Columns

Letters to the Editor

October 1, 2004
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Readers sound off on topics from recent issues.

On the Level
August 2004

There seems to be no end to the articles about the image of the profession. Mr. Foster's is another in a long line [that has] included some new ideas, at least ones I had not heard. My belief is [that] the poor image of the profession is long-standing and we continue to deserve it. I recently read a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson on the poor layout of the streets in Boston. He [wrote]: "People say Boston was laid out by cows; well, there are worse surveyors."

It is my belief that there are far too many incompetent surveyors in the profession and we do little to change the situation. [Here are a] few examples from my 25 years of work in three states:

1. I worked in two subdivisions done by the same person in which every lot with a curved side did not close.

2. I have run into six cases of multiple monuments in my career. The worst was in a common driveway/ entrance way for two car dealerships. The common point on the street line had six monuments. Why three let alone six? What can the client think? On another job a corner that was a non common corner on an abutting lot had four monuments, two of which were set by the same company. They used unique monuments so you could always tell their work.

3. While working in one county, I used eight or 10 plats produced by one surveyor. Every one contained an error. In talking to other surveyors in the county, they all agreed he did very poor work. One went as far as to say he did not believe the man had ever done a survey correctly.

To my knowledge all of these men are still practicing and have never had a complaint [made] against them with the state board. Until the standards for entrance into the profession are raised to a reasonable standard we will get what we deserve.

Paul Boucher, PLS
Massachusetts


The Academic Angle
July 2004

In the July issue, columnist Mickie Warwick, PLS, answers the question "Are the right questions being asked on the NCEES exam?" with these two questions: "Can a four-degree alone produce a qualified surveyor?" Answer: "Absolutely not!" and "Can apprenticeship alone produce a qualified surveyor?" Answer: "Absolutely not!"

Aside from the rest of the article being peppered with contradictions and bet hedging, let's just focus on the word "Absolutely." Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines "absolute" as "free from imperfection" or "having no restriction, exception or qualification." Or more simply and basically, it is generally understood to mean "without exception."

Granted, one might have to engage in a rigorous search to find a surveyor who was professionally "qualified" the moment he stripped off his cap and gown. But it's not necessarily impossible. So I'll simply offer a verdict of "Not Proven" on Count One.

However, on Count Two, the allegations are more serious. It flies in the face of easily available facts. There are literally thousands of practicing professional surveyors who became licensed through apprenticeship programs of one sort or another. Is she accusing them all of being unqualified? That assertion is almost absolutely ridiculous on its face.

Words like "absolutely" are fraught with a high element of risk when applied to surveying. More often than not, the answer is "It depends." In this case, it depends on the quality of the individual, the educational program or the apprenticeship. So while I applaud Ms. Warwick's zeal to promote the education of the working surveyor, I find her a bit shortsighted in terms of the grand scheme of things. She says her program graduates "about 12 students a year." Unless there are other comparable programs available in her state, that number seems a touch small to support the needs of the surveying community for an entire state.

So, even in a perfect world, I find her wrong on both counts.

Greg Shoults, "apprenticed" RPLS
Texas

Mickie Warwick responds:

The surveyors that I respect and admire come about equally from four-year degree programs, two-year degree programs and the "apprenticeship" route to licensure. However, I primarily deal with people just starting in the profession, so I have to think about the future-the future of the profession and the future of the students. The scope of work they will be asked to do and the technology available to do it are rapidly growing in magnitude and complexity. The definition to be concerned with is the definition of surveying. It is changing. Those with a strong background in English, math, science, computer science and GIS, in addition to surveying specific topics, will be better equipped to deal with those changes.

There are two surveying programs in Arkansas, one at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton (a two-year degree) and one at the University of Arkansas at Monticello (with two- and four-year degree options). While the demand for surveyors is still strong here, we are in much better shape than many states regarding young people entering the profession.

While reading through the July issue, the cover story was kind of neat and everything, but I especially liked what Mickie Warwick wrote about concerning formal education versus experience. I liked her approach to the issues surrounding education and experience in that she did not make any attempt at condemning either of them. However, as surveying technology keeps advancing at a record pace, the need for continuing education is always a given. The author also makes a good case in point about hiring someone with four years of experience plus the education over someone with experience only. Ms. Warwick does make it clear, though, that no amount of classroom theory can ever replace the actual field experience.

In years past, anyone with experience as an instrument person, rodperson, survey crew chief, or draftsperson could certainly move forward into becoming a professional land surveyor. Today, with more stringent standards for state licensure, education is becoming more and more mandatory.

With surveying, Education + Experience = Success. Whichever variable they may lean more toward, it's great to see experienced professionals like Ms. Warwick set aside their time and efforts to help educate the future professionals of the surveying industry. Education is, without a doubt, the most critical component for the future success of surveying whether it be for an individual or the industry as a whole. I can tell you from my experience as a student that some of surveying's most experienced veterans make for the very best instructors.

Bob Baudendistel
Alabama

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