Cal Poly

Cal Poly is experiencing challenges as the university grows to address a changing landscape of corporate sponsorship, reduced state funding, student job opportunities and the realities of a new physical and social environment facing our graduates. These challenges include an apparent growing division between the administration and the faculty and staff. Like many other institutions, Cal Poly is witnessing an erosion of shared governance as the university becomes more like a corporation. These changes include but are not limited to a shrinking pool of tenured faculty, a growing administration, and increasing disparity in pay between the highly paid administration and the others. These pay equity concerns have received considerable attention. However, this may be only part of the changing structure and priorities of the university.This website is intended to help faculty from across campus communicate and network, so that we may understand each other. It is also intended to provide dialogue with the administration that we may all communicate transparently and operate with inclusivity and accountability. It is expected that we will respect each other and not edit someone else’s statements. The edits are recorded and reversible. Members can create separate pages for different functions, views, organization summaries, etc.

July, 2020: Wednesday, July 1, Cal Poly President Armstrong announced the “emergency hire” for the position of vice president for diversity and inclusion of Paulette Granberry Russell, director of Michigan State University’s Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiative, and presided there during the sexual assault crimes of Larry Nasser. Not only is the choice of hire of concern, but likely more importantly how it was apparently done in secret and without input from faculty and students. A petition is being circulated which details the concerns.

If you would like to help build this communication, please request to be invited to the website.

October, 2016: Roslyn Caldwell is a tenured Cal Poly professor. In an article in the Tribune, University Spokesperson Dawn Theodora publicly made what many people found to be disparaging statements about Dr. Caldwell, which provided an opportunity for the faculty to publicly respond. We wrote a letter to the Tribune to explain how the corporate control exerted on the faculty by the administration results in a climate of hostility toward nonconformists. The result is a loss of diversity in the faculty indicating that although Cal Poly’s administration prioritizes diversity, the administration’s actions decrease it. The letter was signed by 13 present and past faculty members and four campus organizations. If you or your club would like to be retroactively added to the signers, please contact me. The signers of the letter received a Legal Hold Notice on Oct. 10, (two days before the letter was published), requiring us to “preserve any information” pertaining to the lawsuit by Roslyn Caldwell. However, Dr. Roslyn’s lawyer had already dropped her lawsuit against Cal Poly on Sept. 28 as reported by the New Times. The lawsuit was “dismissed without prejudice” meaning it wasn’t ruled on, so it could be brought back to court in the future. The legal hold notice has been interpreted by many of the recipients as a strategic effort to cut off Dr. Caldwell’s support network by scaring the signers before the letter was published.

Additionally history professor Manzar Foroohar wrote a letter to Dawn Theodora stating:
“If your interview with the Tribune was based on your personal judgment, I believe you owe Cal Poly community a public apology and/or your formal resignation. If your statement was approved by Cal Poly administration, it is the best evidence of the fact that racism and bulling have become institutionalized at Cal Poly and it is the policy established at the highest level of the administration. In either case it is a sad comment on the state of the leadership in the university.”
Dr. Foroohar’s recent discussion with President Armstrong indicates that the decision to publicly make disparaging statements about Dr. Cauldwell’s professional record came from the highest level of the administration. Additionally, she indicates an important underlying feeling in the faculty:
I’ve talked to several faculty of color and they are supper angry, but mostly afraid of retaliation if they publicly voice their opinion” – Manzar Foroohar.

We have established a blog established to provide a public conversation.

Spring, 2016 with regard to impending strike, I set up this website in response to students’ requests to know more about the potential strike.

November, 2015: My Question to Chancellor White and subsequent meeting with President Armstrong is documented here.

February, 2016: Tomorrow’s Professor, published by Standford Center for Teaching and Learning, publishes a call for shared governance and increased equity among all university instructors.

Thoughts:

Pete Schwartz in the Physics Department : I recognize that there is a difficult situation with the reduction of state funding, and that President Armstrong’s intention is to bring in revenue with corporate funding. However, there are several aspects of the plan which I find troubling. My concern is the loss of shared governance, of which pay equity is a symptom. It feels as though the administration is regarding the faculty and staff as an exploitable resource that needs to be managed. The recent announcement to replace the Ag Business Department Chair with a Department Head chosen by the president is a good example of this as well as the Dean of the College of Agriculture also being chosen by President Armstrong. My understanding is that the president finds these actions necessary in order to improve fundraising. However, these positions are not just fundraising. The deans and department heads also run the departments and colleges, so it seems that the education directors are being chosen by their ability to raise money, not provide education. Additionally, these apparently unilateral actions indicate to me top-down governance where the administration runs the faculty through administrative representatives in the departments rather than listens to the faculty via their elected representatives.
I am concerned that as the source of revenue changes, so will Cal Poly’s Priorities. As we become a corporation with President Armstrong more like a CEO, will the central educational mission take a back seat to catering to our corporate patrons? I think we’ve already seen this. With the corporatization of Cal Poly, we’ve seen an increase in the number of highly paid administrators and increases in the salaries of present administrators, while instructors’ salaries have remained stagnant and the number of tenured faculty as decreased. If this is what the administration has done with the last increase in funding, future funding will likely be similarly allocated. Similarly, the quest to increase tuition revenue has also resulted in more out of state students displacing California students. President Armstrong has said that this isn’t the case, but I understand that some departments have lower admission criteria for out of state students than for California students. I request that these numbers be made public. What if Cal Poly is restricting access to in-state students? If the state no longer funds the majority of university costs what is Cal Poly to do? Is it not appropriate for Cal Poly to correspondingly restrict the number of low-cost in-state seats? I think that it is important that everyone (students, tax payers, policy makers) knows what is happening – that the state is losing its public education by not funding it. “HELLO, CALIFORNIA! you’re losing your public university, what do you want to do about that?”

The most troubling thing to me is that these decisions were not made by the university as a whole. Likely in his dedication to answer our financial needs and to build Cal Poly, President Armstrong was not aware that people felt they were being left out of the discussion. My guess is that President Armstrong is surprised and concerned by the voice of disapproval. I hope that increased dialogue, listening, and growth of true shared governance will follow.

I feel that the union, the CFA, is ill-equipped to mediate the present multifaceted challenges. The CFA has one goal: pay equity, so it can’t address the concerns of shared governance. Additionally their method is very oppositional: us against the administration. The protest from May 14th, demonstrated this well with ~300 demonstrators yelling at the top of their lungs that faculty should be paid more. I appreciate that this demonstration brought to light a growing dissatisfaction. However, the message in to the public will likely be that both sides are greedy professionals fighting over money, losing completely the very important more complicated issues of “mission creep” and shared governance. I think both sides could benefit from a new communication mechanism. I hope this website will help.

June 4 update. Will Wisconsin revoke tenure and shared governance? I think this quote is important:

Goldrick-Rab said she passed up a center directorship at an institution in another state several years ago, fearing that shared governance there wasn’t as strong as it was at Madison. But now she’s actively pursuing opportunities elsewhere, she said. “I can’t work in an institution without genuine tenure protections and I will not work in academia without shared governance. We cannot protect students’ interests without it.”

March 2, 2016, there’s two articles today that are interesting:
1) NYTimes: claiming that university professors would make better university presidents than businessmen do.

2) Forbes: the rise in tuition coincides with a decrease in tenured faculty, but an increase in administrators.

Correspondence:

From: “pschwart” <pschwart@calpoly.edu>
To: “Jeffrey Armstrong” <jarmstro@calpoly.edu>
Sent: Friday, May 15, 2015 10:52:31 AM
Subject: Better communication than at the protest?

President Armstrong,

I was surprised to see you standing next to me yesterday at the demonstration. I regard your entrance as brave and generous. Thank you. I initially wanted to talk, but realized that the CFA-created oppositional environment prevented meaningful communication. I think as a community we can do better. I created a website to provide transparent universal communication. I have invited other faculty and students to join if they like. So far, I have communicated my thoughts and I hope you take the time to read them.

http://universitysharedgovernance.wikispaces.com/Cal+Poly

Thank you for taking the time to read this and my concerns on the website. If you are interested in joining the website, I will help any way I can. I look forward to your response.

Pete

Pete Schwartz
Cal Poly Physics
the new science building, 180-608
Renewable Energy
Appropriate Technology
805-756-1220
pschwart@calpoly.edu

From:“Jeffrey D. Armstrong” <jarmstro@calpoly.edu>
Subject:Re: Better communication than at the protest?
Date:May 17, 2015 at 11:17:48 PM PDT
To:pschwart <pschwart@calpoly.edu>

Thank you for the kind words Pete. I read your communication. I will look for the best way to address your comments. I cannot go into detail but there are many points missing from your narrative. I say this with respect as we / I have not communicated well enough. We attempted — we had several listening sessions and addressed many of the questions / points that you raised. However, the attendance is poor.

Your communication vehicle is very interesting. We will consider it and other venues.

Communication is key!

I would also be glad to talk. I’ll make sure you receive invitations to any conversations that we plan for campus.

Thank you!

Jeff

Jeffrey D. Armstrong
President
California Polytechnic State University
1 Grand Avenue
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
+1 (805) 756-6000
jarmstro@calpoly.edu

Follow me on Twitter @CPPrezArmstrong