the Peace Corps received 11,108 applications, but only 4,588 survived the medical and legal clearance process to become “qualified.” Of this pool, 4,408 were invited to training. This means that of this pool of “qualified” applicants, all but 180 or 96% were invited to training. The ratio of those who were medically and legally cleared to those who were invited to training was 1.04 to 1. Pursuant to the same FOIF request, Wiki found that in FY 2008 the Peace Corps reports that it received 13,041 applications, but only 4,265 survived the medical and legal clearance process to become “qualified.” Of this pool, 4,123 were invited to training. This means that from this pool of “qualified” applicant, all but 142 or 96.7% were invited to training. The ratio of those who were medically cleared to those who were invited to training was 1.03 to 1.
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Cancelling the WorldView article was part of NPCA’s joint campaign with the Peace Corps to kill the Dodd Peace Corps reform bill. That bill included whistle blower provisions – designed to empower Volunteer whistle blowers. Sadly, two years later, after the bill had been killed, Kate Puzey, a Volunteer whistle blower, was murdered by those staff in retaliation for her blowing the whistle on them. At the time, the Peace Corps was the only agency of the government that did not grant its staff and employees whistle blower protection. It had no rules to protect Kate, to preserve her confidentiality, or to provide here with security protection. The shame that has blanketed the Peace Corps regarding this horrific incident also blankets NPCA.  
  
When Wiki filed a FOIA request to update this data, it was absolutely clear what Wiki wanted. Indeed, Wiki cited the data it had previously received from the Peace Corps as the template for what it requested in the new request. Nonetheless, the Peace Corps dissembled for six months – repeatedly misconstruing the date that Wiki sought and forwarding the wrong data to Wiki – in an obvious attempt to hide the embarrassing facts about the applicant pool shortage.
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==Developments During the Obama Administration==
  
The Peace Corps finally complied with FOIA and provided current data that show that of the applicants who are medically fit in 2009 89% were invited to training and service, for 2010 it was 87%, for 2011 it was 90%, and for 2012 it was 99%. Indeed, in 2012, only 16 of the applicants who were found to be medically fit were not invited to training and service. Printed below is the table from which these percentages are derived.
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More recent developments under the Obama Administration make it clear that the Peace Corps opposition to empowering Volunteer whistle blowers runs deep. The 2009 Dodd bill (S. 1382) – as reported form the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – requested that the Peace Corps prepare an assessment of 
  
The lack of selectivity at the Peace Corps compares unfavorably with the acceptance rate for Teach for America, which also involves a two-year service commitment. In 2011 it received a record number of 48,000 applications. The organization selected 5,200 applicants to be teachers — 77 percent graduated this spring, 6 percent of them graduate students and 17 percent professionals.  In 2010 the organization received 46,000 applications and had an acceptance rate of 12 percent. In 2008, it had just over 24,700 applications with an acceptance rate of nearly 15 percent.
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(Q) mechanisms for soliciting the views of volunteers serving in the Peace Corps, on a confidential basis, regarding--
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(i) the support provided to such volunteers by senior staff of the Peace Corps; and
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(ii) the operations of the Peace Corps, including-- (I) staffing decisions; (II) site selection; (III) language training; (IV) country programs; and (V) dialogue with host country partners and ministries;
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(R) mechanisms for incorporating the views solicited in subparagraph (Q) into programming and management decisions…
  
The fact that the Peace Corps is not selective – other than for medical fitness – means that it is not able to select the applicants who have the greatest commitment to grassroots development assistance, those with the deepest experience in immersion in a foreign culture, or those with particularly useful skills. The absence of selectivity means that the Peace Corps is taking in many who will quit early – one explanation for the high, costly and embarrassing early quit rates.  
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To be sure, Dodd’s 2009 call for a Peace Corps assessment of the whistle blower issues is a trivial gesture compared to the provisions of Dodd’s 2007 bill that mandated that the Peace Corps set up these listening mechanisms and protect Volunteer whistle blowers. But Senator Dodd did demand an assessment.
  
'''The bottom line for applicants is clear. Applicants have power. They can insist that they be sent to a country with a low early quit rate and superior ratings form the Volunteers in the annual surveys. Wiki recommends that applicants insist on their requests and if they are not honored to put their applications on hold until they are honored.'''
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In June of 2010, responding to the Dodd request, the Peace Corps issued its “comprehensive assessment” of the Peace Corps. Not surprisingly, the assessment fails to mention the concept of whistle blower “confidentiality.” It fails to mention the word “whistle blower” or discuss protection of Volunteer whistle blowers. This report was issued after Kate Puzey had been murdered, so the Peace Corps was well aware of the consequences of not protecting Volunteer whistle blowers. No word of objection to this omission came from NPCA.
  
The Peace Corps may complain that these are not the most current statistics, but rather than complain, it has the power to publish the most current statistics. It could admit that there is an application shortage. It could admit that it is not able to be selective, other than for medical fitness. As for Wiki, we have found securing data from the Peace Corps under the Freedom of Information Act to be so difficult and painful that we will not be filing additional FOIA requests to secure updates of the selectivity/application data. Wiki urges applicants to request the most current data from their recruitment officer. (Applicants must always seek the percentage of applicants who have survived the medical screening process who are invited to training.) If the placement officer won’t provide the current statistics, applicants should put their applications on hold until the Peace Corps becomes transparent with applicants.
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Only when ABCs 20/20 program publicized the Puzey case did the Peace Corps finally issue (weak) rules protecting Peace Corps Volunteers. (It published these rules the same day the program aired.) It did not issue rules to protect Peace Cops staff whistle blowers. No word of objection to this embarrassment came from NPCA.
  
To be clear, the reason why Wiki is publishing this data is to encourage the Peace Corps to intervene to reform the poorly managed programs. If applicants use the data Wiki is providing, to become selective, and use their power arising from the shortage of applicants, the Peace Corps may be forced to reform the poorly managed programs. Wiki is attempting to use market forces – consumer demand – to drive reform. Applicants have power, both to secure an invitation to serve in a well managed country and also to encourage the Peace Corps to overhaul the poorly managed countries.
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Rather than protecting Volunteers, a higher priority for NPCA is the construction of a “commemorative” to the Peace Corps on or near the National Mall – with a budget of up to $7 million.  
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Wiki had hoped that the new management of NPCA would reconsider its priorities, starting with publishing the early quit rate data and survey rankings – and the shortage of applications. They have refused to do so. Wiki continues to invite NPCA to join it in empowering applicants and championing the interests of Volunteers, including Volunteer whistle blowers. It invites NPCA to post the early quit rate rankings and the country rankings found in the Volunteer surveys. Wiki invites the NPCA to explain to applicants why the shortage of applicants empowers those applicants who survive the medical screening process. The issue for NPCA is existential: Does it truly represent the interests of the Volunteers and applicants or serve as a lapdog to the Peace Corps?

Revision as of 10:51, 29 September 2014

Peace Corps Wiki has approached the National Peace Corps Association about posting the early quit rate data and the Volunteer survey responses on its website. It has also urged NPCA to post the data about the shortage of applicants. This information empowers applicants. Indeed Peace Corps Wiki said that if NPCA would do so, Peace Corps Wiki would be transferred to NPCA. NPCA has declined these invitations and offers – and refused to act to empower applicants – so Peace Corps Wiki has remained independent.

Founded in 1979, NPCA has struggled financially because so few of the returned Volunteers find it in their interest to become members. As a consequence, NPCA has become financially enmeshed with the Peace Corps and has no appetite to defend applicants and the Volunteers because this might jeopardize this financial life-line. NPCA’s entanglement with the Peace Corps is clear: from 2003 to 2010 the Peace Corps provided $790,639.44 to NPCA to pay for operating expenses. Source: FOIA Request Number 10-065.

NPCA’s annual report for 2013 reveals NPCA’s financially vulnerable condition. Its membership revenues were only $198,120 compared to membership expenses of $147,962. It raised $247,137 in donations but its fundraising expenses were $102,097. The bottom line is troubling: NPCA ran a deficit of $148,000. It comes then as no surprise that this annual report emphasizes the bottom line for NPCA: “A close and collaborative relationship with the Peace Corps is fundamental to our organizational goals.”

The NPCA won’t act to empower the applicants. It won’t defend the interests of the Volunteers in the field or press the Peace Corps to act more professionally in managing them. That’s too risky given its shaky finances and financial dependence on the Peace Corps.

WorldView - A Peace Corps-Controlled Publication

NPCA’s vulnerability to Peace Corps pressure was most evident in December of 2007. NPCA has acknowledged that the Peace Corps, which bitterly opposed the then-pending Dodd Peace Corps reform bill, threatened to cancel its subscription to NPCA’s flagship publication – WorldView – if NPCA did not give the Peace Corps an opportunity to review the articles prior to publication to make sure that they did not offend the Peace Corps, e.g. did not include articles that criticized management or advocated reform.

The Peace Corps purchases copies of WorldView to distribute to all of the Volunteers in the field. If it did not do so, the finances for WorldView would immediately collapse and NPCA would need to suspend publication. The article that led to the Peace Corps demand and threat apparently was an article given “final” approval to be published by the dozen-year WorldView editor, Dave Arnold, by Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff calling for Peace Corps reform, including protection for Volunteer whistle blowers.

Apparently because of the Peace Corps threat, the President of NPCA – compromising the editorial independence of WorldView and the independence of NPCA – cancelled the offending article. He has acknowledged the Peace Corps’ threat but denied that the article cancellation had any connection to it. Immediately after the article was cancelled, Arnold left NPCA and refused to explain why he did so.

Cancelling the WorldView article was part of NPCA’s joint campaign with the Peace Corps to kill the Dodd Peace Corps reform bill. That bill included whistle blower provisions – designed to empower Volunteer whistle blowers. Sadly, two years later, after the bill had been killed, Kate Puzey, a Volunteer whistle blower, was murdered by those staff in retaliation for her blowing the whistle on them. At the time, the Peace Corps was the only agency of the government that did not grant its staff and employees whistle blower protection. It had no rules to protect Kate, to preserve her confidentiality, or to provide here with security protection. The shame that has blanketed the Peace Corps regarding this horrific incident also blankets NPCA.

Developments During the Obama Administration

More recent developments under the Obama Administration make it clear that the Peace Corps opposition to empowering Volunteer whistle blowers runs deep. The 2009 Dodd bill (S. 1382) – as reported form the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – requested that the Peace Corps prepare an assessment of

(Q) mechanisms for soliciting the views of volunteers serving in the Peace Corps, on a confidential basis, regarding-- (i) the support provided to such volunteers by senior staff of the Peace Corps; and (ii) the operations of the Peace Corps, including-- (I) staffing decisions; (II) site selection; (III) language training; (IV) country programs; and (V) dialogue with host country partners and ministries; (R) mechanisms for incorporating the views solicited in subparagraph (Q) into programming and management decisions…

To be sure, Dodd’s 2009 call for a Peace Corps assessment of the whistle blower issues is a trivial gesture compared to the provisions of Dodd’s 2007 bill that mandated that the Peace Corps set up these listening mechanisms and protect Volunteer whistle blowers. But Senator Dodd did demand an assessment.

In June of 2010, responding to the Dodd request, the Peace Corps issued its “comprehensive assessment” of the Peace Corps. Not surprisingly, the assessment fails to mention the concept of whistle blower “confidentiality.” It fails to mention the word “whistle blower” or discuss protection of Volunteer whistle blowers. This report was issued after Kate Puzey had been murdered, so the Peace Corps was well aware of the consequences of not protecting Volunteer whistle blowers. No word of objection to this omission came from NPCA.

Only when ABCs 20/20 program publicized the Puzey case did the Peace Corps finally issue (weak) rules protecting Peace Corps Volunteers. (It published these rules the same day the program aired.) It did not issue rules to protect Peace Cops staff whistle blowers. No word of objection to this embarrassment came from NPCA.

Rather than protecting Volunteers, a higher priority for NPCA is the construction of a “commemorative” to the Peace Corps on or near the National Mall – with a budget of up to $7 million.

Wiki had hoped that the new management of NPCA would reconsider its priorities, starting with publishing the early quit rate data and survey rankings – and the shortage of applications. They have refused to do so. Wiki continues to invite NPCA to join it in empowering applicants and championing the interests of Volunteers, including Volunteer whistle blowers. It invites NPCA to post the early quit rate rankings and the country rankings found in the Volunteer surveys. Wiki invites the NPCA to explain to applicants why the shortage of applicants empowers those applicants who survive the medical screening process. The issue for NPCA is existential: Does it truly represent the interests of the Volunteers and applicants or serve as a lapdog to the Peace Corps?