One of NAUI's main competitive advantages in the recreational diving community is that it is the only major national certifying agency which is non-profit and democratic in nature. Because the membership controls the direction of the organization by electing the Directors, those who are allowed to vote would great responsibility. Currently the right to vote is held by Active and Sustaining Instructor members. This month's question examines whether that privilege should be extended.

The question begins with a review of the status of Skin Diving Leaders. All of those expressing an opinion on the question stated that the title should probably be changed to Skin Diving Instructors, as that best reflects the actual duties and responsibilities of those members. The title "Skin Diving Leader" has the connotation of a Divemaster, while renaming the group as Instructors would eliminate what most felt was a poor choice of wording. Interestingly, no current Skin Diving Leaders responded to the question. Anyone out there care to express an opinion?

As to extending the right to vote to leadership levels other than Instructor, the majority felt that there was no reason not to do so. They felt that by granting the right to vote, that more individuals would become involved in what would become an even more democratic organization.

A few dissenting opinions were expressed, surprisingly by several current Divemasters and Assistant Instructors. The general theme of the arguments advanced was that since Instructors have ultimate responsibility for training, that the Instructors should continue to control the Board and standards. The implicit assumption seemed to be that the other leadership members did not have the knowledge to vote intelligently on issues based on their current level of training and expertise.

Another point raised was that many of the non-Instructor leadership members are Instructor members of other certifying agencies. It was feared that extending the vote might have negative impacts on the further advancement and direction of NAUI.

Regardless, the ultimate decision on this issue will be decided by the membership currently entitled to vote. A change of this sort would require a revision of the By-Laws, which must be passed by a majority of the voting membership.

It would be interesting to see the results of an informal referendum on this matter. Any such action should include the comments and feedback from the Divemasters, Assistant Instructors, and Skin Diving Leaders, since those are the individuals who will be affected to the greatest degree.

QUESTION: "Should the certification title Skin Diving Leader be changed to Skin Diving Instructor? Should Skin Diving Leaders, Assistant Instructors, and/or Divemasters be given the right to vote? Why/why not?"

A. I would support a change in the title of Skin Diving Leader to Skin Diving Instructor. In my judgement, it would enhance the marketability of skin diving programs in resort areas and better reflect its' true nature. Minimum scuba certification of Divemaster should be required with standards best developed by a committee of educators including resort operators.

I believe the importance of Assistant Instructors (AIs) and Divemasters to this association's long term health has long been overlooked. I support finding ways to provide incentives to divers to become Divemasters and AIs. The business and fairness issues of allowing AIs and Divemasters an equal vote with Instructors does trouble me. We might want to consider creating an advisory seat on the Board of Directors, elected from AIs and Divemasters. I will be interested in the thoughts of the membership on this issue.

‑‑Richard Fernandez, NAUI 6741L; Miami Shores, FL (Member, NAUI Board of Directors. Teaches primarily entry level courses and as staff at ITCs. Helped initiate the recreational dive management program at Barry University.)

A. No. The ultimate responsibility for training and certifying students rests solely with the instructor and for that reason, I believe they alone should have the right to vote on NAUI issues.

--Doug Leteux, NAUI Z9497; Tallahassee, FL (Active AI with the Academic Diving Program at Florida State University.)

A. The Skin Diving Leader is an instructor having the authority to independently teach and certify students in the skills and techniques of skin diving. Currently the Skin Diving Leader has the authority, the responsibility, and the potential liability without the instructor level recognition. If we (as an organization) are ever to successfully promote skin diving as an independent activity and not simply as a means to another end (scuba), we must recognize, as professionals in their own right, those who are sanctioned to instruct. The Skin Diving Instructors, NAUI, and all the world's potential skin divers will benefit from this progressive move in underwater instruction.

--Dan Orr, NAUI 5612; Tallahassee, FL (Assistant Director and Associate Diving Officer of the Academic Diving Program at Florida State University. Former NAUI Mid-America Branch Manager. Has authored numerous articles on diving safety topics, as well as spoken on nitrox use at a variety of diving symposiums. Recipient of the NAUI Outstanding Service Award. Chairman of the newly formed NAUI Technical Committee.)

A. Yes, Skin Diving Leaders are skin diving instructors and should be recognized as such. A Skin Diving "Leader" has the connotation of being a skin diving "divemaster."

Yes, all three levels should vote since these are truly leadership roles. Skin Diving Instructors, Assistant Instructors, and Divemasters must assume just as much responsibility as any Instructor, and are at just as much risk (some even more so.) Responsibility without authority is dangerous. Without the ability to vote we are asking them to go out on a limb without the ability to choose which limb to go out on or how to do it safely. In addition to their input to NAUI it would also allow us to increase our membership without "diluting" it.

--Hank Tonnemacher, NAUI 4286; St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (President of Seven Seas Limited, a diving instructional and underwater videography company. As a Professional Educator has taught both privately and managed a number of resort diving operations. Has taught all levels up to and including ITCs. Past Dive Officer for Hydrolab, an underwater scientific habitat which was based at West Indies Laboratory.)

A. NAUI is faced with an interesting problem when considering whether or not AI's DM's and SDL's should be granted full voting privileges.

On one hand, a full membership association should allow all it's members an opportunity to influence the decision making in the organization. This would allow full allow full participation in the running of the association to all categories of membership.

A contrary view is one in which recognizes that the largest proportion of members falls not in the instructor category but in the non-instructor ratings. It is recognized that many of these individuals have no intention of ever becoming a NAUI Instructor and a fair percentage of them actually are instructors of other agencies and represent the other agencies to the public.

These individuals often do not have the allegiance, background or experience to make decisions which will affect the success and direction of the association. Their impact could be that of a relatively inexperienced and non-informed group of voters determining the direction and future of the instructor membership.

With this in mind, I feel that it is important to have the association protect the most important category of NAUI, the Instructor, and allowing non-instructors to vote would, in my opinion, jeopardize this.

--Jim Hicks, NAUI 4490; Newport Beach, CA (President of Western Seas Inc. and owner of Jim Hicks' NAUI College. Past NAUI National Training Director. Has taught all levels up to and including ITCs. Has authored many dive training articles., and spoken at numerous conferences.)

A. Yes, I believe that Assistant Instructors and Divemasters should have the right to vote because by having more voting members our organization stands a better chance of understanding what its complete membership thinks, wants, and needs.

--Brian Attis, NAUI Z9495; Tallahassee, FL (Active AI with the Academic Diving Program at Florida State University.)

A. Absolutely! I feel that a Skin Diving Leader is more of an instructor than a leader--if anything he is more akin to the Divemaster than Instructor currently. Maybe NAUI should start a new classification of Assistant Skin Diving Instructor as well.

As far as voting--we should include all leadership members as voting members. Strength comes from numbers.

--John N. Sayer, NAUI #11122; Fullerton, CA (Staff at North Orange County Regional Occupational Program. Teaches Openwater I to ITCs.)

A. I would love to have the right to vote, but I do not feel that would be conducive to the position of AIs or Divemasters. We have responsibilities, but the Instructor has the ultimate responsibility. As much as I would like to vote, I feel we must leave the decision making to the Instructors. In fact, the decision making process should be restricted just the active Instructors. Perhaps only those Instructors who certify some minimum number of students every year should be allowed to vote.

--Steve Wright, NAUI Z????, DM????; Santa Ana, CA (Active Divemaster an Assistant Instructor working with the Santa Ana College Dive Club. Has been actively involved in diving instruction for over a decade.)

A. Yes. Skin Diving Leaders face the same student problems as Instructors; watermanship, apprehension, etc. They are instructors in every sense of the word--and, if they wish, should be called Skin Diving Instructors. Before we make any changes, we should ask the current Skin Diving Leaders if they want a name change.

As to Assistant Instructors, Divemasters, and Skin Diving Leaders being able to vote... this same question was raised in the mid-70s and was defeated by the members. I supported giving these members the right to vote then and I support it even more today. Over the years, Assistant Instructors, Divemasters, and Skin Diving Leaders have assumed increased responsibility. They are vital members of our Association and, as such, should have a voice in our future.

--Ken Heist, NAUI 1036L; Crownsville, MD (Current Chairman of NAUI's Board of Directors. Past Branch Manager of the Mid-Atlantic Branch. Have taught all levels of diving to ITCs. Recipient of the NAUI Outstanding Service Award.)

A. The title change to Skin Diving Instructor would better reflect what the rating allows individuals to do: certify skin divers. The title of Skin Diving Leader calls to mind a leader of skin dives, like a Divemaster, not someone who also has the responsibilities of instruction. The name change would clarify this obscure leadership position.

I do not think there is any valid reason not to allow all of the leadership certified members an opportunity to vote. The idea that only Instructors and above have enough experience or knowledge to vote on issues only fosters elitism. I know there are many people at the leadership level with less than an instructor certification who are more knowledgeable about diving than some instructors. Let them vote and use their knowledge and experience in a constructive manner.

‑‑Shawn David Powell, NAUI 8725; Thermopolis, Wyoming (Employed by the Special Services Offices of the Hot Springs County School District. Held an Adjunct Faculty position at the University of Oklahoma, where he taught various levels of diving certification. Presented papers at the past three ICUEs, and has published many journals on topics of scuba diving, human learning, and animal facilitated therapy.)

A. The Skin Diving Leader has already, I believe, the prerogative to issue Skin Diving certifications -- and that would indicate that s/he is presently doing all the training/evaluation required of an instructor. I think the title of "Leader" may be a bit confusing to some; while classification as "Instructor" leaves no doubt in anyone's mind as to what this person is qualified to do. If the Skin Diving Leaders wish to be known as Instructors, I most certainly think NAUI should accommodate them in that request; that new materials are ordered to reflect the change(s) as the old stock at headquarters is depleted.

Skin Diving Leaders, Assistant Instructors, and/or Divemasters are most certainly an integral part of NAUI; and, too, are recognized as NAUI leadership dues-paying members. Why, then, would members in a member organization not be allowed to vote? My concern might be for those who are not currently active. There are Instructors who are not currently active, yet do we not allow them to vote? Most AIs and Divemasters are involved with diving in an ongoing programme, and as such are well aware of the issues affecting divers.

--Struther MacFarlane, NAUI 6676; Toronto, Ontario, Canada (As a private professional educator, has taught all levels from introductory to serving as ITC Director. Recipient of the NAUI Canada Gold Pin and Special Recognition Awards.)

A. Why are we wasting time to discuss changing the title of Skin Diving Leader to that of Skin Diving Instructor? Instead we should be discussing the addition of the SDL's qualifications to those of Assistant Instructor's and Divemaster's, discontinuing the SDL rating altogether. Having the authority to conduct Skin Diving certification courses would increase the already valuable assistance that AIs and Divemasters provide to Instructors, reinforce their professional standing, and create a stronger base from which to progress to instructor level.

With respect to the right to vote, the Divemaster's role in diving is primarily to organize and conduct diving activities. As such, s/he is in an excellent position to provide information on the quality of divers produced by training agencies. When you consider that s/he also assists Instructors during certification courses, only one conclusion can be drawn, Divemasters should be given the right to vote!!

--Derek Chung, NAUI 10077; Speyside, Tobago, West Indies (Co-owner and Manager of Tobago Dive Experience, a NAUI Dream Resort.)

A. Yes, SDL should be changed to Skin Diving Instructor, so long as it is not simply a name change. With the change in name I would also expect the person being certified under the name of Skin Diving Instructor to meet the current standards set down by NAUI for SDI.

Presently in Australia we do not have any SDLs being certified, all of ours are SDIs. Basically, we have combined the SDL certification with the AI certification to produce the SDI. With regard to continuing education, the SDI course is also much easier to get people involved as it covers material that is more relevant to their needs, and it is much more enjoyable to instruct.

Being a truly democratic association of equals, we have no other option than to give AIs, DMs, and SDIs the right to vote. If the Instructor membership agrees to this we must follow up by asking the SDIs, AIs, and DMs if they want the right to vote. We cannot assume that they want it.

By giving this group the right to vote, we must also look at the advantage of having a more balanced input to agenda items or discussion points. In Australia we quite often find that the SDIs, AIs, and more often the DMs are concerned with certain issues where an Instructor may not be employed or available. It would be nice to think therefore that this group also has the right to select their representative on the Board of Directors.

--Gary Kroehnert, NAUI 8467L; Sydney, Australia (Vice-President, NAUI Australia. A private diving instructor, has taught at all levels from OW I through ITC Director.)

A. I strongly oppose giving SDLs, AIs, or DMs any voting rights. The Instructor is the only professional responsible for training and certifying students. To become an instructor, one must acquire a great deal of training, knowledge, and instinct for teaching students. The SDLs, AIs, and DMs do not possess such qualifications and are not directly affected by the challenges facing the Instructor in training students. If those potential leaders truly care about NAUI and education, they should proceed to join the ranks of Instructors. Furthermore, having voting rights also entitles them the right to hold office on the Board. It would be ludicrous to have non-instructors setting policy and standards for instructors to follow.

I recommend instead that representatives of these potential leaders serve on an advisory board to recommend policy that directly concerns AIs, SDLs, and DMs. No one should institute policy or standards for Instructors except fellow Instructors.

--Burhaneddin Z. Muntasser, NAUI 9650; Peekskill, NY (Taught all levels, OW I through ITCs. Teaches primarily at colleges. Recipient of the NAUI Outstanding Service Award.)

A. As a Divemaster and a Skin Diving Leader, I feel the Skin Diving Leader is an instructor, and should be designated as such.

A Divemaster leads a certified person or group of certified persons on a dive. The divemaster is not certified to offer instruction and is not allowed to take a non-certified diver on any excursions. A Divemaster is not allowed to take a non-certified skin diver on a skin diving excursion. This privilege is only allowed to persons with instructor status.

A Skin Diving Leader is certified to instruct as well as take non-certified skin diving persons on an excursion. The insurance policy for Skin Diving Leaders covers these activities. By definition, a Skin Diving Leader is an instructor. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and looks like a duck, call it a duck. -

-Jim Trilling, NAUI 1167L

A. I strongly feel that anyone involved in diving leadership is a professional, no matter if he/she is a SDL, DM, AI, or Instructor and should have the right to vote on any NAUI issue because it has a direct effect on an diving leadership position. NAUI is supposed to be a democratic organization, but how can this be with only one of four leadership personnel categories voting?

My impression is that some instructors feel that SDLs, AIs, and DMs do not have the knowledge to make competent decisions. I disagree. Many AIs and DMs who have no desire to become an instructor have a knowledge of diving that is far greater than that of some instructors. Another point to consider is after students complete the course, they may never see their instructor again, and when they go diving receive advice from a divemaster. As an active NAUI Divemaster who sees approximately 300 divers per year, I feel that any active divemaster could make some good suggestions to the NAUI organization, ie. what is taught in the teaching curriculum, safety, environmental issues, and some new ideas to promote the growth of NAUI.

--Michael E. Brennan, Jr, NAUI D4200; West Collingswood, NJ (Works for the Dive Shop of New Jersey. Has been an active Divemaster for three years.)

NOTE: The views expressed in this column are opinions held by the individual members referenced, and are not those of NAUI or the editors of NDA News.]Questions for the next issues:

Questions for the next issues:

For the January/February issue: "How many repetitive dives should be allowed in any 24-hour period? Why?"

For the March/April issue: "What are the minimum swimming skills which should be required of a person involved in dive training?"

For the May/June issue: "Should diving instructors and divemasters be required to submit to a program of preemployment and routine drug testing? Why/why not?"

All members are encouraged to respond. This column is for you, the membership, to develop. Answers should be kept fairly brief, preferably no more than two or three paragraphs. Responses to each question will be collated by the editor, condensed if necessary, and printed in this section. New questions may also be posed for discussion. Questions should be concise, and should stimulate a wide cross‑section of the membership. Include with your responses or questions the following information: your name, address, phone number, NAUI membership number, dive‑related employment, past diving accomplishments, and a review of your dive teaching experience. Send your materials to Jeffrey Bozanic, c/o NDA News, P.O. Box 14650, Montclair, CA 91763‑1150.

Compiled and Edited by Jeffrey Bozanic, NAUI 5334L

Sources, Nov/Dec 1990, (2:6), pp. 9-13.
Assistant Instructor Vote

NAUI Members' Forum #20

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