Conspiracy Theory

Psst - hey! Did you hear that, because there are so few specifiers in CSI, they will not be allowed to renew their membership? Or that Institute Board members voted themselves a 200% pay increase this year? Or that the coming replacement for the Manual of Practice was revised just so CSI could sell a whole new series of educational material? Or that the new MasterFormat will be issued in four volumes - one for each of the construction “teams” - and will incorporate the Code of Hammurabi? Or how about this - that the reason the Convention will be held in Chicago for three years is that the Chicago chapter has been taken over by labor unions?

Despite what you may have heard, the truth is not quite that interesting. As odd as it sounds - for an organization that was founded on the idea of clear communication - CSI has done a poor job of keeping its own members informed of what it is doing.

The unfortunate result is that some members, frustrated by a lack of basic information, have decided that there is some conspiracy involving Institute officers and/or staff, that they have a “hidden agenda” to perpetrate some horrific crime.

Given the lack of communication, it isn’t hard to understand why such feelings exist. Looking at things logically, though, one can’t help but ask what it is that the conspirators are supposed to gain. It certainly isn’t money; even with the obscene salaries paid to Board members, they're still a couple of bucks short of a cup of coffee.

Welfare State

Although officers and chairs may be criticized for appearing out of touch, all members must accept some responsibility for our imperfect communication. There is a lot of information on the CSI website, in NewsDigest and the Construction Specifier, and more on chapter websites and in chapter newsletters. There have been teleconferences, surveys, faxes, and direct e-mails.

We expect owners, consultants, contractors, suppliers, and just about everyone else to read and understand those brief little documents we call specifications - but we won't read the relatively few paragraphs needed to know what's going on in our own organization. About the only thing left is to have Phil and Edith visit each member individually to answer their questions.

Just like our nation, we've evolved from a scrappy bunch of innovative pioneers to a lazy bunch of consumers, content to let someone else figure out what to do - and then we complain because it ain't what we would have done.

For next month, your homework assignment is to visit the discussion forum at my favorite website,, and read the comments. There is a lot of good dialogue there, valid criticism that our leaders should read. But some of the comments show that we expect more than we're willing to give.

© 2003 Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA

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Material from CSI Chapter newsletters used with permission.