Cal Poly students living on campus recently returned from the holiday break only to discover that something was out of place.
When they turned their television dials and flipped through the channels, looking for their favorite show, they discovered that the 60 channels they used to get had been cut to just 32 with many of their favorites now missing.
“The first thing I noticed was that MTV was Channel 21 instead of Channel 64,” said Ali Noyer, a graphic design sophomore and Cerro Vista resident.
The channel change took place over the 2005 holiday break after five years of debate between Housing and Business Services and Charter Communications over the television services provided to students that live on campus.
The number of cable channels provided was reduced and three HBO channels were added to the line-up. The unexpected change has left students confused and upset.
“I didn’t appreciate the fact that they didn’t approach us before they made the decision for us,” said Marya Mikati, an architecture engineering sophomore and Cerro Vista resident.
Discussions for the change began back in 2000 when the contract with Charter came up for renewal and Cal Poly renegotiated another three years of similar service in exchange for ownership of the cable line on campus at the end of those three years. This ownership would allow them more control over television services.
In spring 2005, Housing and Business Services met with Interhall Council (IHC), a group comprised of all the residence hall presidents, to discuss the changes. The council proposed adding HBO in lieu of the costly movie rights needed to show films in the residence hall common rooms.
“It’s really a great opportunity to empower Interhall Council,” said Alan Pepe, director of Housing and Business Services.
However, the changes that were made do not reflect what the students or IHC had in mind
“This was certainly not Interhall Council’s intention,” said Zachary Austin, a political science sophomore and president of IHC. “In hindsight, I would have said no way.”
Housing and Business Services also recognizes that students are not happy with the lack of communication regarding the change.
“Students are not comfortable with what we picked,” Pepe said. “If there was some folly with our systems it was not letting the students know.”
The new contract is in effect until 2007 but allows for changes in the channel line-up every six months on Dec. 1 and June 15. Currently, IHC is working on eliminating four channels in the current line-up and replacing them with four different channels that the majority of students want.
“We’re trying to encourage students to talk to Interhall Council,” Pepe said.
So far, students have been good about giving their feedback to IHC, Austin said. The proposal is to eliminate one of the news stations, the Weather Channel, G4 and Nick at Night and to add the WB, ESPN2, Food Network, Disney, ABC Family, Spike, ZX, Bravo, Lifetime, Fuel and PBS.
“We’ll do whatever is needed,” Pepe said. “We can flex it enough to make the majority of the students happy.”
Housing and Business Services is currently waiting on the recommendations that have been submitted to Charter and is waiting to hear how much the adjustment will cost. In June, they may decide to increase the number of channels in addition to changing what is offered.
“I think it’s a positive change,” Pepe said. “If it’s done right it will be good and we’re hoping to do it right.”
In September 2005, the entire network of cables throughout campus switched from an analog system to a digital system, which saved thousands of dollars and gave the university more control.
“In the big picture we can have expanded service, flexibility of services,” Pepe said. “It’s a good growth opportunity for everyone.”
For now, students will have to live with the change while Housing and Business Services and IHC take the student feedback and figure out the next step
“Every once in a while we hit a bump in the road,” Pepe said. “But I really believe we’re going in the right direction.”