Cal Poly/Saudi update: Blakeslee ‘very disturbed’

March 6, 2008


A controversial Cal Poly/Saudi proposal has a state lawmaker “very disturbed” and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has stepped up pressure on Cal Poly President Warren Baker to take a closer look at the intended Engineering College collaboration.

A growing number of faculty, students and alumni have voiced concern about the scheme, which appears to exclude participation by professors or students who are women, Jewish or gay.

The idea is for Jubail University College (JUC) to receive development, administration and instruction assistance and services from Cal Poly’s Engineering College, with the Saudis reimbursing approximately $6 million to cover costs.

Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) is taking a close look at the proposal, said Chief of Staff Christine Robertson.

“The Assemblyman was very disturbed by information in the press about this project,” she said. “There were questions on what documents could be legally released. We are in process of reviewing that. A top priority for Blakeslee is that state laws are upheld.”

The ADL letter, sent both by electronic mail and first class mail, states that despite the league’s support for corroborative programs with universities in the Middle East, special care must be given to make sure the programs don’t discriminate based on religion, gender, or sexual orientation while complying with the law.

“Turning first to legal obligations, Cal Poly must adhere to state and federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on a number of characteristics, including religion, sex, national origin, and ancestry. See California fair employment and Housing act (FEHA), Government Code section 12900, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended in 1991 to include the American employees of U.S. companies abroad),” according to the letter co-authored by National Civil Rights Director Deborah Lauter and Interim Regional Director Jacqueline Reid.

The League letter also questions whether the proposed collaboration is in step with California anti-discrimination laws:

“Moreover, any program operated by Cal Poly must comply with California’s anti-discrimination laws so any qualified Cal Poly student, faculty, or staff member will have equal access to participate in any university program. See e.g., 42USC 1981, 42 USC 200d, the Unruh Civil Rights act (civ. Code 51) or California Education code sections 200 et seq., 66252 and 66030.”

Provost William Durgin claims the proposed agreement conforms to both California and Saudi laws.

“Hiring and other personnel decisions associated with this project will, of course, comply fully with university policy and federal and state laws and regulations,” Durgin said in an e-mail to members of the Academic Senate a few months ago.

Durgin was unavailable for comment prior to the posting of this article.

“We received a letter inviting a conversation,” said Cal Poly Media Relations Specialist Stacia Momburg “We will absolutely have a conversation on the project with the League.”

Momburg said she did not know if the contract would be made public before it is signed or if the public will be afforded a venue for discussion.

Student protesters and concerned faculty members packed the Academic Senate meeting room Tuesday to listen to Baker defend his support of the proposed collaboration. Students from the Cal Poly College Republicans organized the student protest. Though students weren’t permitted to voice their opinions, many carried signs protesting discrimination.

A few days ago, in response to the onslaught of press coverage, Blakeslee sent Field Representative Theodore Wold to Cal Poly to investigate the proposal. Wold attended the Academic Senate meeting, interviewed faculty members, students, and staff and hunted down documents regarding the project. Administrators provided Wold with a limited number of documents due to confidentiality issues, Robertson added.

“We were simply asked for the proposal,” Momburg countered. “No other documents were asked for. We will send Blakeslee’s office the proposal.”

Numerous faculty, student organization, and public organizations have requested that Cal Poly’s Executive Committee approve a resolution that would allow the Academic Senate to discuss the issue.

“This Saudi deal needs to be discussed,” said professor of philosophy and women and gender studies Racheal Fern in an e-mail to “And people should not be treated badly for expressing a desire to be part of an institution that takes these sorts of engagements with other cultures seriously.”

Tags:, Cal Poly, Saudi

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Member Opinions:

By: Anonymous on 4/14/08


By: Anonymous on 4/14/08

Margarita. You have HIT th nail on the head. The person that should be talked about IS MOHAMMAD NOORI! This is his puupy all the way through. This man is not to be trusted. Some of you need to take a look at his history back in North Carolina and Mass. He wreak havoc there as well.

By: Anonymous on 3/10/08

I'm pleased that Blakeslee has become involved. No doubt your repoting played a roll in that. There will always be ignorant people and those with hidden agendas sporting their mundane chatter. Keep up the great work, the people appreciate and need you. I'm hearing more about this site every week as people learn about it. It's just a matter of time before you are a daily stop for any local would wants to know whats going on.

By: Anonymous on 3/9/08

Am I correct in understanding that among business people of Saudi Arabia, it is a common practice to use bribery and kick-backs to secure deals and contracts?

Could this be relevant to this story?

By: Anonymous on 3/9/08



By: Anonymous on 3/8/08

Hey King Fahd,

Did you know that both Stanford & Cal will be getting $10m EACH for spending at their OWN campus with all other expenses incurred for the King Abdullah University fully reimbursed as additional payments. Here at Cal Poly the Provost has already said in LA Times article that Cal Poly will "make nothing from this deal". We hear that unexpected new costs not in original budget will result in Cal Poly making a loss if they implement this contract written in Arabic(required by Saudi govt.); I wonder why Cal Poly sells its Intellectual property for NOTHING the $6m is all for actual expenses for Jubail University, while smart universities get paid up $10m each to play ball with Saudi's ?

By: Anonymous on 3/8/08

Looks like Stanford and other schools are doing similar things:

(By the way: why does the "verify post" captcha on this site fail half the time?)

By: Anonymous on 3/7/08

Hey Nice To See, you left out the gays!

But then no one wants to hire gays, but we are forced to. Kudos to the Saudis for taking a stand!

By: Anonymous on 3/7/08

It's nice to see that another country has been sanitized by political correctness.

If they don't want woman or jews and you have a problem with that, don't apply, but please don't take the opportunity away from someone else because it doesn't fit with your socialistic approach to life!

Go Saudis! Nice to see ya have a pair and aren't afraid to use em like American men.

By: Anonymous on 3/7/08

I've got an idea. Since Sandy Duerr wants to work at Cal Poly so badly, why don't they put her in charge of the Saudi program!

By: Anonymous on 3/7/08

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments about Baker and Durgin, but WHY is Mohammad Noori seemingly sailing through this rough patch? This is HIS scheme yet he doesn't vouch for it publicly in any way. What is he trying to hide?

By: Anonymous on 3/7/08

This story is important because of the bigger story behind it: Cal Poly is run by a bunch of nincompoops who are completely out of touch with the sentiments of the students and the faculty. Warren Baker has come to run the university in more of a regal than a collegial manner. Bill Durgin, though new, seems to have arrived out of touch and remained unable or unwilling to get in touch with the soul of the school. Under this leadership Cal Poly has drifted away from its roots and become a top-heavy, lumbering bureaucracy. Until these people pack their bags and go, Cal Poly will only limp along at a fraction of the pace it could achieve without this burden.

By: Anonymous on 3/6/08

Why does Warren Baker even stay on the job? Isn't it time for him to retire? This issue proves just how out of touch the guy is!

By: Anonymous on 3/6/08

Baker has dollar signs in his eyes and thinks he can shrug off the media. Wait until it goes national, and he'll be forced to be candid. Time to put the guards down, Warren, and be put on the spot. I can see right through the dollar signs in your eyes.

By: Anonymous on 3/6/08

Thanks for staying on this story. I find it interesting that Blakeslee is getting involved.

By: Anonymous on 3/6/08

"Worn out story" to whom? Gee, maybe Really? is happier discussing the fate of the endangered fairy shrimp. This story won't be at all worn out for those of us who are still waiting to see the mysterious "contract." We can't even find out when it's due to be signed, and nobody wants us to talk about it anymore. Keep up the good work, uncoveredslo!

By: Anonymous on 3/6/08

The update is great!

The amazing thing is that — for reasons that are obvious — the Tribune has sat back on the hands on this issue.

Here's the shocking thing… this great site broke this story on Valentine's Day… but the Tribune was given this story in November…

Thanks to there is a place to get the news out.

Roger Freberg

By: Anonymous on 3/6/08

This site was supposed to "rock" the central coast with earth shattering news…This worn out story is the best ya got?

C'mon! This is worse than King Harris reading the news to me!