Cal Poly College of Engineering budget bleeds

June 6, 2008


Red ink sullies Cal Poly’s College of Engineering and the internationally respected educational institution now operates at a deficit for the first time in decades, according to a slide prepared, presented, and distributed by the College of Engineering during the fall conference.

Former and current associates on both coasts point blame at the controversial three-year reign of college dean Mohammad Noori, the highest paid dean, adding salary and perks, in the California State University system.

Declining morale and a high level of staffing changes also plague the college. During the past three years, staff turn overs have exceeded 50 percent. In addition, six chairs have stepped down and numerous faculty and staff have voiced dissatisfaction.

Noori, contacted on his cell phone by, said, “I can’t talk with you,” and terminated the conversation.

Running on an annual budget of approximately $25 million (including student fees), the college fell short $540,000 last year. Funds to cover the deficit were pulled from discretionary, civil, electrical, and aero accounts, leaving less of a cushion to handle this year’s anticipated $1.3 million shortfall.

However, the provost office’s contention is that the budget has been balanced since at least 2001, said Cal Poly spokesperson Stacia Momburg.

Noori also is the guiding force behind a controversial effort by Cal Poly officials to provide College of Engineering expertise and personnel to help start a similar institution in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Critics of the plan contend women, Jews and other minorities will be excluded. The university expects to receive $5.9 million for the deal.

During his stay, Noori has fattened the size of his staff and granted high pay increases, along with title changes, to a select few staff members. That increased the dean’s office operating costs by about $1 million, and has generated allegations of cronyism and preferential treatment for his supporters and friends.

For example, university sources said Noori reclassified Debbie Garcia’s title from “administrative analyst” to “Administrator 1.” The name change included a pay raise of 34 percent. The salary of Noori’s former assistant, Donna Aiken, increased 66 percent, attributed to her transfer to a management position.

Momburg contends the $1 million increase in spending is spread out into other college units and is not totally due to dean office and staff expenditures.

During the current statewide budget crisis, faculty salary increases have been limited to no more than five percent over the past few years.

The college advancement department staff has more than doubled in number; fund raising under Noori, in the meantime, has shrunk by half since his arrival.

Noori’s salary has increased 11 percent over the past two years; his $900 monthly housing allowance is additional to his $213,000 annual salary.

An anonymous letter sent to specific Cal Poly college chairs in April 2007 in a North Carolina State University (NCSU) envelope claimed Noori had been asked to step down from his position as the mechanical and aeronautical engineering department head due to numerous allegations and widespread dissatisfaction.

Shortly thereafter, Cal Poly Provost Bill Durgin met with academic chairs of the college and became visibly emotional while asking the matter be put to rest to “protect the college’s reputation,” according to numerous sources.

Cal Poly Professor Mike Cirovic said, “Durgin wanted to quell rumors that would not help, and in fact, would harm the college.”

A few days later, according to sources, Durgin announced to faculty that he had researched the allegations, and that they had turned out to be unfounded. He went on to say the individual they suspected was responsible for the letters would be reprimanded.

Durgin did not respond to requests for comment.

However, received numerous reports from faculty and staff at NCSU that Noori got an unprecedented number of negative faculty comments while there, during a mandatory faculty review. The review prompted complaints of “bullying,” hiring unqualified applicants of a similar ethnic background, and mismanaging funds.

“He is an incredible bully who doesn’t respect his faculty,” said Larry Silverberg, Professor and Associate Head of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at NCSU. “This place shut down while we waited for his contract to run out.”

After five years at NCSU, following the review, Noori stepped down.

“You can not dispute the level of controversy with this guy,” Silverberg added. “There were allegations of plagiarism, inappropriate e-mails from Noori, poor judgment in financial matters, and a very poor record with staff. More than half the staff left while Noori was here.”

Upon his departure, the college undertook two financial reviews aimed at reorganizing the college’s budget and Noori moved on to Cal Poly, said numerous NCSU sources.

“NCSU knew when they unloaded Noori on Cal Poly that it was good riddance to bad garbage in an unnatural, unfinished, un-sanitized caress,” said a long time NCSU engineering department affiliate.

Last October, five senior faculty members, three of whom were members of the search committee, presented Durgin with this written request:

“We represent a group of faculty concerned about the possible decline in the high standards and rankings we have become accustomed to. We are acting to prevent damage to the reputation of the University and College we love. Dr. Noori’s arrival on campus raised all sorts of expectations, expectations that unfortunately have not been met.

“Faculty are very disillusioned with Dr. Noori’s performance as CENG Dean: The number of faculty ready to sign a “no confidence” exceeds the threshold specified in the 1994 Senate resolution on the procedures for faculty initiatives to demand administrator terminations based on no-confidence.

“We believe that CENG Faculty does not wish to put Cal Poly through the public spectacle of a vote of no confidence, and request a reassignment of Dr. Noori. We believe his actions in several areas are sufficiently deficient to warrant this action and rise to the level requiring extraordinary actions mentioned in Dr. Baker’s memo to the Academic Senate regarding the Senate resolution mentioned above. Dean Noori falls short in most of the major responsibilities of a Dean.

“Trust: Of greatest concern is a lack of trust between Dr. Noori and many faculty based on promises he has made and broken. Without basic trust CENG cannot work together to reach our potential.

“Public Relations: He has not been able to articulate in an effective manner a vision for the college. His public speaking skills are lacking and his presentations are severely flawed due to inadequate control of the English language and lack of focus.

“Fundraising: Under Dr. Noori’s leadership the 06-07 CENG advancement performance in fund raising has dropped from the lead college position it enjoyed in prior years to about half; ranking barely above CLA.

“Fiscal Management: Spending for the administration of CENG has increased by over $1 Million in the less than two years of Dr. Noori’s tenure; including special appointments for newly created positions.

“Personnel Management: RPT evaluations written by Dr. Noori have contained numerous errors and are not considered to be an accurate evaluation of a candidate’s performance. He has had to retract some of those.”

Sources claim Durgin advised the group not to take any action.

“Durgin told us Dean Noori would be improving and asked us to help,” Cirovic said. “No action was taken.”

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Member Opinions:

By: Anonymous on 7/4/08

something akin to "CARFAX" for university admin. types…..

By: Anonymous on 6/18/08

Who would have written positive references for him if things were so bad at the last Univ?

By: Anonymous on 6/17/08

Best things in life are NOT free. I've found that we pay for what we value. I've valued the recent story about Cal Poly Dean of Engineering in SLOuncovered. It was a great story about some Cal Poly problems. So, I've donated to the SLOuncovered web-site to help keep it working.

I hope that the Engineering Faculty and other Cal Poly faculty who value this type of investigative reporting will also donate. This type of reporting is expensive, and so far, the web-site is not yet a money-maker.

By: Anonymous on 6/16/08

Cal Poly has been a widely respected university for many years. This is because of the world class instructors and innovative programs in engineering and science that were offered. Since Warren Baker's tenure the university has changed its emphasis from agricultural and engineering science to liberal arts. This has increased the size of the student body and it has lowered the overall quality of the student body and of the faculty. Baker and others, have used the university for their personal aggrandizement instead of focusing on the students and the quality of education they receive. The entire administration should be replaced and the university should get back to its roots as a POLY TECHNICAL COLLEGE. If you want sociology go to Long Beach State..

As for the Saudi deal, we need to politely say "No". It's bad enough we are dependant for our energy on a people whose culture and values is in direct contrast to our own, we should not let our educational institutions become dependant upon their benevolence. Because if we do we will find one day strings attached to their money; things like no women, no jews, daily prayer to mecca 5 times a day and no tolerence of other religious groups or lifestyles on campus.

This may sound reactionary to some of you, but wake up and look around our sleepy little town. We have a mosque being built on Walnut Street, in a residential neighborhood. Who would have imagined that even 10 years ago. We need to keep these people at arms length and turn down their money; they can live and work among us, but they cannot be allowed to call the shots. Otherwise we might as well change the town name to Islamabispo…

By: Anonymous on 6/14/08

The entire fiasco at Clown_Poly has been framed perfectly in lucid perspective by Roger Freberg. Thank You Roger. See the latest at this URL:

By: Anonymous on 6/11/08

I'll take the 3-for-1 offer of kicking Noori, Durgin, and Baker. Imagine what CP could do with all the money it saved….

By: Anonymous on 6/11/08

Noori needs to be replaced immediately. This is going to go away.

By: Anonymous on 6/10/08

There seem to be two players on each coast …each with two subsets : individuals / faculty at SLO versus SLO administration + individual faculty at NCSU versus their admin.

Symmetrical protagonists . Individuals motivated by principal ; admin by need to protect image and reputation ….which , alas , could affect funding . Toss into the mix two ethical / moral / gutsy stalwarts ( with nothing to apparently gain ) : Freberg /Silverberg ..seeking truth and to make some sense of the situation and penne pasta . Administrations seem to be bobbing and weaving for whatever reasons .

Watch movie " Lives of Others " to gain an understanding of what tactics bureaucracies ( benevolent or whatever ) will pursue to identify and chastise outspoken people . Some movie reviewer named Buckley said it was best movie he ever saw ( ?? )

By: Anonymous on 6/10/08

Noori was DH at NCSU for a number of years, and I would recommend him to sell used cars anywhere.

By: Anonymous on 6/10/08

Here you are blogging during your busy work day on my dollar. You have chosen to take your pay over 9 months instaed of 12 months. You are getting paid by the year.

I have a freind who is a Cal Poly professor and he is out of the country almost the entire year. When I once asked him if he taught 2-3 classes a day he responded that he taught 1 and maybe at times 2 classes a week. He then followed up with "I have it pretty good, I really don't work too hard."

Of course you may have been late last night correcting papers, it is the end of the year and I suppose you do have to work for a week or two to get the grades out plus surfing the web to see where you will be vacationing this summer.

So I'm to take it that the Junior Faculty is different from the rest of the working people and that they also need special treatment?

How do you improve the teachinh here when Cal Poly is considered one of the best for an engineering education.

Most of it is a scam and I hope your enjoying it.

By: Anonymous on 6/10/08

To "to faculty member":

Once again, you don't know what you are talking about.

1. The teaching faculty is NOT paid for summer. We are considered academic year employees and are paid for only the 9 (out of 12) months we teach.

2. The teaching faculty is NOT taking trips to Hawaii to see how others teach Engineering. Dean Noori and other administrators usually take such trips so they can "improve" our teaching here.

3. I was up at 11:45 p.m. because unlike you, I cannot afford going to bed at 10 p.m. I was grading final exams and during my break (yes, I continued till 2a.m.) I thought I will give you some information which you obviously lack.

4. It is the JUNIOR faculty who cannot afford to buy a home. These are usually fresh Ph.D.s who are not making that much money and they have student loans, a wife/husband and couple small kinds.

Give it a rest. I will not answer any more – it is clear to me that you are NOT GETTING IT.

By: Anonymous on 6/10/08

Read this Ms.Smartypants


Defamation law in the United States is much less plaintiff-friendly, due to the enforcement of the First Amendment. In the United States, a comprehensive discussion of what is and is not libel or slander is difficult. Defenses to libel that can result in dismissal before trial include the statement being one of opinion rather than fact or being "fair comment and criticism". Truth is always a defense.

By: Anonymous on 6/10/08

Unfortunately I can't rest in my backyard while you are taking your 3 month vacation during the summer and your semester breaks. I have to work to pay your salary. And because I have to work everyday I can't stay up late at night (your blog at 11:45pm) and surf the web.

My point is plain and simple, I like most working folks in the county, are really tired of listening to you cry babies telling us how hard you work. I'm tired of listening that most of you can't buy a home. Many people with less income buy homes everyday. Probably the reason for that is that you are unwilling to make any sacrifices and spend your income traveling during your 3 month vacation and your breaks, leaving you with no money for a home. Let you then want us to subsidize you for your home.

Oh by the way, have we paid for you to take any educational trips to Hawaii, the Bahamas, the Carribean or Mexico so that you can see how they do their engineering. Have we been paying your salary while you are writing books on our time.

Crawl back into your little arena of protection and leave the rest of us alone.

By: Anonymous on 6/10/08

I believe the faculty search committee is not allowed to seek information from anyone other than those listed as references in the applicants paperwork. No prior knowledge about the applicant should be brought up in front of the committee. Check questions 7 and 8 in this Cal Poly document including FAQ about faculty search process:

By: Anonymous on 6/10/08

And here come Noori's supporters out of the woodwork. Do you get another raise and/or promotion by ignoring the obvious and being one of Noori's many bullies and bullshi**ers?