Faculty dominated the last open meeting of the Semester Review Task Force, in which more than 100 attendees outnumbered task force members and demanded answers from university administrators.
They threw question after question to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong throughout the afternoon, painting the picture of a faculty base that disagrees with the steps that have been taken to examine bringing semesters to Cal Poly.
“Overall, the people that came to today’s meeting were in support of quarters,” Armstrong said after the meeting. “And they didn’t appreciate the process that had been tasked to see if we should be on semesters. If I sounded defensive, I was being defensive because I am defending and am in support of the process.”
Several professors asked Armstrong about how much they would teach under a semester calendar, but he maintained that the issue can be addressed after a decision to convert is made.
Though the Semester Review Task Force — which Armstrong appointed earlier this quarter — will make a recommendation to him next week about whether to convert, he said its members have not yet decided on what professor workload would be like after conversion.
“I can understand the concern about workload and how that goes into making a decision, but one of the reasons is we need to remain at a fairly rapid pace,” Armstrong said. “And if we decide quarters are best for Cal Poly, we need to be armed with good reasons.”
Cal Poly Academic Senate Chair Steven Rein added to Armstrong’s response, saying the senate would address the issue and allow professors to be involved in establishing a new schedule of classes to teach.
“The faculty owns the curriculum,” Rein said. “There’s a lot of information that has to be considered carefully before making any sort of decision like that.”
Provost Kathleen Enz Finken, Assistant Vice President for Academic Personnel Al Liddicoat and task force chair Rachel Fernflores joined Armstrong in leading the forum. Though Enz Finken said she anticipated answering questions about several different issues, she and Armstrong agreed student success is at the forefront of the debate.
“I’m advocating for what’s going to promote our success — for all of us,” she said.
That success, Armstrong said, could come from change and adaptation. He referenced Ohio State University, which he said reported the best thing to come from semester conversion were drastic alterations to its curriculum.
“Do we want to be like Hostess Twinkies? Like the Roman Empire?” Armstrong asked the meeting attendees. “We don’t want to be like them, because they didn’t respond to the marketplace.”
Though the president said he does not know what student success will look like under semesters since the task force report is still in draft form, he also said the entire campus will get a chance to review the document once it is finished and a decision is made. He added that he will reserve his opinion until he has time to review the report and discuss it with faculty, staff and students.
Armstrong previously said he was in support of semesters at Cal Poly, but was open to being convinced otherwise.
“We’re not going to know everything (after the task force report is finished),” Armstrong said. “But we’re going to know a hell of a lot more than we did at the beginning due to the great work this group is doing.”
Members say the Semester Review Task Force plans to draft its final recommendation to Armstrong next Thursday, though it is unclear whether that meeting will be open to the public.