Cal Poly announced Robert Glidden as the new interim president after deciding against offering the postion to the three candidates interviewed for presidency during the past year.
Glidden will come out of retirement to take on the position. Before retiring he served as president for Ohio University from 1994 to 2004, where he oversaw more than six campuses, and served as provost and vice president of academic affairs for Florida State University, as well as being a dean and a professor.
Glidden, originally from Iowa, received his B.A., M.A., and doctorate in music from the University of Iowa.
He spoke about his views of Cal Poly and goals and expectations for both himself and the campus during his time in San Luis Obispo during a question and answer session.
What are you most excited about as being Cal Poly’s interim president?
I’m very impressed with the university and I’m pleased to be here and be a part of it. It’s my first time as an interim president. I’ve given a lot of thought to what an interim president does compared to a regular president. It’s a great opportunity for me to be a part of a really fine university.
What do you think about the CSU system?
Well it’s a big system and it’s mission in California has been a very important one. I think the most challenging thing, which is regrettable right now, is there needs to be more capacity and frankly there needs to be more money. Cal Poly cut down (on enrollment) because we are determined to maintain the same amount of quality of education. I think that it’s admirable that the stance has been taken. On the other hand, there is a great need that hasn’t been met. I’ve known a lot of people from this system, but as far as the (CSU) system itself, I’m just beginning to learn.
How do you plan on upholding Cal Poly’s reputation?
That has to do more with faculty and staff and attention to students than the president. I do have a lot of national affiliation and connection, and by word of mouth I can help to some extent on repetitional issues. My main thing is to do no harm. I’ll be listening to faculty and administration to learn what things can be improved.
What is your interpretation of learn by doing?
I was a music student and music involves learning by doing to a great extent. I appreciate the fact that hands-on experience is the best kind of learning. It’s easier to apply in some disciplines than others. I think it can be applied by any but in some it’s more obvious. The main thing about a university is you want students to be engaged in learning. Learn by doing is the best way to insure that engagement. It can apply and should apply to all students. A lot that we learn in the university is theoretical, but there are different aspects where you go to apply that personally. It helps students to know what they are good at. When people know that they are good at something, they go out in the world with confidence.
What are you expectations of students?
I always said I’d rather have B students who really want to learn than A students who just want to get a degree. I believe at Cal Poly we have A students who really want to learn and I will believe that until I’m proved wrong. On a lot of campuses there are an awful lot of students who just want a degree and that’s not the way I am and not the way I want a university to be. I want students who want to learn.
What are your expectations of faculty?
The sense that I’ve gotten from everyone I’ve talked with is faculty here are very committed to students. I’ve been a part of a university where faculty are more interested in research than teaching, and I like that Cal Poly has more interest in students.
Do you have any plans to improve the relationship between student night life and the community?
That’s a difficult issue on every residential campus. It’s one with which I have some familiarity and some experience. You want students to have fun and have an active social life and so forth. I will do everything I can to encourage students to be responsible in their behavior and to be considerate as citizens in a community. Even with the best intentions, parties can get out of control. I was the president of a school that was ranked No.2 of party schools by the Princeton Review. We studied hard but, yes, we are sociable. Communities then react because they get disgusted by too much noise and student behavior when the students have had too much to drink. A law like (The Unruly Gathering Ordinance) can help a host kick people out. Community reaction to students who don’t police their own behavior. I’m not condemning students — you want students to have fun. When people drink too much they don’t have good judgement and particularly when they’re in crowds. I am not prudish of such things but I do think it’s part of the university’s responsibilities to teach students how to be responsible citizens. Think of it as giving you a reason to control the environment; the worst things happen when the hosts don’t have control.
How do you plan on improving the school?
A school is improved program-by-program and there are so many facets to that, like student programs and student life. What I’ll be doing is listening to them and taking their advice and what changes can be made by what they say. I don’t plan on making large changes. I will listen to a lot of people before I make any declaration. I know a lot about academic performance at Cal Poly, and I’m only beginning to learn about student life. I’m very impressed with Associated Students Inc., their responsibilities and how it works here. I don’t have in mind any dramatic changes that I can put in right now. Often, when you’re moving in a direction there are often several preliminary steps. I’ll be listening to lots of folks about that.
What major changes do you want to see at Cal Poly?
I will try to be a consensus builder. I’d be foolish to say that I know enough yet to know what drastic changes need to be made.
What minor changes would you like to see at Cal Poly?
I don’t know that either. One of the things that Cal Poly is trying is to do keep students on track to graduate on time. A main responsibility is to plan to have course offerings so everyone will graduate on time. I’ve talked to Provost Robert Koob and I have great respect for him, and I think we’ve made changes in that aspect. We want to make certain that parents and students get the value they’ve invested for: a quality education that prepares you for life as well as well as a job and also does it in a timely fashion to make sure that college isn’t a career. There should be more incentives for people to graduate on time and that should be statewide — not just at Cal Poly. To any extent that we are inefficient and can’t offer the courses students need to graduate is our responsibility. We have a very impressive retention rate and graduation rate at Cal Poly. I would like to be sure there is co-op with academic affairs and student affairs, so if a student isn’t happy and not adjusting well to college life that we find that out early and try to help them. Cal Poly has a 92 percent retention rate — a lot of people are happy with 75 percent.
What is your favorite part about Cal Poly’s campus?
The campus as a whole is fairly compact for as many students that there are here. I think the new student recreation center is going to be great. The performing arts center is a wonderful facility. I saw a number of the agriculture facilities and I was really impressed with a lot of the work that was going on there. It’s hard for me to pick one favorite thing about the campus. I’ll have a better feeling when the students return and you get the vibrancy of the college campus.
How will you make students’ time at Cal Poly more enjoyable?
To keep them well enough behaved so they don’t have to pay $700 in fines for the Unruly Gathering Ordinance. We need to make certain that students are fully engaged, not only in academics but socially as well. I’m a great believer in diversity and getting to know people with an entirely different background than your own. We learn by doing things together, whether it’s a project, playing sports, playing music or acting, the best way to know about people is working with them to produce something.
What sports are you looking forward to watching at Cal Poly?
I really enjoy sports; I played them in high school. I played basketball until about 35 — until my body couldn’t take it anymore. I love to play tennis now. Football, baseball, softball, basketball — I don’t know how much time I’ll have to get to events but I’ll be there when I can to watch students perform. I want to see the performing arts students in action as well.
Do you play any instruments?
I did, I’ve given recitals on oboe, clarinet, bassoon and saxophone. I don’t practice anymore.
Will you perform them for staff and students?
That I do know the answer — the answer is no. It would be an awesome embarrassment for us all. There are ample opportunities to make a fool of yourself, and there is no point in going out of your way and making those opportunities.
Favorite TV show?
The cleverest writers are “Two and a Half Men.” Those writers are so clever I’d like to sit in one of their conversations because I bet they just have a ball. It’s socially inappropriate in a lot of ways but they are very clever.