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Re: ASCE being attacked

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Stan Caldwell wrote:
What follows is the content of a letter that ASCE President David Mongan is sending to all of ASCE's 140,000 members:
My problem with ASCE is actually the same problem I have with virtually ANY "umbrella organization" of any kind, whether professional society, trade union, political party or even humanitarian organization.

There comes a time in its existence when somehow, some way, a switch is thrown and the monster comes to life. It goes from a docile instrument of policy or progress on the part of the membership, to a beast with a will of its own (and a corresponding agenda). It goes from serving the original cause to serving itself.

Generally you can tell about the point in time where this happens. It's when a "permanent staff" is hired. Sometimes you can get along with a director, and maybe an assistant to the director, but even that small a staff can cause the beast to veer onto its own course. Certainly as soon as you have an office suite with several departments, etc., you the membership have lost total control.

I first saw a glimpse of this years ago when I attended (by forcible mandate from my bosses) an "information meeting" of the local Houston chapter of what was then called the Consulting Engineers Council. They had a professional director AND lobbyist who spoke about the organization's legislative efforts, and I realized I thought most of the topics were irrelevant to the subject and business of consulting engineering. It was mostly about persuading the state legislature to allocate more money to public works projects that the CEC membership could then feast upon. Many of the projects were, in a word, pork, having little to do with good policy and everything to do with allowing the membership to feed at the trough.

At one point I thought to raise my hand and ask "has anyone thought about whether these activities are a good idea or not?" but refrained as I sensed from the rather aggressive stance of this "professional lobbyist" that it wouldn't go over too well.

I'm not saying "we should abolish ASCE" or any other such organization. I'm simply saying "it is what it is, inevitably." And no one should be surprised if an organization of this kind feathers its own nest and looks to its own interests. To be "shocked, shocked" at such behavior is either naive or cynical.

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