Josh Ayers

The opportunity for Cal Poly students to reach Saudi Arabia has arrived.

Cal Poly was propositioned this January to help develop an undergraduate civil engineering program at Jubail University College (JUC), a new university in Saudi Arabia.

The proposal titled, “Implementation of Engineering Programs at Jubail University College” describes a five-year collaboration between Cal Poly and JUC from December 2007 to summer 2012.

JUC is a new university operating in temporary facilities located in Jubail Industrial City in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It has recently finished its first year of operation, with 435 male and female students. Permanent facilities are expected to be finished by 2011.

The university has projected that 25 to 35 male students will be admitted to the civil engineering program in the 2007-08 academic year.

“As far as I know, it’s not open to women because they don’t have (classes open to both genders) in Saudi Arabia,” mechanical engineering professor James LoCascio said.

“And I’m speculating that Jewish people nor homosexuals are going to be invited either. That’s my guess … it’s not written in black and white.”

Civil and environmental engineering department chair Gregg Fiegel did not respond with a definite answer as to whether gender discrimination would be a factor.

“The mission of JUC is to provide educational opportunities for Saudi Arabian men and women,” Fiegel wrote in an e-mail.

“Men and women are separated on the campus and do not attend the same classes. While women are not enrolled in engineering programs, they are earning degrees in other fields, including business and education,” he wrote.

“I think that it’s just morally wrong,” LoCascio said.

“To run around and tell people that we have the best society of women engineers and then enter an agreement that women aren’t invited to participate in, I just think it’s very wrong.”

Cal Poly was one of numerous American universities on a list compiled to assist JUC with the creation of a Bachelor of Science program in civil engineering. Other institutions propositioned included Carnegie Mellon and Purdue.

Dean of the College of Engineering Mohammad Noori and Fiegel traveled to Jubail Industrial City in May to meet with personnel and discuss the possibility of future cooperation. The trip was funded by JUC.

Soon after, Noori and Fiegel drafted a proposal to JUC outlining ways Cal Poly could assist in creating a civil engineering program.

JUC responded requesting further assistance in developing new programs in mechanical, electrical and computer engineering as well. Cal Poly personnel are currently discussing and developing a proposal for further programs.

Jubail Industrial City is located on the east coast of Saudi Arabia. Fiegel said the construction of the city began only 30 years ago. The city, with a current population of over 100,000, serves as a major industrial complex for the country.

“Local leaders are very interested in increasing the number of Saudi nationals who are working to design, construct, and maintain the infrastructure of the expanded city,” Fiegel wrote.

The total cost for the project in the basic budget is nearly $5.9 million. This budget is itemized to include salaries and wages, fringe benefits, expendable supplies and equipment, permanent equipment, travel, publication and documentation costs and communication.

“A condition of the proposed collaborative effort is that Cal Poly receive additional resources from JUC to assist with program development, including funding for faculty and staff support,” Fiegel wrote.

“JUC understands this and negotiations are ongoing. All of the costs summarized in our proposal are to be covered by funds provided by JUC. ”

LoCascio identified the intended program as a conceivable way to raise funds for Cal Poly.

The idea was further backed by the low CSU budget and the recent controversy that California will be spending more on the state prison system than higher education within the next decade.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Web site states that budget year funding for the CSU system for 2007 is $4.4 billion. In comparison, the Strategic Growth Plan prison construction and reform element enacted in May was given $7.7 billion.

“It’s one thing to talk to people but it’s another thing to accept money from them with no clear goals or changing anybody’s mind about anything,” LoCascio said.

“I think Cal Poly is really selling its soul to the devil. I think the problems are that no one wants to pay higher taxes and no one wants to raise tuition. But I’d rather see tuition go up than compromise such a deal. Something has got to change, but I don’t know what that is.”

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