Ethics and Independent Reviews

Your recent editorial made a number of very good points about the ripple effects of the recent accounting scandals (ENR 7/15 p. 48). There are three other points that I think are worth noting.

First, these scandals may have been avoided if the involved professionals had adhered to the ethical standards promulgated by their own professional bodies, rather than manipulating technical rules, whether the results were to their client's liking or not.

Second, it’s a fair bet that once a business begins manipulating its financials it will be no better at overcoming the urge to contSinue doing so than Dracula would be at overcoming his urges when holding the keys to the blood bank.

Finally, there is never any substitute for an honest, qualified, independent, third-party auditor. In this respect, contractors with doubts about the reported profitability of their projects would do well to consult with one of the many firms of professional quantity surveyors.

Kudos To Students

Let’s give some recognition to the students who organized the recent national student conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ENR 7/1 p. 12). On the conference committee as well as the steel bridge and concrete canoe teams, students got some good experience in teamwork, project management and leadership.

It took several years to put this conference in place, and was attended by some 1,300 students, faculty and guests in addition to about 200 volunteers, many of them students. In 1999, students wrote the initial proposal to ASCE asking for seed money, then sent out requests for proposals for host sites. They received seven proposals, short-listed three, visited them in the summer of 2000 and selected the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Students oversaw conference planning and managed various aspects of the events such as steel bridge and concrete canoe competitions and field trips. In the process, they demonstrated that they have the makings of our industry's future project and program managers.

Educational Needs

Six cheers for professor Jeffery s. Russell on his Viewpoint, "Bail Out Concrete Canoe Race" (ENR 6/24 p. 71). He is right on, and obviously a great academic with his feet firmly footed on Mother Earth. His references to the importance of learning that "complications in-evitably arise to challenge even the best-laid plans" and "the value of hard work, persistence, goal setting, effective communication and teamwork" certainly are important lessons that can be learned in student competitions such as the concrete canoe and steel bridge contests.

How sad, then, that he’s correct in pointing out that, "Although these skills are essential to successful engineering, they are not generally imparted by most civil engineering curricula." In my 50 years as a contractor and consultant fixing distressed structures around the world, I have repeatedly seen that to be true. Nothing could strengthen the engineering profession more greatly than masses of educators with such insight.

Right on, professor!