UPDATE, Dec. 6
Cal Poly officials said the Semester Review Task Force’s meeting, which is expected to result in a recommendation to the university president on whether Cal Poly should adopt semesters, will be postponed and open to the public.
Task force chair Rachel Fernflores made the decision Tuesday, a university spokesperson said, but has not yet determined a time and date for the meeting.
Cal Poly’s Semester Review Task Force will close its doors to the general public Thursday, leaving the committee with an opportunity to form its final report to the university president in private.
Cal Poly denied access to students, faculty, staff and media, following a request by Mustang Daily to attend the meeting this past week. In that meeting, the Semester Review Task Force, which spent the better part of fall quarter gathering information about semesters on Cal Poly President Jeffery Armstrong’s behalf, is slated to write its final report on whether semesters are right for Cal Poly.
The time and place of the meeting are not currently posted on the task force website.
University spokesperson Ellen Cohune said Cal Poly believes it is “perfectly reasonable” for the task force to meet in private. She said by denying Mustang Daily’s request to attend the meeting, it might indicate the committee is trying to reach a consensus before making a recommendation to Armstrong.
“I think we need to let them do their work, and once that’s over, then everything will be perfectly transparent,” Cohune said. “There will be no questions about transparency.”
Task force chair Rachel Fernflores said the meeting should be closed because members might not feel comfortable speaking openly and freely with members of the public watching.
“I’m committed to transparency on principle,” Fernflores wrote in an email to Mustang Daily. “But the main thing is that I need to talk with the committee first — after all of the work they have done, they’ve earned the opportunity to share with me whether they would feel free to speak openly and candidly.”
When Fernflores consulted the task force, members expressed concern about students, faculty and staff knowing what is discussed during the meeting, she said.
“They do not believe that they will be able to speak openly and freely if you are there, so they do not want (a reporter) there,” she wrote in another email to Mustang Daily, this time after speaking with the task force.
Not a single member wanted the meeting to be open, she said.
University officials said they do not believe the meeting falls under the Brown Act or Bagley-Keene Act, both of which regulate which state meetings must be open to the public. They said this is because the president appointed the Semester Review Task Force, not the CSU Board of Trustees. This, they said, means it does not meet the legal definition of a “state body.”
Fernflores expressed further concern with opening the meeting, saying it would take too much work to hold it in a room that could allow for the number of people who would want to attend. She also said it would be disruptive to allow public comments, and the task force would not be able to get its work done.
Student representative Derek Majewski explained the decision by likening it to how Apple reveals final Mac products after work on them is finished, but keeps the creative process secretive. Graham Archer, the faculty representative from the College of Architecture and Environmental Design on the task force, said members expressed concern they would be “caught up in the heat of the moment” and say something they would rather keep private.
The task force’s report to Armstrong will be public, Cohune said, and quickly distributed once it is formed. University officials expect the recommendation to be completed by Dec. 11.