Former Vice President of Student Affairs Cornel Morton will work as Cal Poly’s first senior adviser to the president for outreach following his return from a one-month leave in February.
Morton, who has been the vice president of student affairs since 2002, was removed from his position last month. Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong approached him about the new position near the end of Fall Quarter 2011, Morton said.
As senior adviser, Morton will work to encourage more first-generation students to come to Cal Poly, as well as increasing the demographical diversity among students.
“We have some real challenges, especially right now with the budget being as it is,” Morton said. “We need to invest in our diversity resources in a more sustained and consistent way.”
Under his new job description, Morton’s old salary of $179,400 will be reduced by approximately $40,000. His salary of $140,004 will take effect June 1.
The search for a new vice president of student affairs began in December, Cal Poly public affairs team leader Stacia Momburg said. Armstrong said he is hopeful a new vice president will be in place by 2013.
Armstrong said though he recognizes the university faces tough economic times, creating the new position is still necessary for Cal Poly’s success.
“One of the most difficult things to do in budget times is keeping an eye on the future and making investments for the future,” Armstrong said.
The cost of creating the new salary for Morton was something he said puts added pressure on him to produce results in increasing diversity.
“It’s important to help us see the position as an investment to help us see these goals through,” Morton said.
Armstrong said he and Morton found a middle ground between Morton’s value in the position and the budget situation.
“It’s a balance of the market value of the person,” he said. “The value of getting this right is tremendous for our students and their future.”
Until a new vice president for student affairs is found, current University Housing executive director Preston Allen will serve as the interim vice president. Allen will also continue in his University Housing position. Morton said he has met with Allen and plans to work closely with the Office of Student Affairs in his new position.
“I look forward to working with (Allen) and other student affairs staff. I know them, they know me and we work well together,” he said. “I can bridge some relationships within the university to help the students.
Momburg said outreach and diversity initiatives are near the top of Armstrong’s priorities. The time is right for action on that agenda, Momburg said, due to Morton’s “strong background in increasing diversity.”
“President Armstrong tries to move quickly regarding initiatives, and this seemed like the right time to move forward on this,” she said.
Armstrong said he has been working on increasing diversity since he arrived at Cal Poly last February. For him, its importance all revolves around student success, and that it is “key to Cal Poly’s success.”
“If (students are) working and learning to learn in an environment that’s vastly different than the California they’re going into when they graduate, that’s going to impact their success,” Armstrong said.
Since Armstrong has been told in multiple private conversations that diversity is Cal Poly’s “Achilles’ heel,” Momburg said Morton’s new adviser position is necessary due to this and to the increasing complexity in global markets.
“It’s no secret that Cal Poly is very, very much implicated in whether or not the state of California takes full advantage of the changes of demographics in the state,” Morton said.
Armstrong said he worked closely with Morton to create the position and review goals that will ultimately shape Morton’s role.
“He was involved,” Armstrong said. “We talked quite a bit about how (Morton) would define success in this position.”