After months of tentative discussion surrounding the issue, a presidential task force aimed to explore a Cal Poly conversion to semesters will begin meetings in mid-October.
Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, who will ultimately make the decision on whether or not Cal Poly should leave the quarter system behind, said the Semester Review Task Force will examine costs, actions, phasing and logistics of converting to semesters. The committee will also present Armstrong with feedback from the campus community before he makes a final decision.
Armstrong has repeatedly made it clear that he favors bringing semesters to Cal Poly. Since first discussing the issue with Mustang Daily last April, the president has maintained that the time is right to start preparing for a switch that could take place as soon as 2014.
“I’m pretty much where I was last spring,” Armstrong said when asked if his position had changed since earlier this year. “All things considered, I think it’s something we should consider and something we should do.”
The task force will include 23 members of the campus community, including a chair appointed by the president. Three of the representatives will also be students appointed by Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Katie Morrow.
Morrow said she is not concerned by the low number of students on the committee. She said she is confident everyone in the room will have the students’ interests in mind during the decision-making process. The ASI representatives on the committee will serve primarily to ensure others have a clear picture of what students want, Morrow said.
Part of ASI’s role in the task force process is determining what the “informed opinion” of students is, Morrow said. Student government officials will conduct outreach programs throughout fall quarter and bring their interests to the larger committee.
“I want to make sure that the students on the committee represent the student opinion, and I will as well,” Morrow said.
But there are many more interests at play than just those of the students, task force chair and philosophy professor Rachel Fernflores said. The committee has begun to examine the impact of a potential conversion on all aspects of Cal Poly and has already found several different impact areas across campus, she said. Switching to semesters, she said, would impact not only students, but would also require hours of work from professors, information specialists, admissions officers, administrators and others on campus.
Because of this, Fernflores and Armstrong both maintain that the issue should not be decided solely by a student vote. The two said it is doubtful that a campus-wide vote similar to that of the Student Success Fee referendum last spring will occur for semesters.
“It’s difficult to say the input of one group (the students) should trump the others,” Fernflores said. “The logic doesn’t flow.”
Instead of a student vote, Fernflores plans to use a campus-wide survey to solicit input from several different groups at Cal Poly. She intends to outreach to staff, faculty, administrators, alumni and parents, as well as students, to gauge their feelings about how converting to semesters would affect them.
Recent discussion about semesters began last April when Armstrong agreed to co-chair a committee of California State University (CSU) presidents aimed to examine the logistics of a possible switch of all six of the quarter-based campuses in the CSU: San Luis Obispo, Bakersfield, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, East Bay and Pomona.
Though CSU spokesperson Liz Chapin said there are no plans to issue a mandated conversion for those campuses left on the quarter system, outgoing CSU Chancellor Charles Reed has been a proponent of standardizing the entire university system on semesters for years, Fernflores said.
But among the complications of a potential conversion is the outcome of Proposition 30, a November tax initiative that could result in a $250 million cut in state funding to the CSU if it isn’t passed. Early estimates predict the cut could bring $14 million of reduced revenue to Cal Poly in next year’s budget. As Fernflores sees it, Proposition 30’s failure could give Cal Poly “reason to pause,” before deciding to commit to conversion timeline.
Fernflores expects the committee members to be finalized by the end of the second week of classes, and the group will conduct its first meeting on Oct. 10. The 23 members will issue a formal report to Armstrong at the end of the quarter, outlining logistics of a potential switch, as well as an overall recommendation if semesters should or should not come to Cal Poly.