Game’s over: Baker will ink Poly-Saudi pact

April 15, 2008


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 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

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Member Opinions:

By: Anonymous on 4/29/08

The rats have started to jump ship.

By: Anonymous on 4/28/08

If the JUC/POLY deal has not been signed it is not final. However, the thought is mind-boggling. Will Poly now support Plessy v Ferguson (1896)-'separate but equal'?

Men and women do not attend class together. A step back from the huge battles in women's education. Why look at a contract, simply look at public policy in the Kingdom. The penalty for homosexuality in the Kingdom is death. There is another social struggle negated. There are no permenant Jews in Saudi Arabia. American Jewish soldiers stationed in the Kingdom during the 1st Gulf war could not hold religious services, but were required to fly to ships in the Gulf. Are we seriously going to help these folks? Read the USDS reports on freedom in the Kingdom and we wonder why they drive planes into buildings. This is a loser deal – for Cal Poly and those who espouse freedom and tolerance. Kill the contract!!

By: Anonymous on 4/27/08

I have a question. I don't know Roger Freberg and I have no opinion on the man one way or the other. However, I'm not aware of any connection he has to Poly other than being married to a Poly faculty member.

So why does he devote such time and energy to this issue? Why does he care?

Just curious.

By: Anonymous on 4/17/08

Well, it appears that Warren Baker may have misspoke.

His handlers quickly came out at the Engineering forum to announce that their will NOT be a viewing of the proposed CONTRACT in English or in Arabic.

Are we surprised?

It is up to the tenured and full professors at Cal Poly to take the lead on this… maybe departmentally lead censures of the administration? Boycott of Baker's events… lots of cool stuff to do.

Good Luck

Roger Freberg

By: Anonymous on 4/17/08

Please consider starting an issues blog section to your website. Mational and political issues, etc.

Since we are coming here for news it would also be easy to weigh in on other issues.

What say you?

We really need this and you are primed to do it.

KVEC's blog has maybe 7-10 bloggers and Dave is so far left that it's quite boring.

Please help us! It will also help you too.

Thanks for the work you are doing!

By: Anonymous on 4/16/08

Why is everyone letting the real culprit off the hook while directing all attacks on Baker & Durgin; who are attempting damage control for the true dufus who got Cal Poly into this Pandora's Box. Of course this dufus is always in hiding in his cave and will not take calls from the press resulting in Durgin having to field all media questions on Saudi. The dufus who claims this as his great accomplishment after 3 years of mediocrity as Dean Of Engineering is Mohammad Noori. Let us start looking at the many follies of this dude who promised Baker the sky when he was hired and has delivered nothing while increasing his Dean's office expenses by $1m+ instead of directing our scarce funds for instructional needs.

By: Anonymous on 4/16/08

If it's about Cal Poly it's all about the money. But then you all knew that.

By: Anonymous on 4/16/08

See? democrats never saw a buck they didn't want!

I love it!

No women…no gays…her's your money!

By: Anonymous on 4/16/08

No surprise here… So in order to make myself look good in the eyes of the administration, I elected to serve on a few different college committees. The story was the same for all the committees: there were one or two people who "ran" the committtee and were not the slightest bit interested in any input from anyone else. The Cal Poly/Saudi deal looks like the same thing. It shows real arrogance on behalf of leaders to assume they know what is right and best for the people they serve; I guess this must be the Cal Poly way. It sure seems like it sets a bad example for the students at Cal Poly.

By: Anonymous on 4/16/08

baker is no stranger to the kick-back. He has been doing it for over 20 years.

He is getting something for his trouble.

By: Anonymous on 4/16/08

I hate to say it, but a Saudi surge almost always leads to culture conflict. Many–particularly the type that qualify for ARAMCO's petroleum engineering scholarships–have trouble transitioning to secular society.

By: Anonymous on 4/15/08

Yes, Baker is indeed a misguided moron, and Durgin has been publicly proven to be the biggest doofus west of Baghdad, but remember that this is Mohammad Noori's BIG ACCOMPLISHMENT to date. Oh, other than bankrupting the College of Engineering. Why not just write the arabic version of this contract on the back of my degree….

By: Anonymous on 4/15/08

This could be a great opportunity for an exchange program between the Saudi's and Warren Baker. The AG department can import some camels and start a breeding program. These camels can then be trained as racing camels and we could then have camel racing at Cal Poly. To justify this a para mutual system can be put in place and those proceeds can be made available for Warren Baker's next pay raise, a new car or he may possibly want to add onto his villa.

By: Anonymous on 4/15/08

Hey Leland: Baker doesn't care about gas prices as long as he continues to get his car allowance. Our tax dollars pay for him to drive from his new estate in Avila to campus every day

By: Anonymous on 4/15/08

Hannings says that discussions are embarrassing the school. This deal embarrasses me, and decreases the value of my cal poly degree. I'm ashamed to be a cal poly student today. Warren Baker wasn't even smart enough to get $10 million out of the deal like Stanford and Berkeley were… unless he did and it is lining his personal pocket or supplementing his $60k housing allowance and that part's being kept secret.

And thank you, Steven Marx, for standing up for us.

By: Anonymous on 4/15/08

George Bush took us to Iraq and promised us the dawn of democracy in the Middle East.

Warren Baker now wants to lead the effort in reforming the Saudi's to be just like us via the Jubail project.

de ja vu {You bet}

Just like Bush and his success in Iraq, you can be sure that Warren will deliver for SURE and lead us to the promised land and we will all rejoice as the Saudi's see the light granted to them by our CP Engineering missionaries in sent to Saudi. Power will be handed over to a Saudi Queen in 2010 and all men in Saudi will bow to women and live in peace with Israel.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, praise the Lord and Allah is great too.


Thus spake {Jeremiah Wright}


By: Anonymous on 4/15/08

You negative nellies may be missing the big picture here. I predict that Warren Baker's pasted-on gentile smile will charm the Saudis into changing their ways. He may even get them to start pumping more oil, which will reduce gas prices for everyone including women, gays, jews and the jewish Shiite gypsy lesbians that make up such a large part of Cal Poly's student body.

Bush himself told those Saudis a thing or two a few months ago (fast forward to 2:05 in this clip from the Daily Show).

By: Anonymous on 4/15/08

Sounds like Baker's choice to me. I'm sure that we taxpayers will be flipping the bill for this character to take his entourage over to Saudi Arabia. And, you can be sure that it will be nothing less than first class plus. Maybe they will keep him there and with the deficiet budget the state will not be able to pay the ransom.

By: Anonymous on 4/15/08

Isn't it time for Warren to go? Isn't it time for new leadership at Cal Poly?

By: Anonymous on 4/15/08

Academic freedom and the opportunity for faculty to debate controversial issues is being suppressed by the dictatorial methods being deployed by senior administrators at Cal Poly. Sensible folks are asking the question, "WHY is Cal Poly so hell bent on pursuing the WRONG path for its stakeholders?"

"No gain and yet we march forward into this abyss; WHY"

Faculty and students object but the administration does not care one bit. What a SAD day for Cal Poly? :-(