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Eric Stubben is a mechanical engineering junior and Mustang News conservative columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Innovation. Renovation. Revitalization.
These words could be keywords in any political campaign. Their connotation strikes excitement and hope.
Unsurprisingly, forms of these words also appear in Cal Poly’s recently released Master Plan.
Some aspects of the Master Plan are truly interesting and would benefit Cal Poly’s Learn By Doing motto make campus a more invigorating place to live and learn.
The Julian A. McPhee University Union (UU) is dismally gray and outdated. A renovation would likely make it a more attractive place for students to convene. Mott Athletics Center sits far under the average capacity for the home of a Division I basketball program a program that notably made the NCAA Tournament just a year ago. The argument for a new gymnasium is valid. Improving more than a dozen buildings around campus significantly supports our Learn By Doing commitment, especially as many of these are classroom-heavy buildings.
Aside from these renovations, other ideas in the Master Plan are highly questionable, seemingly coming out of left field.
More housing? A hotel and convention center on campus? Are these ideas and uses of funds the best way to educate students? After all, the main goal of any university is to educate its students. Prove me wrong, but I fail to see how an on-campus hotel supports Learn By Doing.
The housing, hotel and convention center, along with an increased capacity for food services seem to be driven by outside resources and alternative motives.
“Let’s be honest, the dorms and food service are about making money,” said an engineering professor. “The proposed hotel, making money … And, it seems to me, this money sadly goes to ‘fuel the machine’ and not the educational mission of the university.”
Another alarming concern with the Master Plan is its effect on Cal Poly’s agriculture programs. In an email to students last month, the campus group Students for Agriculture expressed their concerns about the threat to their Learn By Doing experience: “The Master Plan land use maps indicate that almost all of our orchards (of which are all on Class 1 soil) and Horticulture facilities could be removed and replaced with student dorms, recreation space, parking lots and a hotel.”
Keep in mind that Class 1 soil is the best-rated soil for growing crops. If some of the most forward-thinking ideas in the Master Plan are to be executed (such as the hotel and convention center), they must be built without harming Cal Poly’s coveted Learn By Doing philosophy.
Students aren’t the only ones affected by the Master Plan. With campus staff protesting against administrative salary increases and demanding higher pay for the rest of the staff, the Master Plan doesn’t bode well. How can the university justify throwing millions upon millions of dollars at projects with mediocre support when they can barely even pay campus staff a fair wage?
If you’re one who typically doesn’t agree with my opinions, think in terms of the environmental impact of the Master Plan. California is in the midst of perhaps its worst drought in history. The university is taking eye-opening steps to reduce its water usage by letting grass die, an aesthetically ugly term known as “turf reduction.”
However, the Master Plan contradicts Cal Poly’s water reduction efforts. Construction and student expansion will only increase the amount of water used in coming years and decades to follow.
“The administration should not be promoting more growth and construction during a water crisis,” said Cal Poly alumnus. ” This is not a one or two-year problem, but at least a decade worth of issues that need to be resolved. The difference with this drought over previous droughts is the total population in the region. We had droughts in the past, but only half the population to support 45 years ago.”
Lastly, because the Master Plan focuses so heavily on athletics, so must I. Before I criticize the future athletic plan too much, allow me to disclaim myself. Beyond anything else, I have a profound love of sports. I grew up watching college football from dusk until well past dawn every crisp Saturday fall morning, waiting for my chance to be a student at all of the games one day. But even I cannot justify the leaps that the Master Plan wishes to take in terms of athletics.
A new arena, a stadium expansion, a field house: they’re intriguing ideas and surely ones that would increase the caliber of Cal Poly athletics. But isn’t the goal of completing these projects in 20 years a lofty goal? We aren’t exactly a PAC-12 school or mid-major athletic powerhouse (yet).
A city of roughly 45,000, San Luis Obispo is far from a major sports market. Even programs with a storied tradition, such as football, struggle to sell out games. On the other hand, athletic success does draw attention and applicants to the respective college and nicer facilities do often correlate with recruiting better athletes. Debating the validity of devoting of so many resources to athletic facilities is necessary is a debate worth Cal Poly’s time.
Through all of the “complaining” I’ve done, the question remains: What should Cal Poly do? Surely innovation and renovation are necessary to increase the impressive success of Cal Poly.
Cal Poly is already a well-oiled machine. We have top-ranked programs in engineering, architecture, business, agriculture, computer science and more. The aforementioned professor had a uniquely accurate way of describing Cal Poly:
“A golden apple, created by the work of generations of hard working teachers and students.”
The Master Plan should focus on educating students and supporting the overall campus experience. Revitalization and renovation on campus is a positive goal, but it cannot trump the one reason for the existence of a university — education.