Kendra Coburn is a mathematics major and a Mustang News columnist. The views expresssed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
In Winter 2016, Cal Poly held a referendum for students to vote on whether or not they wanted to approve a future fee increase to fund renovations in the University Union. Although only 31.7 percent of the student population voted, 58.11 percent of voters did not approve of the proposed plan. This saved future students $199 per quarter in fee hikes. Now, Cal Poly has found a new venue through which to nickel and dime future students: the Health Center.
On Jan. 18, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong approved a $99 fee increase that will affect the incoming Fall 2018 class of students. These fees will provide funding to hire more counselors and expand the school’s currently lackluster mental health services. The debate at hand is not whether the Health Center needs an expansion. As a past patient of the Health Center’s counseling services, I can attest first-hand to the clear understaffing and lack of comprehensive student support.
Let me be clear: Armstrong’s decision to move forward with the Health Center expansion was the right one. However, I assert that the manner by which this decision was reached was problematic and further, symptomatic of the profit-driven mindset of the current Cal Poly administration.
There have been a few missteps made by administration in recent years that indicate a disregard for the student body’s input. Perhaps most brazen of these or at least the one best-recalled by students was the admission of about 850 more students than the admissions office anticipated in Fall 2017. While administration was quick to portray themselves as a “victim of success,” many students are still resentful. With the yakʔityutyu residence hall construction already underway at the time of the admissions fiasco, it was no wonder why students weren’t buying into the administration’s claim of victimhood. Students and San Luis Obispo residents alike begged administration to reconsider the approval of the new housing, but in the end, the voices of the majority fell to administration’s greedy ambition. Now, current students must face the looming process of even more impacted classrooms, while local residents must defend their community from the ever-encroaching student presence.
The process for approving the new tuition hike included administration hosting open forums in which community members could voice their opinions on expanding the Health Center. At the time, two plans for expansion were offered. A proposed $114 tuition increase was ultimately dismissed in favor of the $99 increase approved by Armstrong. These open forums were factored into the final decision to approve the Health Center expansion, but were not a formal measure of student interest.
By deciding not to hold a referendum for this decision, administration demonstrated to the student body that our voices can be muted. We can be reduced to a number, our tuition fee, printed as a single line among thousands on an Excel spreadsheet in Armstrong’s computer. It’s frustrating to know that at a school that claims to “Learn By Doing,” Cal Poly administration can do without student voices in key decision-making processes.