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Re: Ref: Are You Up for It?!!

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At 08:57 PM 06/09/2000 -0700, you wrote:
>Dear Mr. Greenlaw, et al:
>Comparing the engineering association with the Papacy is likening apples
>to crab-apples (though it did provide an interesting historical
>side-light).  There is nothing wrong with a system based on mentoring
>and bringing folks up through the ranks--gives a much better
>understanding of the membership and the workings of the organization
>itself.  Those who may feel disenfranchised have possibly abrogated
>their pro-activism and lost sight of the long range good.
        Thanks for your views, and for your appeals to work together. The
critical postings you have seen are efforts to save the basic institution,
if it cares, so that it is responsive to members' interests.

        Apples and crab-apples are both apples, and are susceptible to the
same principles of horticulture, if not to the same kitchen recipes. 

        Engineering society code committees (as we both know them to be) and
Church hierarchy are both human organizations interested in setting
standards to be imposed on others, and are susceptible to the same
principles and temptations of human nature, if not to the same means of
implementing their enactments.

        Galileo might well have joined a Papal astronomical committee as a
young man, and worked his way up through the ranks, before presenting for
committee approval his findings that actually the Earth rotates around the
Sun, and is not at the center of everything. One can imagine how the votes
on such a proposition would fall, notwithstanding his committee tenure. We
do know how the votes actually fell in his heresy trial. The verdict was
akin to finding he had lost sight of the long range good.  

>It appears to me that the *absolute power* of the existing committee
>structure is the fault of the membership as a whole for two reasons:
>1)  They have been allowed to become small groups with a lot of power.
>If the membership on those committees were to suddenly grow to 2 or 3
>times their current size, the power of the leaders would be
>significantly diluted by the many additional voices--all being heard!

        Speaking out against excessive committee power, and against
cloistered, mal-directed committee power, is what the "griping" has been.
SEAOC elected representatives should act in accordance with their existing
powers on behalf of their constituents to not allow excessive committee
powers. That's another recurring complaint.         

        Reliance solely on sudden growth in committee membership to effect
any change of committee attitudes is at best a leap of faith. Growth in the
number of teachers has not changed educators' attitudes. And when one SEAOC
Section's committee did grow suddenly and changed direction (to wit,
Central's Code Committee since 1991, notably with its leadership's approval)
the rest of the organization simply arranged to marginalize and circumvent
it, or "shun" it in religious terms. Long-time Seismology guru Ajit Virdee
told me that would happen, and it did. This local Code committee, throughout
the years of IBC 2000 formulation, could not get drafts and agendas from
above in time to hold meetings before the deadline to have acted, and
additionally had its turf of keenest interest moved to a different
committee. And SEAOC Bylaws changes have eliminated local section veto
power. Lesson: don't rock the boat.
        Diluting the power of committee leaders by adding new people does
however have an interesting extension: go all the way with new people and
stage a coup. Dilute the old guard's power down to nothing. But like with
all coups, success is an all-or-nothing proposition. Avoidance of need for a
coup is what all this criticism is for.

>2)  The membership has allowed....

       You name it, the membership has "allowed" it, and the leadership has
run off with it, losing concern for the membership along the way. These
postings are available to the membership directly, as well as to leadership.
People who study volcanoes and earthquake faults know to listen to what
rumbles below them. Occasionally engineering society leaders do. We want
there to be some rumblings worth heeding  --while there's still time.

        "Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills
the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to an
unhealthy state of things."
              --Sir Winston Churchill

Charles O. Greenlaw