Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Kiyana Tabrizi called the proposed Student Success Fee the most important tuition decision Cal Poly has ever faced. But students’ lack of interest might indicate disagreement.
With only two open forums left for students to come and learn about the fee, attendance is as low as ever. Two students attended Tuesday’s forum, the latest disappointment in associate vice provost Kimi Ikeda’s mission to gain attendance at the nine forums this quarter.
“It’s a disappointment, in that this is a really huge issue for Cal Poly,” Ikeda said. “It has a lot to say about our future. And if students aren’t engaged, then it’s hard to say what role should students play in the decisions about our campus.”
Students will be asked to vote on the fee as an advisory measure to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong before he decides whether or not to recommend the fee to California State University (CSU) Chancellor Charles Reed. Ikeda said when Armstrong makes his decision, he will have to take into account how educated about the issue students are when they vote.
“I would hate for an apathetic student body to determine our future in a negative way,” Ikeda said.
Fortunately for Cal Poly administration, whose personnel are generally in favor of the fee, other methods of communication for students have proven to be more successful. Ikeda’s visits to Cal Poly clubs have reached five times as many students as the forums. And Tabrizi, a political science senior, is leading a task force to bring awareness to the fee. The different colleges at Cal Poly are also presenting information to their own students.
Ikeda and Tabrizi both said they strive to remain neutral in their presentations to students. They said it’s important to discuss both the pros and cons of the Student Success Fee.
“We don’t care if people vote for or against the fee,” Tabrizi said. “Our role is that we want to make sure that at the end of the day, we thought that we did all we could do to make sure all the students were educated prior to voting.”
The ASI task force met for three hours Sunday to talk about the current state of information among students regarding the fee. The committee addressed some of what Tabrizi called common myths among students. She said she plans to send an email to all students this week that will include a video with information about the fee.
“We wanted to create some kind of media outlet, some kind of video, where students can get quickly educated, spark their interest a little bit about what’s going on and then go pursue more research,” she said.
Tabrizi said she agreed with Ikeda that students are apathetic, but is hopeful students will become engaged as the vote comes closer. She said students’ schedules are keeping them from actively seeking out information on the fee.
“We need a captive audience to tell them about the student success fee,” Tabrizi said. “And they’ll care. They’ll 100 percent care. Every student in that room, I guarantee will care. But unless you tell them how important it is, they’re busy.”
After attending several forums and presentations on the Student Success Fee, Tabrizi said she has seen many students change their mind. She said as they become more educated, they tend to support the fee.
Tabrizi has not declared her own position on the Student Success Fee out of a desire to maintain neutrality while leading the outreach effort.
“I’ve had a lot of students come in and ask me for my private feedback,” she said. “At this time, I don’t really share my personal opinions in it. If I’m representing the students, I think I should represent how they speak.”
But several individuals on campus have spoken out in favor of the fee, including leaders of the six colleges at Cal Poly. Many of the colleges are working to educate their students through classroom visits and additional college-based open forums.
Linda Halisky, the College of Liberal Arts dean, said she is coordinating meetings for liberal arts students to learn more about the fee before the advisory vote. Though she said she does not know if the meetings will be more successful than the campus-wide open forums, she said this approach succeeded in the past.
“I had good attendance from the student council members, and I had a very full house when I visited the College of Liberal Arts ambassadors,” she said.
Halisky said if the Student Success Fee does not pass, less classes and sections will be offered in the College of Liberal Arts.
The College of Architecture and Environmental Design is also working to inform its students about the proposed tuition increase. Architecture senior Nicholas Ochoa, president of the college’s student council, said there will be a discussion forum on the day before the vote for architecture students.
“We are hoping all of our students will be able to come,” Ochoa said.
The College of Engineering is directing its education efforts toward major classes for different grade levels. Amy Hewes, director of publication and communications for the college, said the college’s dean and associate deans will go to some of the largest undergraduate classes to talk about the Student Success Fee.
“Generally speaking, our students are really busy and (a fee increase) doesn’t come onto their radar until the very end,” Hewes said.
Requests for comment from the colleges of science and math, business and agriculture were not returned.
Ikeda said the way colleges go about educating their students on the fee differs from her presentation, as they are more open about supporting it. She said this is because colleges will be hit harder if the fee does not pass.
“It’s hard to explain it to students without advocating it,” Halisky said. “Because we wouldn’t be asking for it unless we needed it.”
The Student Success Fee, which was originally proposed by former provost Robert Koob, will raise tuition $260 per quarter. It would be phased in over three years, beginning in Fall Quarter 2012 at $160 per quarter, then being increased by $50 each fall until 2014.
Students will have the opportunity to cast their vote in the advisory ballot on their Cal Poly portal Feb. 29.
Ikeda said she hopes to see a decision from Reed on the Student Success Fee in March. If passed, a committee will form to decide how to spend the additional revenue.