Many students know by now about the proposal to convert Cal Poly to a semester campus. Professors have made sly references to the switch during classtime, Associated Students, Inc. has surveyed random students on campus and President Jeffrey Armstrong has repeatedly said he believes semesters are the right choice for Cal Poly.
But many don’t know the proposed switch is part of a larger California State University (CSU) campaign to bring all quarter campuses to semesters, and the end result might depend on much more than what those on the quarter campuses have to say about it.
Armstrong, who chairs a committee consisting of the six CSU presidents who use the quarter system at their campuses, said he is working to find a way for the CSU to fund a systemwide conversion. This would involve the university system allocating funds to convert each of the six campuses that still use quarters: San Luis Obispo, Pomona, Bakersfield, Stanislaus, San Bernardino and Los Angeles.
If the CSU approves funding for the schools to convert, Armstrong said it could create a new way to see the issue at Cal Poly. Instead of needing to show that a change to semesters would benefit the campus, Armstrong would need to prove its current quarter system is better for the university than what semesters would bring.
“We’re already part of a system where only six campuses are quarters,” he said. “We need absolute lists of reasons why quarters are better for student success at Cal Poly, and why is that true for Cal Poly, and why is that unique for Cal Poly (if the CSU provides systemwide funding to convert). And I have to believe in that, because I have to go to the system and say, ‘This is why it’s best for Cal Poly.’ And it has to be strong.”
Putting all CSU campuses on semesters has been an ongoing goal of CSU Chancellor Charles Reed since he took office in 1998, according to Armstrong. Though Cal Poly’s Semester Review Task Force only began meeting this quarter, other universities in the system have already gone through the process and reached their own conclusions about semesters.
CSU Los Angeles, which finished its campus review of semesters in 2010, submitted its proposal for semester conversion to Reed more than one year ago. Administrators there are still waiting on approval from the chancellor before switching its calendar. That approval will most likely come after Armstrong’s CSU task force secures state funding for systemwide conversion.
Cheryl Ney, who chaired the semester conversion task force at CSU Los Angeles, said she is under the impression that the CSU is aiming for consistency in its plans to convert campuses. She said she anticipates the university system will either approve conversion for all of the campuses or none of them, but will not go through the process one university at a time.
“The idea is there has to be a fiscal outlay to do a conversion,” she said. “You can see the idea, ‘Why would we give Cal State LA money (to convert) when all the other schools are still looking at converting?’”
A CSU spokesperson confirmed this idea of consistency between campuses to Mustang Daily. Michael Uhlenkamp, director of CSU media relations, said even for the quarter campuses that have already decided to convert, it is still an ongoing collaboration between all six quarter-calendar presidents before universities receive funds to help them convert.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen piecemeal,” Uhlenkamp said. “We want to get all the presidents in the same room to sit down and figure it out.”
Uhlenkamp added the caveat, however, that how the CSU handles semester conversion depends on where the system’s budget stands after the November election. The CSU stands to lose $250 million if Proposition 30, a tax increase proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, is defeated.
With that much uncertainty in the university’s finances, Uhlenkamp said it is “not necessarily a priority for campuses to be making the switch right now.”
Echoing the CSU’s priority on finances over expediency, Armstrong said if Cal Poly decides to convert, it still needs to consider the state’s budget before taking any concrete action.
But no matter the state’s situation, Armstrong said he is determined to do what is best for Cal Poly students’ success.
“If the task force’s end result and I (both) believe it’s important that we be a semester campus then it’s a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if,’” he said.