Cal Poly-Saudi deal: No women, no problem

May 26, 2008

A controversial proposal to partner Cal Poly’s engineering department with a fledgling university in Saudi Arabia has spurred a steam of leaked e-mails between Cal Poly officials, who express a desire to push ahead with the pact despite possible gender restrictions.

During the past year, Cal Poly Engineering Dean Mohammad Noori and Associate Dean Ed Sullivan have promoted and helped to craft a partnership with Jubail University College (JUC). According to the agreement, Cal Poly will receive $5.9 million to cover the cost related to starting an engineering college at JUC.

Many opponents claim the program excludes women, Jewish people, and homosexuals from participation because of Saudi laws and customs. Others contend Cal Poly is pricing its participation too cheaply. Concerned faculty members and students have rallied against the proposal.

Last month, Cal Poly President Warren Baker announced he would sign the Saudi pact in approximately a month.

In one of the e-mails, Director of Grants Development Xenia Bixler expresses her concern that JUC will have separate male and female Cal Poly visiting faculty tracks. Her concerns are rebuffed. Sullivan responds with a request that Cal Poly officials try to avoid a rewrite and sign the pact.

Bixler to Sullivan, May 15, 2008:

“You may recall our discussions regarding the State Department advisory pertaining to business transactions in Saudi Arabia, which stated that all contracts are written in Arabic. The RC [Saudi Royal Commission] had submitted earlier versions of the agreement translated during our negotiations process so I have no doubt that they will be translating the final version.

“Our legal counsel has advised us in the attached e-mail that we refrain from signing the English version until we are satisfied with the Arabic contract since this is the version that prevails should there be a dispute. I have been waiting until we are all in agreement with the final version before obtaining an Arabic version from Dr. Khaldi and then submitting to Fulbright, for them to assess.

“I have not asked the question whether female advisors or visitors are required to stay within the ‘female branch’ when at the JUC, if this precludes them in participating in the engineering curriculum development, or if this only limits them from teaching in a mixed audience. Should I move forward on this question, edit the language, or are we accepting as is? I hate to be a pest but I know the Saudis are losing patience with us and Mohammad’s e-mail from Dr. Khaldi was sent last Sunday.”

Sullivan to Bixler, May 15, 2008:

“Thanks for trying to nudge this along. I totally agree that the Saudis are losing patience and the loss of another full week is discouraging (it’s already the weekend over there). I understand that Carlos Cordova has been asked to ruminate over the latest version (esp. the ‘male v. female branch’ phrasing) and hopefully he’ll say he’s OK with it today.

“I really, really hope we can avoid asking for a clarification of this phrasing and simply tell them we’re ready to sign. I’m quite afraid that another round of ‘pickiness’ on our part could be the proverbial straw on the camel’s back.

“I know higher authorities make the call on what happens next, but I thought I’d share my worries. Please let me know when a decision comes down.”

Bixler to Sullivan, May 15, 2008:

“I feel not only Mohammad’s, [but] your’s and our Engineering Department’s credibility is at stake here. I am sure the RC is more used to dealing with responsive profit-motivated contractors rather than academics. I know they see me as the person stalling this agreement, which is OK (it is my job to cover all the bases and preserve your relationship with the Program Director), but maybe you can convince Mohammad to also place a call to [Provost] Bill [Durgin] so we can resolve and have a way ahead.

“I will be out of the office tomorrow and Monday but will check my e-mail tomorrow later in the afternoon and also late afternoon on Monday and can move any correspondence along as necessary. I will be on a bike ride all day tomorrow and camping at the lake for the weekend but you can reach me on my cell phone at XXX-XXXX.”

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Member Opinions:

By: Anonymous on 6/14/08


This money will be used to bail out Poly's 3 wise men (Baker, Wild Bill, and Noori) because they have spent all the "other" (aging) slush fund accounts…they either get this money or go tits up…this probably gets them in the black, but its not enough…they will need more…gotta keep up their spending habits

By: Anonymous on 6/5/08

It seems Cal Poly in general as well as many of the opponents of the Saudi deal are overlooking Cal Poly's ongoing discrimination problems. Here's what I see…

1) Discrimination against professional women. Why are there so few women in leadership positions at Cal Poly? Why is the ratio of 6-figured salaries skewed so far towards men?

2) Discrimination against women engineering students. Why is the ratio of women engineering students so low?

3) Religious discrimination. Does Cal Poly honor any Jewish holidays? Does Cal Poly honor any religious holidays other than Christian?

4) Discrimination against homosexuals. How many openly gay professors do you see at Cal Poly, particularly in the college of engineering? It seems their either their closeted or kept in the perpetual hush-hush mode.

I find it really strange that so many people have grown so comfortable with the blatant discrimination problems at Cal Poly. Maybe while the Saudi deal is saving the world, Cal Poly can start honestly dealing with some of its own problems.

By: Anonymous on 6/1/08

KVEC is a sponsor so they have to watch what is posted here…anyway….Warren Baker and the difference…ruthless corrupt powerbrokers.

By: Anonymous on 6/1/08

Noori lied. Sullivan lied. Fiegel lied. Opava lied. Durgin lied. And Baker is pretending none of this matters. Where are the ethics? Where is the leadership? Cal Poly is on a slippery slope.

By: Anonymous on 6/1/08

KVEC is caling the shots here????? I doubt that!

By: Anonymous on 6/1/08

Congalton's blog has died…he wants some of your action now…

You are new and fresh and exciting and successful!

Don't let him drag you into his pity pit!

Go Karen and Dan!

By: Anonymous on 5/31/08

regarding "It finally happened! says":

KVEC is calling the shots??? HUH? Tune in earlier, it appears you do, ditto. In general local press is in snooze mode on anything investigative.

By: Anonymous on 5/31/08

I see that Congalton is now running this blog as well…since censorship is now the rule of law.

So much for "We are not influenced by corporate or bureaucratic bullying."

KVEC is now calling the shots here.

It was nice while it lasted!

By: Anonymous on 5/31/08

Back to Also CP student:

The Daily and others have not been "softball reporting" this issue, they have been fairly reporting this issue. Do you really think it's okay for reporters to just not give someone a chance to comment, because those reporters are themselves biased towards one side? (I mean, Bill O'Reilly engages in that kind of journalism, so it must be okay, right?).

The Daily article on these emails also published the same conversation between Ed Sullivan and Xenia Bixler, and then at least gave the "accused" a chance to comment.

You seem to believe the public (a faceless group) inherently deserve more respect than individuals, like Sullivan and Bixler. Why? Because you've already decided that they are the "bad guys" and therefore don't deserve a rebuttal? Fair enough, you can think that.

But it is not up to a news website like UncoveredSLO to make a decision like that. It is not up to *any* news organization to decide that its "respect" for the masses is so great that it cannot pick up the phone and get a comment from someone whose name is going to be smeared across the page.

Like you, I also believe the public is discerning enough that it can see the truth when presented with a set of facts. Why then are you so afraid that the public cannot continue discerning the facts when people are given their fair chance to comment? Why does the "truth" hinge on withholding someone's comment?

By: Anonymous on 5/30/08

Of all the comments, I found the one from "Wake up kiddies!" to really stand out. (laughing) – thank you, president Baker, for your remarks. We get it. And we look forward to your eventual resignation to not only restore our dignity, but also our budget.

By: Anonymous on 5/30/08

To CP Student: Why not interview Sullivan or Bixler? Why? So they can lie, dance around the issue, say everything was taken out of context? No – why not just print the emails and let the public decide for themselves. They reap what they sow. If they're dumb enough to accidentally append this email trail to a widely distributed faculty email – let them burn for it on their own regard. The Mustang Daily has been softball-reporting this issue as has KSBY. Thank you to uncoveredSLO for giving the public the respect it deserves.

By: Anonymous on 5/29/08

Absolutely no reporting actual went in to this blog post… Why didn't the reporters interview Sullivan or Bixler? And why quote the unrelated (personal) details in the emails ("I will be on a bike ride…")?

It seems the university newspaper did a much better job; they published their article a week later, but actually went to the trouble of giving their sources a chance to comment. That (much better) article was on the front page today:

UncoveredSLO seems to indulge itself in unprofessional, "gotcha"-style reporting. Simply reprinting a leaked email is not a story in and of itself if you don't do the fact-checking and reporting to go with it…

By: Anonymous on 5/27/08

I rarely have time to look up but I'm looking at this and I don't like the fact that our executive staff can't be trusted. I shouldn't have to be distracted by "this fashion "of Cal Poly dishonesty but it's in my face and in my dorm. Get the hell out.

By: Anonymous on 5/27/08

As long as Baker is getting his cut this deal will go ahead.

By: Anonymous on 5/27/08

Many opponents claim the program excludes women, Jewish people, and homosexuals from participation because of Saudi laws and customs. Others contend Cal Poly is pricing its participation too cheaply. Concerned faculty members and students have rallied against the proposal.

Oh well, if homesexuals are bunched in the same catagories as Jews and woman, than there will be not too many Arabs in that school.

By: Anonymous on 5/27/08

Hey, I go off to Hawaii and look what happens!

Well, didn't Cal Poly claim that they had some international high priced lawyers looking at this stuff? From what I have been reading it looks like it is being done all in-house? And aren't the 'translations' being done by a controversial Cal Poly Professor?

Cal Poly really has trouble with the truth.

By the way, from what I see others have been shown this deal and passed… so why are we so desperate?

Change starts at the top.

Roger Freberg

By: Anonymous on 5/27/08

i think Poly can afford not to push or even bother w/ this deal for only 5.9 million. It all sounds like a huge waste of time and the thought of it all seems to drain any sense/notion of fun away from me. Sounds fishy… why would a University risk bad press, raise suspicion, and go completely out of its way for only 5.9 million?

By: Anonymous on 5/27/08

Leaked emails! I guess that justifies my carefulness with my Cal Poly business: "sensitive" emails be done via personal email accounts and "sensitive" phone calls be done via cell phones. Scary stuff!

By: Anonymous on 5/27/08

When you cut your mom's apron strings and get out into a world driven by reality rather than sitting in your socialistic embryo you will see that this deal is a good for all concerned!

The customer is always right…Money talks and socialistic BS walks.

No women? No problem…No gays…no problem! It's called economic choice.

So you take it or leave it, but in 24 hours somebody else will gladly accept the money on the Saudi terms.

Wake up lil ones! Open your eyes to the real world now so it's not such a shock when you are holding a piece of paper with an attitude attached…Private industry will kick you the curb!

It's free enterprise baby! "FREE"…You can't control it.

By: Anonymous on 5/27/08

I'd say that somebody has been pushing an envelope. Syncophants.

By: Anonymous on 5/26/08

The Provost at Cal Poly, as well as the Dean involved, both need to resign. Neither one has any credbility.

By: Anonymous on 5/26/08

Saudi Arabia can buy anything or anyone they want with envelopes pushed under selected doors.

If you can't bring the mountain to Mohammed then, bring Mohammed to the mountain.

By: Anonymous on 5/26/08

Looks like Cal Poly proponents of this Saudi deal have been lees than honest when they assured us all that WE WILL NEVER SIGN ANY DEAL THAT DISCRIMINATES. Can we trust any future assurances from Cal Poly in the? The answer is a resounding NO.

Cal Poly credibility is tending towards zero. How sad :-(