Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and university wide budgetary concerns, Cal Poly is experiencing a hiring and recruitment “chill” per California State University System guidance.

The university has begun to use the phrase hiring “chill” rather than hiring “freeze” as select recruitments will take place moving forward, according to university spokesperson Matt Lazier.

Exceptions for this halt include positions that have been offered and await candidate acceptance letters and positions deemed essential for campus safety or operations. Current postings for staff positions will be inactivated.

Cal Poly University Police Department positions for police officers are currently open, for example, to meet campus needs, according to Lazier. These positions cannot be updated via personnel adjustments. 

Positions like the two Safer student advocates have been deemed nonessential and remain open.

During this hiring freeze, the university had three open leadership positions: Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Cal Poly Corporation, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion and Vice President of Development.  

The CEO of the Cal Poly Corporation and the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion are “essential leadership positions that cannot be left vacant without significant consequences,” Laizer wrote in an email to Mustang News. 

The CEO of the Cal Poly Corporation is essential for campus operations as this position develops and leads partnerships with alumni, public/private industry and the university.  

Such partnerships enhance both resources and services in support of the university’s mission, according to the Cal Poly Corporation CEO Opportunity and Challenge Profile.

Lorlie Leetham, current Cal Poly Corporation CEO, will be retiring on July 31.  

“It’s been a really great experience,” Leetham said. “I love working on a campus, there are so many interesting, smart people and a diversity of thought.”

In a campus wide email sent June 10, the office of the Vice President announced that Cody VanDorn, the executive director of Strategic Business Services, has been chosen to serve as the next CEO of the Cal Poly Corporation. 

The Cal Poly Corporation employs over 3,200 part-time and student employees and 230 full-time employees, reaching over $100 million in annual revenues and $200 million in assets. 

The CEO is required to address the four following opportunities upon accepting this position, according to the Cal Poly Corporation CEO Opportunity and Challenge Profile.

  • Enrich the corporation’s role as a key partner to Cal Poly. 
  • Develop and strengthen relationships with university partners.
  • Lead operational strategy with integrity and maximize effectiveness. 
  • Energize and offer professional development for corporation staff and employees.

The CEO of the Cal Poly Corporation’s primary job function is to lead the Corporation as a strategic partner to both President Armstrong and the university.  The remaining job functions include 14 key tasks, including but not limited to the following.

  • Provide oversight and direction to the university bookstore and campus dining program.
  • Provide support for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences’ business operations. 
  • Steward real estate holdings and provide real estate acquisition assistance and management services.
  • Direct operation of the Conference and Event Planning Unit.
  • Devise ways and means of leveraging assets to create mission-related revenue generating enterprises.

Leetham said one critical day to day task the CEO must undertake is answering questions and making decisions.

“People look to you to answer their questions, be responsive and say, ‘This is the direction we will go,’” Leetham said. “Sometimes, it’s not the perfect decision.”

Throughout her time as CEO of the Cal Poly Corporation, Leetham has interacted with students, attended Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) board meetings and worked with student employees in the administration, student resources, human resources and IT offices.

“One of the elements of this position I have enjoyed the most is working with and for students in a more direct manner,” Leetham said.  

“We try to meet the needs of students, whether it be better facilities or better experiences,” Leetham said. “Students express their satisfaction, dissatisfaction and goals.” 

Filling the position of Vice President of Development is on hold, as the university evaluates budgetary issues and manages priorities.

“The pandemic has created remarkable budget issues for Cal Poly,” Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News.

Unlike other Cal Poly entities or nonprofit foundations, the Cal Poly Corporation does not fundraise.  Rather, the Cal Poly Corporation relies on business operations and services, such as campus dining. California’s stay-at-home order has significantly impacted revenue, shutting down many operations.  

While many Cal Poly Corporation employees have begun telecommuting, this option is not possible for all job positions, according to Leetham.

While there have been no furloughs of university employees as a result of California’s stay-at-home order, both ASI and the Cal Poly Corporation have announced furloughs. 

President Armstrong is regularly reviewing proposed recruitments and making decisions on essential positions for both campus operation or safety, according to Lazier. 

Prior to President Armstrong’s final approval, hiring actions must be approved by the Division Vice President or Provost. 

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