Questions arose about Cal Poly’s future as a public university after a talk given by Cal Poly Provost Robert Koob last Wednesday at a retired faculty and staff luncheon.
Koob discussed increasing cuts to funding and tuition hikes as signs that change is necessary in order for Cal Poly to continue offering students an education in the future, said retired forestry professor Tim O’Keefe, who was present at the luncheon.
“(Privatization) seems like a very strong possibility to me, the way he put it together,” O’Keefe said.
The talk covered both a possible proposal to privatize the university, as well as a suggestion by Koob to have undergraduates teaching in the future, O’Keefe said.
“He thought students were some of the greatest resources that Cal Poly has,” O’Keefe said.
Koob said, however, both of these ideas were misconstrued from what he originally said at the luncheon.
The talk Koob gave at the luncheon was the same talk he said he gave to the Associated Students, Inc. Board of Directors and Faculty Advisory Board, as well as several other bodies, about how students are now carrying more of the cost of education than in the past.
“What in effect is happening is we’re moving from public support to private support, which is fees and students,” Koob said.
Since Koob first took the post of provost at Cal Poly in 1990, students have gone from paying for 12 percent of their education to 59 percent, he said. The word privatizing could be used to describe this shift in funding, but does not mean that Cal Poly will be a private institution in the future, Koob said.
“The state of California is privatizing public education by shifting support from the state to students and their families,” Koob said.
With state budget cuts, student fees have increased steadily over the past several years, with an 11 percent tuition increase for California State University (CSU) students for the 2011-12 school year. Another 9 percent tuition increase approved last Wednesday by the CSU Board of Trustees for the 2012-13 school year.
The proposal of having students teach classes was also taken out of context, Koob said. He proposed having older students helping younger students in classes, with the supervision of a professor.
The whole process would be similar to the way student clubs currently work on and complete projects, Koob said.
“We’ve become famous for Learn By Doing, but there’s a whole other level we can take students to by giving them a class,” Koob said.
Koob’s talk at the luncheon was reported by Cal Coast News in an article by Karen Velie, which brought to the public’s attention the possibility of a private Cal Poly on Friday.
“What we have now is what you would call a public/private hybrid,” Koob said. “What (Velie) took that to say is that we’re intentionally privatizing education.”
On Sunday, Koob sent out an email to the Cal Poly faculty and staff clarifying what he intended to convey with his talk at the luncheon.
“At no point did I ever say, nor have I ever advocated, that Cal Poly withdraw from state support of from the CSU,” Koob wrote in the email.
Velie, however, said her article was an accurate report of the talk at last Wednesday’s luncheon. Koob’s statements have changed significantly since the article ran on Cal Coast News’ website, Velie said.
Koob’s quotes in the Cal Coast News article are direct and sum up the lengthy privatization discussion, she said.
“They’re trying to say now, ‘We’re going to be like a private institution,’” Velie said. “This was not just a statement. This was discussed.”
The discussion is a new one for a CSU school. CSU spokesperson Stephanie Thara said no school has left the CSU in the history of the system.
“From the chancellor’s office, there’s no precedence for it,” Thara said.
The CSU is comprised of 23 public schools, which are funded in part by the state, and in part by student tuition and private donations. The CSU schools all work together to create the system, and no school has considered privatizing, Thara said.
“All 23 campuses work as a team, so for something like that to happen, it’s never happened before,” Thara said.