Thursday, November 12, 2009

Re: Being Outspoken

Dear Seaint friends:
I just received this e-mail from (Dr. name withheld) a Seaint member and
felt I need to stop and reply. Then I felt to share his short e-mail and
my a bit longer reply with you as well. Being out there in public,
specially with projects I have been involved with, I get quite a lot of
supportive e-mails but this time I felt to make one public . The reason
is for the first time in my carrier, last week I received my first and
hope last hate e-mail which was very disturbing and had to be turned
over to Campus mail. The hate mail was attacking me because of my
criticism of Caltrans. So here is Dr. n.w. 's e-mail and my reply.
x. y. xzzzzz wrote:
> * Prof. Asteneh:
> I thank you much for your outspokenness typical of your e-mail to the
> SEAINT list-serve at 6:07 am this morning. You may not know the
> extent of those who appreciate this type of professional activity..
> Dr. zzzzz
> *

Dear Dr. zzzzzz: Thank you very much for your kind words. My approach to
my "Tenured" position as well as meaning of tenure is that people of
California have given me, an emigrant from Iran, this great job at this
greatest University in the world located at the one of the most
beautiful part of the world and have guaranteed all of this for life
with one expectation that I find the truth in my teaching and research
and when I find it I do not worry about the consequences of telling
those who pay my salary (people of California) the truth that I have
found and do not worry about being fired from my job since the boss did
not like it! My boss is the people of California.

I have to add that I also have another obligation to Americans who have
accepted myself and my family with open arms and has given us the
citizenship of this great country and allowed us to make it our new
home. We have really been given the American Dream. This last part only
recent emigrants can understand.

I have added another obligation to my contract with my "boss" (all
Americans) that in pursue of the truth I will make my best effort to
ensure that the infromation that I have is correct and truthful , then,
give to the "boss" nothing but the truth and the whole truth without
considering for even a fraction of a second what consequences such
interaction would have . Since I work in the structural engineering
field, anything I do has safety consequences for my "boss" (The
Americans) and I should not put my own petty financial interests ahead
of Americans interest.

In case of Caltrans, when in 1998 Caltrans/Metropolitan Transportation
Commission selected the Self Anchored Suspension design for the Bay
Bridge East Span replacement span, knowing enough about the bridge and
site (I was studying the bridge by then for 10 years) I went to public
hearing of the project and used my three minutes and made my statement
that this system , the Self Anchored Suspension (SAS) is the most
inferior bridge system and should not be approved for such a haigh
seismic region. The bridge selection process was totally flawed since
four of the selection panel members called Engineering and Design
Advisory Panel (EDAP) had submitted their own design and those four
designs ended up being the semi finalists and eventually all four
entitities joined and selected one but each got a piece of the action.
The design fee alone at that time was $75 million. The bridge which the
public was told will cost $1.3 billion, today is estimated to cost $7.2
and be finished in 2013 ( 25 years after Loma Prieta) . As a result of
that 3 minutes of truth telling as per my contract with my "boss"
(American People) Caltrans cut all my research projects ($100,000/year,
consulting about $20K/yr and made it clear to all bridge firms and
others that if anyone wants any funding from Caltrans they should not
work with me . Then , Caltrans and Metropolitan Transportation
Commission started a character assasination campaign that still
continues to date . But, all of this is not what I will pay attention
to. My attention is focused on doing my job for my "boss" as she would
want me to do. I have no other option. The only concern I have is that
like the hate mail I received last months, with Caltrans and MTC
continuously creating hate towards me , there could be someone who snaps
and causes physical harm tome or my family. That one I leave in God's hands.

Of course in addition to America I have another beloved home and that is
Iran and I feel exactly the same way about Iranians as I do about
Americans, loved by both and love bothl. So, I have two bosses but
think about it, with all that they have given to me and my family all
they want me to do is not to lie and tell them the truth. Who could turn
down this bargain

Best wishes as always.

Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, Ph.D., P.E.
Professor ,

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