Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, in a response to a Students for Quality Education (SQE) protest, has reinforced his support for the California State University’s (CSU) Sustainable Financial Model and refused to meet the group’s demands.
SQE’s protest on May 2 demanded that Armstrong denounce the Sustainable Financial Model, publicly pressure CSU and Cal Poly leaders to invest in ethnic, gender and critical theory programs and come up with a plan to roll back Student Success Fees implemented before the 2008 recession.
The protest had approximately 30 participants, featured a mock funeral for the CSU system and was held outside of Administration (building 1). Similar protests took place on May 2 at Chico State University, San Francisco State University, CSU Stanislaus and CSU Los Angeles.
“I do not believe the demands you expressed in the protest and in an email to me are consistent with what is necessary for student success, or representative of the voice of the students as a whole,” Armstrong wrote in a letter to SQE. “Furthermore, I do not believe SQE’s approach is consistent with open and transparent discussion.”
At $780 per year, Cal Poly’s Student Success Fee is the largest of any CSU. As Armstrong noted in his letter, nearly 60 percent of students consulted about the fee are in favor of it.
For SQE, that number isn’t big enough.
“President Armstrong … seems to have overlooked the fact that 40 percent of Cal Poly students voted NOT to raise fees — and if we have learned anything from the past year at Cal Poly, it’s that the opinions of the other 40 percent matter just as much — especially in regards to decisions that affect people differently based on their family’s income level,” the group wrote in a response to Armstrong’s letter.
Both sides agreed that the CSU system and Cal Poly have been limited because of inadequate state funding. But whereas Armstrong said a lack of government money was a major reason to seek private donations (a key aspect of the Sustainable Financial Model), SQE argued that Armstrong should be making a greater effort to push the CSU back toward an entirely state-funded higher education organization.
Public-private partnerships, or a contractual agreement between a private business and a CSU campus, are mentioned extensively in the Sustainable Financial Model. SQE, in its response to Armstrong, argued that these partnerships will focus on industry-centric fields like engineering and business and neglect arts and sciences.
“Private sponsorship hands power over to the private sector; which oftentimes has its own agenda that may not be in line with what Cal Poly, as a public higher education institution, ought to be pursuing,” SQE wrote.
Armstrong concluded his letter by writing, “Finally, I would like to reiterate that I fully support SQE’s right to protest. I also ask that you support the rights of others to review all the facts and make a decision based on a holistic view, not just selected points of information.”