Architectural Ellipsis

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    Follow Up: NCARB Punted the Intern Title Debate

    Everyday Intern
    Mar 29, '17 2:29 PM EST

    In May of 2015 NCARB announced that it had tackled the great 'intern' title debate. I wasn't impressed at the time. In the press release NCARB noted that they were planning a series of initiatives, which would include proposing changes to NCARB Model Law and guidelines.

    NCARB vowed to "sunset the usage of the term 'intern' as a way to describe those who are working to become architects." Then President-Elect Dennis Ward commented in the full statement issued with the May 2015 press release, "Should any proposals to change Model Law surface during my presidency, they would be presented for comment next spring and for a vote of the Membership at the June 2016 Annual Business Meeting in Seattle." The NCARB Board of Directors appointed NCARB CEO Michael Armstrong to lead the effort to develop a "sunset plan" but what has happened in the nearly two years since this announcement.

    To be fair, NCARB has removed 'intern' from many of its publications and program titles. I've noted that it looked like they were replacing it with the term 'aspiring architect' but even that doesn't seem to be universal as the term 'licensure candidate' or just 'candidate' is used throughout their current publications as well.

    In June 2016, NCARB held its annual meeting in Seattle and the member boards voted on any proposed resolutions. Five of these resolutions attempted to make changes to the Model Law; of which, one focused on the Intern Development Program name, and the other focused on titles.

    Resolution 2016-08 focused on updating the name of the Intern Development Program. NCARB's Board of Directors had already approved the new name of Architectural Experience Program (AXP), all this resolution did was codify it into the Model Law. It was pretty straightforward and simply replaced 'IDP' with 'AXP' and 'Intern Development' with 'Architectural Experience' throughout the document. This resolution passed with a vote of 52 in favor and 2 against.

    Resolution 2016-06 focused on titles in the Model Law, but true to NCARB form, they focused on something completely unnecessary and not at all in line with their promise to propose changes to the Model Law that could lead to licensing boards "[removing] 'intern' from existing rules and regulations." Instead of focusing on removing the titles 'intern architect' and 'architectural intern' from the Model Law, this resolution focused on adding the title 'architect emeritus.' This resolution passed with a vote of 53 in favor and 1 against.

    I previously wrote about the title of 'architect emeritus' in my post about the initial 2015 press release, but it bears repeating that focusing on this title is incongruous with NCARB's mission to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public:

    "NCARB focuses enough effort to confirm that 'architect emeritus' is appropriate for someone after they are done practicing architecture. They say this provides 'appropriate notice to the public,' but what notice does the public need for someone who isn’t practicing? Is there any threat to the health, safety and welfare of the public if grandma or grandpa says they used to practice architecture without actually having been registered? No, the regulation of this title isn’t about protecting the health, safety and welfare if the individual isn’t practicing. These are honorary titles that are granted by some jurisdictions that now apparently NCARB and the task force is helping to define."

    I wondered back then if the emeritus title would make it into the Model Law and sure enough, NCARB decided it was important enough to bring forth a resolution codifying it. However, it is apparently still not important for NCARB to remove from the Model Law the references to 'intern architect' and 'architectural intern.' I shouldn't have expected anything less given the focus and recommendations of the Future Title Task Force.

    This is the point where I'd make an impassioned plea for NCARB to put forth a resolution at the 2017 Annual Business Meeting removing 'intern architect' and 'architectural intern' from the Model Law, but all that would do is leave a gaping hole where the Model Law provides titles for "a person currently employed under the responsible control of an architect, and who maintains in good standing a [NCARB] Record." Really this just reinforces the notion that NCARB created this problem with the intern title and they have done nothing to solve it by simply stating that aspiring architects can call themselves whatever you want, "just don't use 'intern.'"

    Ignoring the problem is not going to make it go away. NCARB created the titles 'intern architect' and 'architectural intern' and then codified them into the Model Law. NCARB should do what is necessary to clean it up. 

    I wrote in the comments of the post about the press release in 2015 that I was undecided about allowing graduates of an architectural degree program to be allowed to use the title 'architect' and distinguishing those licensed architects by the title 'registered architect.' I'm not quite as undecided anymore. I discovered that in the early 2000's a Collateral Internship Task Force (CITF) compiled a series of recommendations and presented the Five Presidents' Council with a report. The Five Presidents' Council "is comprised of the presidents, presidents-elect, vice presidents-elect, and chief staff executives for each of the five architectural collateral organizations[; NCARB, AIA, AIAS, ACSA, and NAAB]."

    Some of the recommendations of the CITF were initially rejected by NCARB. The Board of Directors, in 2001, voted 11-1 to reject allowing graduates to take the ARE after graduation, and voted unanimously to reject allowing graduates to use the title 'architect.' However, later that year the Texas Board of Architects and Engineers allowed graduates to take the ARE if they had completed a professional degree program and had at least 6 months experience under the direct supervision of an architect.

    NCARB, in the 2016 NCARB By The Numbers Report, notes that 50 out of 54 jurisdictions allow licensure candidates to take the ARE before finishing IDP requirements (now AXP requirements). They also note that pass rates for the ARE are higher for candidates that are testing concurrently while finishing up IDP (now AXP) requirements. 

    Additionally, another recommendation from the CITF report noted that national and international reciprocity should be strengthened. NCARB announced in January 2017 that a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) had been reached with Australia and New Zealand that is similar to agreements in place with Canada and Mexico allowing architects to pursue work and reciprocity.

    Other recommendations from the CITF report concerning integrating practice and education have caught on and many schools and firms offer opportunities to students to become more familiar with practice. Likewise, more firms are integrating education and supporting the continuing education of aspiring architects in practice.

    With many of these recommendations becoming more common in the profession, it seems like it may be time to reconsider the recommendation about allowing graduates from a professional degree program to use the title 'architect.' Of course, that recommendation was predicated on the implementation of the report's other concepts and recommendations, so there might be more work to be done before this could become a reality. 

    With the AIA now supporting different titles for licensure candidates, and NCARB simply trying to ignore the issue, perhaps some leadership and collaboration among the five collateral organizations "responsible for the education, training, registration, and practice of architects" could result in further, coordinated action ... if not at least an agreement on what undignified title licensure candidates should be called. 

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About this Blog

An ellipsis [...] is used to signal an omission, an unfinished thought, aposiopesis, or brief awkward silence. Architectural ellipses are those aspects of the profession we (perhaps intentionally) omit, gloss over, or let dwindle in silence. Generally applied this blog should encompass many aspects of the profession. Yet, as an intern architect (now architect) I'll focus primarily on the architectural ellipses that occur in the internship process (and beyond).

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