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RE: SEAOC - Plan Review Comments - Outrage!!!

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You obviously missed something in the translation when reading my comments
and adding your understanding of my motivation. I suggest you reread the
section again.
We need not waste the money to promote a National exam and tiered-licensing
if the public will not benefit from it. I doubt that most who know me would
accuse me of being self-serving in this issue. If you read the article as I
intended it, you would immediately see that I suggest raising the level of
the SE II exam so that it is Structural specific. I also clearly state that
no engineer seeking either the SE II or SE I title should be allowed to pass
an exam without proving competency in the area of that license.
The important point, which you missed, is that the exam must be redesigned
from the ground up. It must not allow the existing criteria to remain that
allows a Civil, who is undecided about his area of expertise, to cross the
line at the public's expense. Both exams must be revised so that the SE I
exam enhances the competency of the SE II exam, not simply rehash what
should have been part of the any SE II's basic competency skills.
It's not self-serving to identify a flaw in our licensing system which leads
to a restraint of trade by excluding an engineer from being able to clearly
advertise his skill to the public. If you feel that I am self-serving in
this quest, then I propose that these sentiments are shared by most of the
CE members of SEAOC. You might get off the high-horse and understand that
your protection of the title makes the public targets to less qualified
possibly unscrupulous professionals who choose to cross the line of
expertise to compensate for poor receivables. Your protection of the title
makes a statement that says - "Once the public is injured by an incompetent
engineer, you may complain and have his license revoked or other
disciplinary actions taken." This contradicts the goals of an industry that
promotes the mitigation of hazards. This is clearly stated in the section
related to performance based engineering. If you don't understand this, your
hiding behind your title and not stepping into reality to see what really
Examples of these effects upon the public are evident in each and every
natural disaster from Loma Prieta to El Nino! Once all of the damage has
been reported, how much will be attributed to engineers with less than
competent skills in the field of structural engineering not encompassed by
the SE title. If the SE titled engineers cared enough, wouldn't it seem more
responsible to support raising the standards of the first tiered exam to
reduce the effect history has paid on our loop-holes?
Being able to boast mastery of a title does little to protect the public. It
just protects your ego and makes you a target for higher liability. How many
SE's have little or no understanding of Earthquake Hazard Mitigation
methodologies such as Division 91 and 92 (LA City) or UCBC Appendix Chapter
1 for URM structures or Infill framed Retrofit. If you are a master of the
title - why are so many SE's incompetent in these area's? The argument is
exactly the same as a CE who does not wish to take the SE exam - why bother?
The fact is that the SE title was enacted to protect high occupancy
structures (essential facilities) by having the engineer prove his
competency where more restrictive codes are applied. If the same codes were
adopted for all structure as you suggest - there would be no
differentiation.  The level of competency should not be different, only the
need to utilize and understand the provisions of the code that governs the
design - above all other code compliant measures.

You made a comment that the SE exam requires additional experience which I
agree with. However, you imply that the majority of structures of low to
medium occupancy (non-essential facilities) may be designed by an "entry
level" engineer at the expense of the public's safety. This is an age old
bean counter argument that weighs the value of life against the value of the
structure. The argument is no longer valid when the cost to repair has come
to be more important than the life that resides in it. I've stated this over
and over again, but it does not seem to sink in that we need to revise our
"credo", our professional ethic to include mitigation in addition to our
quest for life safety. People no longer recover from financial damage as
they may have in the 50's and 60's. The unbalanced cost of properties
(including structure) to the family's income is no longer in proportion that
would allow a building owner to simply incur the cost of repair. The design
of structures has come as close to the line separating safety and economics
as computers will let us go. Now, we leave this decision to those who
financially gain by walking this line, rather than those working and living
within structure.

I also don't care how many times this issue needs to be rehashed until those
who wish to perpetuate protectionism of title for the wrong reasons start to
understand that there is a threat to the safety of the public.

I took the time to respond to you for one reason. It's too easy not to use
the intelligence we have to weigh many sides of the argument. It's not my
choice to choose who is right or wrong on this issue, only to aggressively
defend what I believe is right. If those apathetic majority either online or
off would get off their butts to take a position on this issue I would feel
satisfied with whatever side the coin comes to rest - because the majority
decided rather than leaving the decision to a select few.
It's too easy to accept things as they are and to try to improve upon them.
Many SE's will simply write me off as self-serving, which does me an
injustice. I'm not stating that there is no other choice, only that response
like yours don't provide sufficient intelligent argument, only your wish to
protect your precious title and not have to widen your opinion of real
If you want to get rid of the bottom-feeder, if you want to truly mitigate a
problem rather than wait for disaster to occur, you need to work to scrap
the examinations we have today and rewrite both to be compliant with
structural engineering exclusively. Bill, I know you have stated this in the
past and if necessary, I'll go through the archives to prove that you
supported this.

It's time to start using your intelligence again.

Dennis Wish PE
La Quinta, California
ICQ# 6110557

"Silence is the virtue of fools."
Francis Bacon

|-----Original Message-----
|From: Bill Allen, S.E. [mailto:ballense(--nospam--at)]
|Sent: Thursday, March 26, 1998 7:20 AM
|To: 'seaoc(--nospam--at)'
|Subject: RE: SEAOC - Plan Review Comments - Outrage!!!
|I can't believe we are back on the SE vs. CE issue. Dennis, the SE exam is
|about more than just schools, hospitals and high rise buildings. In fact, I
|don't recall any questions on the exam that distinguishes between the CA
|version of the UBC and the "regular" UBC. The exam requires an additional
|three years of experience and passing the exam demonstrates that the
|examinee is more than a casual user of the structural provisions of the
|code. I know you don't like tests, but you should at least order some of
|the past exams to review the material. Once you have reviewed the exams,
|and then compared the SE exam with the structural problems on the CE exam,
|you will readily conclude that, in general, the examinee passing the SE
|exam has demonstrated more expertise in structural engineering that he/she
|did taking the CE exam.
|If you were really interested in public safety, which I do not believe is
|your motivation on this issue, you would support the adoption of the
|California Building Code (at least for seismic zone 4) for all structures
|excluding single family residences. I believe your real motivation is that
|you want to be able to call yourself "structural engineer" without paying
|the price. As you are aware, the CBC is more than just requiring a SE
|stamp. There are mandated tests and inspections which drastically improve
|the quality control of the structural system. Short of this solution, the
|two tier approach would be the only other palatable solution.
|Bill Allen