Game’s over: Baker will ink Poly-Saudi pact
April 15, 2008
By KAREN VELIE
Cal Poly President Warren Baker will sign a controversial agreement to partner Cal Poly’s College of Engineering with a Saudi Arabian university despite growing campus discord with the plan.
The Saudi proposal would appear to exclude women, Jews and other minorities from participating in the new college, largely because of Saudi law and custom.
Baker announced he will sign the pact with Jubail University College (JUC) in approximately a month; he cemented the proposal during a student government board of directors meeting April 9. The president’s intent was reported earlier this week by Roger Freberg on his Web site.
Students and others attending a meeting with Baker last week told UncoveredSLO.com that the deal “is all but finalized.”
“He apologized for previous times when no one could ask questions and said he has no problem in showing the contract to anyone,” said Associated Students Inc. Member of the Board of Directors Christina Chiappe. “At the meeting, he (Baker) was asked if he would participate in an open forum. He said sure; if someone pulls that together he is willing to take part.”
Baker was unavailable for comment.
Hoping to increase discussion and understanding of the proposal, a contingent of professors with concerns over the projects potential to exclude women, gays, and Jewish people presented a formal “resolution on faculty objections” to Cal Poly’s Academic Senate’s Executive Committee for approval of a full senate discussion.
The resolution states, “Cal Poly participation in this project is at odds with the Cal Poly mission statement: ‘Cal Poly values free inquiry, cultural and intellectual diversity, mutual respect, civic engagement, and social and environmental responsibility.’”
Executive committee members voted against the resolution following a recommendation from Baker to squelch the proposed discussion.
Concerned faculty members, many yet neutral on the collaboration, rallied against the alleged clamp on public discussion.
“I feel a proposal to bring something up for discussion, accompanied by such a strong argument, should be enough to allow it to be debated,” said English Department Professor Emeritus Steven Marx. “I am disturbed by that particularly in light that an appeal was made and resolution proposed by five past senate chairs. I do not have an opinion on the contract. That’s one of the reasons I think it is an error to close down discussion. The larger senate did not get a full discussion.”
The majority of executive committee senators disagreed, first noting that from a legal standpoint, discrimination had not yet occurred and as the agreement has not been made public, there is no reason for concern. And furthermore, opponents of the resolution claimed that the issue had been discussed at previous senate meetings and that further discussion could create a circus like atmosphere.”
“In general the senate is not interested,” said past academic senate chair David Hannings, “primarily due to the gross amount of misinformation put out by proponents of this. They are claiming Cal Poly degrees are to be awarded. That’s not true. This is a way of getting at Dean Noori. It is embarrassing the school.”
Nevertheless, correspondence between Cal Poly and the Royal Commission for Jubail agree to the distribution of Cal poly degrees at the pubescent university.
“As a follow up of our teleconference today, I had a discussion with our provost. He expressed his support and endorsement of this initiative and confirmed that the students in Jubail can receive a Cal Poly degree through a collaborative program between the two universities. Thus, Cal Poly will be happy to participate in the implementation of the joint venture with that goal in mind,” according to a Jan. 26, 2007 letter from Dean Mohammad Noori and Civil and Environmental Engineering Chair Greg Fiegel to Jubail.
Supporters claim that the final contract – reported to no longer agree to the distribution of Cal Poly degrees – overrides previous proposals and agreements. Both sides have made numerous allegations, Cal Poly provost William Durgin, a supporter of the collaboration, points out that through the proposed collaboration Cal Poly would join the ranks of Universities such as Stanford and Berkeley currently establishing joint ventures in Saudi Arabia.
Even so, opponents are quick to point out differences in the programs. Both the Stanford and Berkeley programs allow women and men to learn and teach in the same classrooms. In addition, the universities of California agreements include a $10 million above cost fee to benefit California University students while Cal Poly’s proposal includes costs only and a monetary risk factor if costs of the program are missing from the final line budget.
“Let’s get these arguments out there,” Marx said. “There may be some embarrassment by going ahead with this. There should be more scrutiny. It seems that there is an idea that the issue will go away by suppressing discussion.”
Tags:, Cal Poly, Saudi Arabia