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Four months and still nothing.
The CSU (California State University) Chancellor’s Office is still in the process of reviewing requests to raise unit caps for engineering and science-based majors at Cal Poly.
In 2013, the Chancellor’s Office issued an amendment on a California Code of Regulation Law — Title 5 — where CSU campuses in the quarter system were expected to standardize all major unit counts to 180 units.
After the amendment, programs with high unit counts faced tough decisions between cutting general education classes or cutting technical major classes.
According to CSU Academic Senate representative James LoCascio, to avoid cutting either general education or major classes to meet the cap, the unit ceiling has to be raised from the 180 cap to 198 units.
“The 198 units allows Cal Poly to not cut out GEs at all,” he said.
The Cal Poly faculty largely supported this idea, and a 198-unit cap for engineering programs was approved by the CSU Academic Senate last year as an exception to the 180-unit rule. The senate sent this waiver of request — a document requesting a program’s exception to the unit cap — to the Chancellor’s Office.
The waivers were sent in March. Cal Poly has not heard back.
The unit cap today
“There was supposed to be an answer; there wasn’t an answer,” LoCascio said. “I’ve been told now for the past four months that the waivers now are all in the Chancellor’s Office. And the chancellor himself hasn’t decided what to do.”
According to LoCascio, the fate of the waivers depends on the chancellor.
“The chancellor can say in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, ‘I grant all the waivers’ … or not,” LoCascio said.
In their waivers, the Cal Poly engineering and science-based programs asked for a 192-unit cap at the provost’s request as opposed to 198, the cap the Academic Senate originally wanted. Mechanical engineering was an exception, requesting 198.
LoCascio said that was the true problem — faculty not having a say in how high or low the unit caps may be.
“Faculty members have absolutely no power over anything at the university except for their curriculum,” Locascio said. “It’s painful that the dean or the provost should tell us what’s best for our students, but they have. It’s not easy.”
Chair of the Academic Senate Gary Laver was fine with major programs wanting to alter their unit caps.
“Raising some caps are within reason, and that’s fine,” he said. “The programs that have been requested have been signed off by the administration and have been sent for review. That’s where it stands.”
The 180-unit limit was partly enacted to raise graduation rates. But according to Locascio, it is important for engineering departments in particular to have higher units because they are more time-dense disciplines by nature.
“I’m not saying that students should graduate in 10 years, or even six years,” LoCascio said. “I think the average in the mechanical engineering department is four years and two quarters. That’s not a big deal in my mind. And we’ve done things to try and limit their time here. We have a robust exchange program with Germany, we encourage our kids to go there. They will lose some units. But the experience is invaluable. So I don’t really understand this big rush to get kids out of here in four years or less. What’s the point?”
Other CSUs have already begun to face the challenges of lowering unit counts.
Schools such as San Jose State and Long Beach State have dealt with such a transition. To meet the unit cap, they have cut back on general education requirements by including guest lectures by professors in philosophy and English departments in the universities’ engineering classes.
But because the general education faculty supports the 198-unit cap, LoCascio said he does not think a lower unit cap will be enforced at Cal Poly.