Citing concerns about the “long-term success and viability” of the Cal Poly Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, Brian Tietje, dean of Continuing Education, issued a letter to interdisciplinary studies majors on Oct. 29 to inform them of his proposal to Provost and Interim Vice President for University Advancement Robert Koob to discontinue the program. The proposal left some students troubled and confused.
The interdisciplinary studies program, also called the Adult Degree Program (ADP), offers students the chance to acquire a “fully-recognized Cal Poly degree” with the “flexibility” to take “classes during the evening or online,” according to the ADP website. The program “incorporates previous college work” that interdisciplinary studies students “must have at least 90 quarter units … and have completed all lower division general education requirements.”
Tietje proposed the discontinuation because he did not feel Continuing Education could support ADP effectively, he said.
“Cal Poly Continuing Education is not an academic college, so it is not equipped with the faculty and staff necessary to provide these supporting elements,” Tietje said.
However, the program could be moved to another college that could support it rather than discontinuation, Tietje said. Continuing Education is “asking the deans of the academic colleges to evaluate whether there is an appropriate programmatic and budgetary rationale for bringing (ADP) into one of their colleges,” he said.
“Ultimately, discontinuation is a possibility, but equally possible is that one of our six colleges will step forward and accept responsibility for the program,” Tietje said.
On Nov. 4, a group of interdisciplinary studies students gathered in front of the Cotchett Education building to express their concerns about the possible discontinuation.
Ron Supat, an interdisciplinary studies senior about to graduate, said he and his peers did not “fit into (Tietje’s) marketing plan,” a response which contrasted the argument that Continuing Education is not able to sustain ADP students effectively. Supat also said he did not think he and his fellow peers were the most highly valued students by Tietje.
“We’re not part of (Tietje’s) vision,” Supat said. “We’re a statistic; we’re a number.”
Tietje did not mirror Supat’s feelings and said Continuing Education “remain(s) committed to student success and will do everything we can to help students complete their degree in a timely manner.”
Cecelia Teniente, an interdisciplinary studies junior, said she was upset because there are no other programs in the area that offer what ADP does — a bachelor’s degree in person.
“This is the only one in the community that does that, and to shut it down is a disservice to not only us, but to the community and our families, our friends, anybody who had something in their life that held them back and need a second chance,” Teniente said.
Nancy Wilcher, an interdisciplinary studies senior with three classes to complete before graduation, said she was one of those people “who needed a second chance.” Wilcher received her associate degree at Cuesta College before transferring to Cal Poly in 1994. However, due to “personal problems and poor study habits,” Wilcher stopped attending Cal Poly in the fall of 1995.
“I have always regretted never finishing my bachelor’s degree, and attending Cal Poly has made my dream of finishing come true,” Wilcher said. “I have made the dean’s list twice since being admitted back into Poly in 2008. Needless to say, I was a different student in my 20s than today in my 40s.”
For those not ready to graduate, Tietje said those students will still be provided the classes they need to graduate by spring 2012. Remaining students will be issued a tentative schedule of classes to finish their degree.
“Student success and completion of degree is our top priority,” Tietje said.
Supat said he worries about those remaining having more regimented schedules.
“Most of us here will not get stuck in this,” Supat said. “We are pretty much guaranteed that we are going to graduate and get the classes we need, but half of us here … won’t have the choice between what classes they take in order to get their degrees.”
However, Tietje said Continuing Education “carefully reviewed every student’s program of study to develop our planned schedule.” Tietje also said ADP classes will still be offered in the evening for students who work and have families.
The process of discontinuing a program is not a short one. According to the “Policies and Procedures for Discontinuance of an Academic Program,” the process can last up to 47 weeks. There are a series of steps, starting with a proposal being sent to the Provost or Vice President for Academic Affairs. Then a committee is made in order to decide whether the program should be discontinued.
There are two steps to the review of programs (with a period in between where positions of both sides are examined), which leads to a “final document” being drafted where the final decision by the committee is edited to be sent back to “the Provost, the Academic Deans Council and the Academic Senate.” From there, the Provost, Academic Deans Council and the Academic Senate send their recommendation to the president. The president then will submit his own recommendation to the Chancellor’s Office, which has the final decision on whether to discontinue a program.
The lengthy discontinuation process provides both sides to share their opinions, Tietje said.
“I understand and appreciate the passion that faculty and students are expressing about the Adult Degree Program,” Tietje said. “The formal program discontinuation process that has been established by the Academic Senate at Cal Poly will ensure that these passionate voices will be heard and carefully considered before a final decision is made at the university and recommendations are submitted to the Chancellor’s Office.”
Wilcher, though about to graduate, said she was passionate about the longevity of ADP.
“Even though I am about to be finished, I still feel strongly that this is a vital program and is worth saving,” Wilcher said.