Student opinion when it comes to semesters is still unclear at Cal Poly, according to the results of a new survey published by Associated Students, Inc. (ASI).
Leaders of Cal Poly’s official student government said after surveying more than 1,000 students, it was unable to find a consensus about whether students are for or against converting to semesters. But one student representative on the Semester Review Task Force said students’ opinion might be clearer than the survey suggests.
The lack of consensus could be because the survey was not designed to get a simple yes-or-no response from students, ASI President Katie Morrow said. Instead, it aimed to spur discussion about what semesters could be like at Cal Poly.
“Instead of trying to create a consensus — our original idea was, ‘Could we get a consensus on this?’ — it strayed from that,” Morrow said. “Now we wanted to see how their college experiences would be affected.”
There is, however, some question about how well the survey represents those on campus. When asked how many students he had talked to that are in favor of conversion, biological sciences senior Derek Majewski, who represents students on the Semester Review Task Force, held up his hand in the shape of a zero.
“Not many — maybe one, two students in total,” he replied.
Morrow said students generally do support staying on quarters, but would be willing to embrace a conversion if a valid reason is presented to them. But for now, those at Cal Poly wear quarters like a “badge of honor,” she said.
“Students feel like they work so hard … and so they’re really proud of that,” Morrow said. “And they are excited to see what that can translate to in a career.”
The survey results divided the student respondents into nine categories: one for each of the six colleges, as well as freshmen, transfer and graduate students.
Students in the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) displayed the most opposition to a conversion to semesters, Morrow said. The report shows that five of the six ideas that agriculture students frequently discussed while they were surveyed talked about the benefits of quarters. The only positive for semesters listed by these students was more time to “foster relationships with faculty on the semester system.”
A resolution drafted by the CAFES Club Council in mid-November also demonstrated the college’s resistance to semesters. Council president and animal science senior Chandler Wilson said his group, which represents clubs affiliated with the college, unanimously voted to oppose a switch to semesters.
“I feel that the students would be better off on quarters based on industry readiness, and stuff like that,” Wilson said.
In contrast, Morrow said ASI found business administration students tend to be more accepting of a change to semesters. Three of the five comments in their summary on the report are in favor of conversion, while two are pro-quarters.
Because of the disparity between the colleges in their stances, Morrow said ASI cannot represent all students in the same way and needs to look at a “bigger-picture” approach about the issue.
“I can’t represent a student in the college of agriculture the same as one that transferred here in CLA (College of Liberal Arts),” Morrow said.
The results of the survey are now in the hands of three student representatives on the Semester Review Task Force. Majewski, one of the students, said the report will be one of the factors they look to in accomplishing their goal in the task force: “vigilantly pushing the student opinion.”
Majewski said the results of the survey — along with a Facebook page which has more than 1,200 people against the proposed semester conversion — lends credibility to students’ opinion, rather than providing a direct answer to the question, “Are students in favor of semesters?”
“This has made the student perspective very strong,” he said. “It shows that students are truly interested in this debate and are willing to take action on their own.”
Semester Review Task Force Chair Rachel Fernflores said based on her previous experiences with ASI, she never doubted the capacity of students to make an educated decision about semesters. The survey, she said, will play an important part in gauging student opinion when the task force drafts its recommendation to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong next Thursday.
“We’re definitely going to speak to it in the report,” she said. “(The students) did such a good job. The students on the task force and Katie Morrow have been astounding in their outreach and participation.”