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The American Society of Civil Engineers’ Canon 8: Codifying Diversity as Ethics

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Perspectives on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Beyond the Undergraduate Years

Tagged Topics

Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee

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Paper Authors


Canek Moises Luna Phillips Rice University Orcid 16x16

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Canek Phillips (P’urepecha) is a postdoctoral research associate at Rice University in the Brown School of Engineering. Canek’s research interests broadly relate to efforts to broaden participation in engineering. Currently, he is working on a project to improve mathematics education for visually impaired students.

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Yvette E. Pearson P.E. Rice University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Yvette E. Pearson holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering and M.S. in Chemistry from Southern University and A&M College and a Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science from the University of New Orleans. She is Associate Dean for Accreditation and Assessment in the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University, a Program Evaluator for the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, a registered Professional Engineer in Louisiana, a former Program Director in the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation, and a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Dr. Pearson currently chairs ASCE's Formal Engineering Education Committee, and is Vice Chair of ASCE's Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.

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Lisa M. Black American Society of Civil Engineers

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Lisa M. Black, Ph.D. is Senior Manager of Diversity and Inclusion for the American Society of Civil Engineers, the nation’s oldest engineering society representing more than 150,000 members. Dr. Black’s responsibilities include developing, monitoring and evaluating programs, activities and products aimed at promoting full participation of underrepresented groups in the civil engineering profession.
Through her work with ASCE’s National Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, she provides leadership in all matters of diversity and inclusion within the civil engineering community and implements programs designed to advance awareness and recognition of the civil engineering profession, with a special emphasis on promoting civil engineering as an inclusive discipline.
Prior to joining ASCE, Dr. Black held leadership roles in the public education sector where she served as Special Assistant to the Superintendent for Race and Equity in Madison Wisconsin and more recently as the Executive Director of Education and Training Programs for her husband’s company, KLB & Associates, Inc.
She holds a B.A. in Sociology from North Carolina State University and both graduate degrees, an M.S. in Social Work and Ph.D., were earned from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Quincy G. Alexander American Society of Civil Engineers

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Quincy G. Alexander is a Research Civil Engineer at the USACE Engineer Research and Development Center. His research focuses on the development and implementation of structural health monitoring (SHM) tools and techniques used for evaluating the current conditions and predicting the future conditions of large civil infrastructure.

Mr. Alexander is also an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), where he has served as a past branch president, section president, and regional governor. He is currently the chair of the ASCE Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, and concentrates on advancing the value of diversity and inclusion within the civil engineering community.

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In July 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) adopted Canon 8 into its Code of Ethics, culminating a process that started in 2015. ASCE created the Code of Ethics to serve as a basis from which to communicate and affirm standards of professionalism for all civil engineers. However, the prior code lacked language that directly conveyed diversity as ethics, specifically with regard to discrimination and harassment. To address this gap, the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) partnered with the Committee on Ethical Practice (CEP) to develop Canon 8, which was the first new canon added to the ASCE Code of Ethics in over 65 years.

Canon 8 addresses fair and equitable treatment of not only fellow engineers, but also people in the communities we serve. One element that distinguishes ASCE’s Canon 8 from other engineering societies’ codes of ethics is the requirement for engineers to “consider the diversity of the community, and … endeavor in good faith to include diverse perspectives in the planning and performance of their professional services.” In order to accomplish this optimally, we must begin to educate our students to practice engineering in this manner.

The forthcoming changes to the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) Criterion 3 reflect the need for diversity and inclusion in many of the student outcomes as well as in the definitions that precede the criterion. For example, Student Outcome 2 requires that students’ design solutions meet specific needs and include factors such as “public health and safety and global, cultural, social, environmental, economic, and other factors as appropriate to the discipline.” By ABET EAC’s definition, “design” includes constraints such as accessibility and legal considerations, both of which are strongly connected to diversity and inclusion. Additionally, Student Outcome 7 requires students “to function effectively as a member or leader of a team,” and by ABET EAC’s definition, “a team consists of more than one person working toward a common goal and should include individuals of diverse backgrounds, skills, or perspectives consistent with ABET’s policies and positions on diversity and inclusion.”

For engineering programs looking to make a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, this paper describes the development of Canon 8 to help guide the decision-making process in implementing ABET EAC’s Criterion 3. We describe the motivation behind Canon 8 and the feedback it received, how it compares to other engineering societies’ canons or principles related to diversity, and how it relates to forthcoming ABET EAC criteria. We envision that institutions will encounter similar types of scenarios in their implementation process and this paper can serve as a useful guide for navigating these scenarios if they occur.

Phillips, C. M. L., & Pearson, Y. E., & Black, L. M., & Alexander, Q. G. (2018, June), The American Society of Civil Engineers’ Canon 8: Codifying Diversity as Ethics Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31078

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