It was standing room only at Tuesday’s Academic Senate meeting, as dozens of students attended to protest Cal Poly’s examination of ending the academic honors program.
The students directed their frustration at Provost Kathleen Enz Finken, who spoke to honors students this past week and told them she was moving to end the program.
As she entered the meeting, Enz Finken told Mustang Daily and the assembled crowd of questioning students, “They can keep their honors program. They can keep it. Nothing’s been decided.”
But during the meeting, Enz Finken clarified that though no distinct plans have been made as of yet, something still needs to be done to change the honors program because, in her view, it has remained stagnant since its founding in 1999.
She questioned the long-term success of the program, saying something needs to change.
“I think what I’m being asked to do is tinker around the edges,” she said, “And I’m not sure that’s the best resolution.”
Students made it clear they disagreed, however.
Several students carried signs, including one that read: “I came to Cal Poly for the Honors Program. I am not alone.” Multiple students said they decided to attend the meeting after receiving an email from industrial and manufacturing engineering professor Sema Alptekin, director of the honors program.
In the email, Alptekin asked students to come with their classmates and teachers to show support for the program.
“She (Provost Enz Finken) thinks that there are only a few people who are very supportive of the program,” Alptekin wrote. “We need to show as much support as possible to have any chance of saving the honors program.”
At one point during the meeting, honors student and modern languages and literature junior Nicole Beaudoin defended the program to Enz Finken, saying she would like whatever decision is eventually made to involve honors students.
“We are told the honors program is not big enough,” she said.”It’s got more applicants than we can accept. And we have around 400 people in the program. We were also told the honors program is not sustainable. It has been around for 14 years.”
Enz Finken responded to several of Beaudoin’s concerns, saying students within the program could still graduate with honors, but there are no plans to admit new students into the program next year.
The Academic Senate did not include an examination of honors on its agenda, something Academic Senate Chair Steve Rein emphasized to the speakers in support of it. He said senators would likely address the topic at its next meeting in two weeks.