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Error in Phone Book leads to SE Vs CE

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-----Original Message-----
From:	Jeff Smith [SMTP:smthengr(--nospam--at)]
Sent:	Saturday, September 27, 1997 2:03 PM
To:	wish(--nospam--at)
Subject:	Re: Error in Phone Book - Structural Engineers

>>Based on this new listing you will soon be rolling in the 
dough. You could
>>donate all this extra income to either your competitors or to 
>>Seriously, I would check your information that you gave to GTE 
(unless it
>>was verbal) and then ask them to write a letter to you and 
BORPEL stating
>>that they made an error.

>The funny thing is that all of the business I get from phone 
book ads are
>jobs that the SE's would not want - property wall extensions, 
>additions, footing designs for non-compliant structures. So 
far, no owner of
>an essential facility, high rise building or hospital has 
called to hire me
>based upon my phone book ad. When you all quote the law, I 
suggest that you
>read how ludicrous it sounds. As strong as the provisions are, 
no agency
>would waste money in court to fight this without proof of 
intent to commit
>fraud. As I stated before, the ad is not proof of intent.

Hello Dennis:

I hope you understood that my comment was sarcastic. If you ever 
ended up
with a problem because of this situation, many of your peers 
would back you
up, including myself. I personally feel that the semantics 
involving the
SE/CE authority is flawed. The last time I did school or 
hospital work was
when I was employed by an SE,  and I did not have my SE at that 
time. I
don't think I have never stamped anything that required me to 
have an SE .
However, having an SE eliminates the need to clarify your 
authority and it
may provide additional perceived qualifications by prospective 

Jeff Smith. S.E.
phone: (415) 543-8651
fax: (415) 543-8679
email: smthengr(--nospam--at)

Smith Engineering
27 South Park
San Francisco, CA 94107

I understood perfectly. This is a touchy subject and many SE's 
take an extremely conservative stand on the CE/SE issue. Most of 
the work that comes from phone book ads can be done by CE's. 
(When was the last time a client was found from a phone book 
listing that needed an engineer to design a school, hospital or 
high-rise building?)

I'm sensitive to this subject because BORPEL reviewed our 
threads on CE/SE debates and thought that the debate warranted a 
closer look. Nothing materialized from this. A junior BORPEL 
member presented our debate to the board with hopes of changing 
the classification ratings to be more consistent with the work 
that we do. There was some initial interest to put the issue on 
BORPEL's May 1997 agenda. We never heard whether the issue was 
to be pursued. Cutting through the muck, the basic premise was 
public protection against misrepresentation of an engineers 
qualifications to practice structural engineering. Current laws 
governing civil engineers do not allow for differentiation based 
upon ability (CE/CE Vs CE/SE) and the public is ignorant of 
this. The latest resolution adopted by BORPEL which was 
published in their last journal sets a precedence for 
establishing a consistent title with other states, but does 
nothing to educate and protect the public as to title 

Of the first 1000 Members listed in the SEAOC directory 
(excluding "non-members") 43% are Civil Engineers and 57% are 
Structural Engineers. I've assumed all of them to be working as 
structural engineering professionals by virtue of their title 
"member". This infers that a significant portion of the 
structural engineering community who are qualified (43%) are 
being restrained from practice as the public is denied 
reasonable access by not having the proper representation in the 
phone directory. The term Structural Engineer is used 
generically throughout the profession by architects, contractors 
and non-professional clients who do not know the difference 
between the two licenses. To make matters worse, clients often 
take their work to Structural Engineers rather than Civils 
because they are ignorant of the similarity in the profession. 
This, too, becomes a form of restraint of trade which is 
perpetuated by the lack of action by SEAOC and BORPEL (and any 
other lobbying agency) that can provide the public the tools 
they need to properly choose their design professional.

What makes more sense? Spend money to educate the public as to 
the similarity and difference between Civil and Structural 
Engineers, change the professional title to reflect the level of 
competency in structural engineering, or ignore the 43% of the 
professional community that financially supports SEAOC? At this 
time SEAOC chooses to ignore the problem by suggesting that if 
you don't like it, you can take the SE exam. Conversely, how 
would SEAOC survive if it lost 43% of it's funding. Certainly 
BORPEL does not license enough SE's per year to compensate for 
the differences.

Another issue that weighs heavy here is the SEAOC bylaws that 
limit the number of CE's who are allowed to sit on the board of 
directors. Less than two years ago, Civil Engineers were 
elevated to the classification of members rather than 
associates.  Now SEAOC needs to recognize that almost 50% of 
their members do not necessarily share the same desire to take 
the SE exam. Conversely, these 43% need representation in the 
Structural Engineering community to protect their right to 

It is a safe to conclude that the majority of those responding 
the CE Vs SE debate feel that the testing standards for CE are 
too low and do not adequately represent the level of competency 
required to practice. However, no attempts have been made to 
raise the standard or change the requirement to chose an area of 
experience. Instead, those that were possibly granted license as 
CE are encouraged to prove their ability by taking a second exam 
based upon methods of construction that they may not have a 
desire to ever practice. Therefore, why take the SE exam if you 
are over 50 years of age, limit your practice to low-rise 
non-essential structures.  What becomes more realistic is to 
require the engineer (CE and SE) to collect continuing education 
credits in their area of expertise. This, too, will help to 
differentiate those engineers whose CEU's are in land or 
structure. Personally, I feel that the SE exam should remain the 
de facto standard for engineers who wish to become an authority 
in high-rise and essential facilities - much the same as PHD or 
specialist. However, the same consideration must be granted to 
the CE who wishes to practice in structures without prejudice 
and unethical restraint of trade.

A common response urges CE's to simply pass the SE exam in order 
to be considered an "authority" in structural engineering. It is 
profoundly true that SE's have proven themselves to be more 
skillful and possibly more educated in the design of essential  
 facilities, and high-rise structures. There is no correlation 
of backward compatibility which makes the SE more of an 
authority in residential and commercial design than a CE. There 
is no proof that an SE understands and can utilize the code any 
more efficiently than the CE.  Yet many Structural Engineers 
equate the difference in the license to that of negating a high 
school teachers qualifications because they do not have a PHD 
and teach on college level. The truth is that the fault is not 
in the license, but in the level of continuing education. In 
behalf of the SE (I'm sure they don't need my help) I believe 
that they have a stronger desire to keep abreast of their 
profession. This is an observation and not a calculated 
certainty. What is coming and what is direly needed is 
requirements for continuing education credits to assure that 
engineers (CE and SE) are keeping up with technology and 
complicated code changes.

There is no funding, that I know of, to educate the public as to 
the similarity between Civil and Structural. The phone company 
has refused to add a category to the phone book without 
appropriate lobby from the structural engineering community. An 
individual has no power to change these matters. SEAOC is not 
interested in this problem and BORPEL has turned their back to 
the issue opting to be disciplinarians rather than protectors of 
the public trust. The public, however, will continue to be 
abused by engineers who are quick to take advantage of natural 
disasters and cross over into area's that they are not qualified 
to practice. Let's get this straight, current provisions do not 
protect, they offer remedial measures to bandage the wound.

The phone book issue entwines perfectly into this debate. The 
issue is not who is qualified to practice structural engineering 
but how can the technicality of semantics be used to restrain 
trade. Similarly, existing public confusion can be perpetuated 
by ignoring efforts to educate the public or change the 
classification of 43% of the profession - thereby steering the 
public around those who are more than qualified to handle the 
work they have to offer.

I don't remember who said it; "Absolute power corrupts 
absolutely". There is too much evidence already in our lives. 
>From the threads that have been run lately on the abuse of power 
within BORPEL it seems that the accusations are justified. The 
harsh wording of the law can be easily abused to kill 
competition. I don't believe that this is what the majority of 
the profession wants, but it often becomes the exception that, 
like the IRS problems of late, becomes the rule.

To sum this up, I believe what is needed is:
1. Proof of intent to commit fraud before you take a person's 
livelihood away, Proof is not in the wording of the law, but in 
the action of the engineer.
2. Modification to the Yellow Page categories to include 
Structural Engineering which would allow each of us to compete 
fairly in this business and not confuse the public as to who is 
qualified to practice.
3. A change in classification for engineers who wish to practice 
low-rise non-essential structural engineering,
4. A finite differentiation between land Civils and 
Civil/Structural engineers.
5. Requirements for continuing education credits specific to 
area's of expertise to maintain licensing renewals
6. Accessibility of courses, seminars and classes available to 
engineers outside of the metropolitan areas. This includes 
alternative education methods such as video or computer 
completed courses (similar to CEU's earned by mail).
7. Appropriate representation of the CE community within SEAOC. 
This can mean more board presence by CE's or establishing a 
committee to govern the fair practice of structural engineering 
so that there is lobby power to change phone book categories.
8. Restriction of architects to practice structural engineering 
without specific license as a CE or SE. Why muddy the water 
patching the problems with Civils and Structural if you allow 
Architects the authority to design and wet stamp structural 

Jeff, finally I wish to thank you for your offer of support. I 
would hope that the relationship developed over this list by the 
many who participate would bind us to support one another in 
time of need. We have diverse opinions on this list, but I have 
yet to discover differences based upon the need to control or to 
attain power. We are on a level field here and I hope that it 
remains impartial.

Dennis S. Wish PE