Professional organizations threatening those who would build a US-Mexico border wall?

If you are looking for evidence that professional organizations are part of the problem in the United States and elsewhere, look no farther than an article at Defense One discussing some of the practical, economic, and societal implications of building a wall across the U.S. southern border.

In the piece, Kriston Capps from CityLab, and a former senior editor at Architect magazine, raises the following points:

Trump is pledging the largest infrastructure project since the U.S. highway system – perhaps the most significant infrastructure project since the Erie Canal ... Trump can't build a wall across the entire border. It's a moon-shot without a rocket. The proposal crumbles at even the slightest scrutiny. No one who can build it would, and no one who would build it can.

"With the highly contested nature of this project, and the fact that many, many people object to it really strongly – do you want to be on the wrong side of that in a way that's going to stick with you for years?" asks Raphael Sperry, president of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility.

Sperry says that his organization will condemn the border wall, should Trump be elected president. His organization may not stand alone: Other professional design associations are bound by ethics that Trump's proposal appears to plainly violate. As with other controversial border projects, firms that built this wall could be subject to boycotts, blacklists, and lawsuits ...

None of more than a dozen global architecture and engineering firms I contacted were willing to speak on the record about Trump's wall. Neither did faculty at the schools of civil engineering for Texas A&M University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. But several sources pointed to codes of ethics that seek to prevent architects, engineers, and planning professionals from doing harm.

The American Institute of Certified Planners [AICP], for example, includes in its code of ethics a subsection that reads as strongly at odds with the goal of blocking immigrants from reaching the U.S. through Mexico:

"We shall seek social justice by working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration. We shall urge the alteration of policies, institutions, and decisions that oppose such needs." ...

Maybe a Trump supporter runs a design firm with the level of experience necessary to plausibly bid as a contractor on a request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Maybe this firm does not mind the risk of censure from professional groups that could come with the commission. Maybe this firm does not fear the almost-certain boycotts that would come with the job. Maybe this firm isn't bothered by the prospect of never even being paid for the work.

For mainstream designers, however, the sanction of the International Court of Justice is something to be avoided. Most engineers shun notoriety, much less aggressively court it. Designers of all political persuasions are bound to pass on projects that draw casual references to fascism from sitting heads of state. The judgment of history is a big ask for pro-bono work.

Boycotts?  Blacklists?  That sounds rather McCarthyesque, and ironic coming from a political base that usually lashes out with deep vitriol at the mention of such tactics.  One must imagine that boycotts and blacklists are only valid when employed by self-assessed "forces of good."

A number of other professional organizations are mentioned in this article, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the National Society of Professional Engineers.  This is deeply troubling.

These organizations should be focused almost exclusively on the technical capacities of their members, not on partisan politics – and the social justice merits of a U.S.-Mexico border wall most certainly involves politics, not engineering, science, or technology.

Boycotts and blacklists are problematic enough in the private sector, but when it comes to organizations operating in the public sphere, a line has been clearly crossed.  Some of these professional organizations offer accreditation that is either desired or required for many jobs in both the private and public sectors.

Should public-sector employers be requiring potential and current employees to be members of organizations with politically partisan codes of ethics? The answer is undeniably "no." Should competent individuals in these fields be denied American public sector employment because they worked on a project like a border wall, whose sole objective is to prevent foreign nationals from violating the sovereignty of the United States?  Certainly not.

Who are acting like fascists now?

Thus, we have one more suite of issues that needs to be added to the discussion that is long overdue among the American public (and internationally, since these problems are in no way unique to the United States). What needs to happen is that concerned members of civil society and the politicians that represent them (i.e., Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and others at the local, state, and federal levels) need to reach out to these organizations and express their dissatisfaction at any possible threats of professional blacklisting, boycotts, sanctions, and other negative career impacts that could accrue against any individuals who are interested in, and may in fact work on, a border wall.

And if any organizations refuse to back out of politics and back into purely non-partisan technical matters, perhaps they should be boycotted and blacklisted when it comes to private- and public-sector opportunities.  There is a place for expressing your political views via your work, but it should never come via professional organizations.

If you are looking for evidence that professional organizations are part of the problem in the United States and elsewhere, look no farther than an article at Defense One discussing some of the practical, economic, and societal implications of building a wall across the U.S. southern border.

In the piece, Kriston Capps from CityLab, and a former senior editor at Architect magazine, raises the following points:

Trump is pledging the largest infrastructure project since the U.S. highway system – perhaps the most significant infrastructure project since the Erie Canal ... Trump can't build a wall across the entire border. It's a moon-shot without a rocket. The proposal crumbles at even the slightest scrutiny. No one who can build it would, and no one who would build it can.

"With the highly contested nature of this project, and the fact that many, many people object to it really strongly – do you want to be on the wrong side of that in a way that's going to stick with you for years?" asks Raphael Sperry, president of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility.

Sperry says that his organization will condemn the border wall, should Trump be elected president. His organization may not stand alone: Other professional design associations are bound by ethics that Trump's proposal appears to plainly violate. As with other controversial border projects, firms that built this wall could be subject to boycotts, blacklists, and lawsuits ...

None of more than a dozen global architecture and engineering firms I contacted were willing to speak on the record about Trump's wall. Neither did faculty at the schools of civil engineering for Texas A&M University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. But several sources pointed to codes of ethics that seek to prevent architects, engineers, and planning professionals from doing harm.

The American Institute of Certified Planners [AICP], for example, includes in its code of ethics a subsection that reads as strongly at odds with the goal of blocking immigrants from reaching the U.S. through Mexico:

"We shall seek social justice by working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration. We shall urge the alteration of policies, institutions, and decisions that oppose such needs." ...

Maybe a Trump supporter runs a design firm with the level of experience necessary to plausibly bid as a contractor on a request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Maybe this firm does not mind the risk of censure from professional groups that could come with the commission. Maybe this firm does not fear the almost-certain boycotts that would come with the job. Maybe this firm isn't bothered by the prospect of never even being paid for the work.

For mainstream designers, however, the sanction of the International Court of Justice is something to be avoided. Most engineers shun notoriety, much less aggressively court it. Designers of all political persuasions are bound to pass on projects that draw casual references to fascism from sitting heads of state. The judgment of history is a big ask for pro-bono work.

Boycotts?  Blacklists?  That sounds rather McCarthyesque, and ironic coming from a political base that usually lashes out with deep vitriol at the mention of such tactics.  One must imagine that boycotts and blacklists are only valid when employed by self-assessed "forces of good."

A number of other professional organizations are mentioned in this article, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the National Society of Professional Engineers.  This is deeply troubling.

These organizations should be focused almost exclusively on the technical capacities of their members, not on partisan politics – and the social justice merits of a U.S.-Mexico border wall most certainly involves politics, not engineering, science, or technology.

Boycotts and blacklists are problematic enough in the private sector, but when it comes to organizations operating in the public sphere, a line has been clearly crossed.  Some of these professional organizations offer accreditation that is either desired or required for many jobs in both the private and public sectors.

Should public-sector employers be requiring potential and current employees to be members of organizations with politically partisan codes of ethics? The answer is undeniably "no." Should competent individuals in these fields be denied American public sector employment because they worked on a project like a border wall, whose sole objective is to prevent foreign nationals from violating the sovereignty of the United States?  Certainly not.

Who are acting like fascists now?

Thus, we have one more suite of issues that needs to be added to the discussion that is long overdue among the American public (and internationally, since these problems are in no way unique to the United States). What needs to happen is that concerned members of civil society and the politicians that represent them (i.e., Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and others at the local, state, and federal levels) need to reach out to these organizations and express their dissatisfaction at any possible threats of professional blacklisting, boycotts, sanctions, and other negative career impacts that could accrue against any individuals who are interested in, and may in fact work on, a border wall.

And if any organizations refuse to back out of politics and back into purely non-partisan technical matters, perhaps they should be boycotted and blacklisted when it comes to private- and public-sector opportunities.  There is a place for expressing your political views via your work, but it should never come via professional organizations.