Member Login Menu

Ethical Behavior and Leadership

Monday, February 1, 2016

Thomas Wakeman President's Message: Winter 2016

Unfortunately as we enter the new year, stories of poor ethical behavior dominate the news. From political leaders in Albany, New York to financial leaders on Wall Street, individuals are currently being accused and at times found guilty of unethical and even criminal activities.

These unethical leaders can come from many areas including our enterprises, national institutions as well as international organizations. For example, Volkswagen Group admission that its 2.0L 4-cylinder TDI vehicles do not comply with emissions standards and were rigged to evade compliance is staggering in scope.

The new VW chairman said the decision to cheat was made in 2005 in a climate of lax ethical standards. The company's decision to deceive regulators may have started at senior levels of the organization, but the potentially illegal programming and mechanical mechanisms were created by engineers.

Civil Engineers and Ethics

Where were their ethics?  ASCE member Ken Maschke has started an interesting discussion on exactly this at ASCE's The Emerging Engineer blog . Professional civil engineers are expected to hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the general public and the ASCE Code of Ethics .

To help engineers navigate ethical challenges ASCE created brief videos about professional engineers facing difficult ethical situations. Through these videos, you will meet four compelling professionals who were directly involved in milestone events in engineering ethics:

Each faced difficult, trying circumstances and each made brave decisions that really did have life and death implications. Their stories are important, and they will help you think through the tough situations you face or will face in your work.

ASCE Ethics Resources

Investing our time to educate ourselves about ethics is an important part of living up to that oath. ASCE offers the following programs and resources to help you navigate all aspects of ethics and maintain the highest standards:

Attendees at the PORTS'16 Conference can attend a free 2-short course on ethical practice.

What Can You Do?

CORPI members and ACOPNE Diplomates are called to serve as community leaders, particularly in urban and rural areas that are situated on our coastal and inland waterways.

With climate change and the increasing number of severe weather events that may severely damage community services (water, power, transportation, communications and so forth), we must have strong leadership to stabilize disruptive circumstances and to lead recovery efforts.

Particularly when we are see massive infrastructure failures (e.g. Hurricane Katrina and Sandy) and requirements for community leadership, we must have capable people with high ethical standards to lead during periods of disruption.

Given their knowledge and personal attributes, I believe that COPRI members and ACOPNE Diplomates should and in deed must step forward to take positions of leadership in our communities, organizations and institutions.

Thomas H. Wakeman, III, Eng.Sc.D., Dist.D.NE, Dist.D.PE, F.ASCE
COPRI President 2015 - 2016