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Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

Vantage Point: Radioactive Print E-mail
Written by Wendy Lathrop, PS, CFM   
Friday, 22 September 2017

A 803Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

I am not a big fan of most spectator sports, preferring to be part of the action rather than sitting on the sidelines. The Olympics are an exception, presenting a different set of viewing options, allowing me to avoid ice and water and other uncomfortable settings while appreciating the beauty in the skill of others. All this serves as background for a confession: I am not a fan of watching that all-American darling, baseball. That means I don't root for the Phillies, for reasons unrelated to my local team's propensity for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

While generally there does not seem to be a direct correlation between baseball and surveying, the re-emergence of certain ball players in the news during the 2017 season made me think about professional stature. That's the reason for today's column.

Pete Rose played for the Phillies from 1979 to 1983, at which point his reputation was still somewhat stellar. Subsequently he played for the Montreal Expos, and then the Cincinnati Reds, for whom he also became the manager. What should have been the peak of his career led to his downfall, with a lifetime reputation destroyed by a bad decision. Whether he bet on baseball games consistently or only at times, the fact is that as team manager, Rose had the ability to affect the outcome of games. Whether a player or a manager, such gambling (to which he finally admitted in his 2004 autobiography, "My Prison Without Bars") violates one of the Major League Baseball's rules defining misconduct. Even holding the MLB record of 4,258 career hits could not overcome that scar, forever banning him from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

Here is the connection to surveying: We work hard to build a solid professional reputation, which is more fragile than we care to think. We invest years in formal education and years immersed in learning to handle all types of decision-making about our practices and our interactions with others. We try hard not to tarnish this life-long pursuit with a bad decision or a misunderstanding not put right with a client or colleague, knowing that many people share their disappointment rather than steep in solitary silence. True or false, mere perception of misbehavior (especially as a pattern of conduct) casts a long shadow on professional reputation.

Once mistrusted, rebuilding a good reputation is difficult and often not fully achievable. Every state's licensure laws include a statement about the purpose of holding a professional license being the protection of public welfare. Such safeguarding specifically mentions life, health, and property, with requirements for practitioners to be of good moral character. This last is a difficult thing to define. So our Boards often require us to take courses on ethics on a regular basis, and define misconduct over which they have jurisdiction as distinguished it from illegal actions over which they do not. Applying for license renewal or for new licensure in additional states means revealing any blemishes on a reputation in the form of license suspension or revocation, pending professional disciplinary charges, or any criminal charges, felonies, or misdemeanors for which the applicant has been convicted. Such records follow us everywhere.

They say to err is human and to forgive is divine. The Phillies had finally decided to install Pete Rose on the team's Wall of Fame this past summer. They planned to hand out special bobble-head dolls in his image and looked forward to making up for some of Rose's lost luminescence. Bob Ford, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote, "At some point, and it was just this April, the Phillies decided that Rose, like nuclear waste that has finally lost its radioactivity, was a safe induction." Even had newly revealed allegations of other unrelated illegal activity not simultaneously come to light to cancel the induction, that's hardly the kind of statement any of us wish to hear about ourselves.

Then there is Darren Daulton. The Phillies enshrined him on the team's Wall of Fame in 2010. Daulton's personal life was messy to say the least, with charges for drugs and alcohol and accusations of domestic violence. But while playing ball he was revered as a very special person, for his integrity as a strong teammate, respected leader, and supportive friend. His death this August from brain cancer triggered fond memories and accolades from all across the country. Just by chance, the timing of Daulton's death also saved the Phillies some of the embarrassment of Rose's continued descent into disrepute, changing 2017's Wall of Fame event into a tribute to Daulton, Dallas Green and Jim Bunning, who all died this year.

Is it possible to separate personal life and professional life so completely that one does not taint the other? Apparently in baseball it is to some extent. But not so much in surveying.

Wendy Lathrop is licensed as a Professional Land Surveyor in NJ, PA, DE, and MD, and has been involved since 1974 in surveying projects ranging from construction to boundary to environmental land use disputes. She is a Professional Planner in NJ, and a Certified Floodplain Manager through ASFPM.

A 803Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

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