Cal Poly task force favors semester schedule

December 12, 2012

Amid Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students and faculty debates over the pros and cons of switching to a semester system, a recent report recommends leaving the quarter calendar in place to save money. [Tribune]

The Semester Review Task Force — created by Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong — surveyed students, faculty and staff and studied the pros and cons of switching to a semester system. The group’s final report recommends leaving the calendar alone at this time.

Armstrong’s task force estimated the cost of converting to a semester system ranges from $18.1 million to $21.2 million which includes costs to transform curriculum and convert software systems and technology.

The California State University system has been looking to establish semesters as the common calendar for all 22 CSU campuses in order to create uniformity. If a semester system becomes the norm, the CSU system could offer online classes to all campuses instead of only those schools on the semester calendar. Currently, six campuses operate on the quarter system.

The semester schedule runs about two terms a year, with usually 15 to 17 weeks and time for exams, while the quarter system is usually 10 to 12 weeks.


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One thing mentioned at the Tribune was that Cal Poly also studied this issue in 1987, 1994 and 2001. (yes, a 7 year ritual apparently) and every single time they concluded switching to semesters would be a bad idea. Yet here we are again with yet ANOTHER study (paid for by you, the taxpayer, of course) concluding again that it is a bad idea. Yet Chancellor Reed is still pigheadedly trying to shove this issue down Cal Poly’s throat because it is inconvenient for him to have to manage 17 semester schools and 6 quarter schools at the same time. He doesn’t care how much it ends up costing Cal Poly or impacting the students, as long as he can fulfill his OCD-like quest to have 23 cookie-cutter CSUs campuses completely homogenized on the same schedule.

Up until now, Armstrong has played the good company man to his chancellor overlord (not wanting to bite the hand that only recently gave him this cushy job) by supporting the semester switch. In the face of this study, Armstrong has a decision to make. Does he still want to be Reed’s whipping boy, or will he grow a pair and decide what is best for Cal Poly by ending this semester nonsense once and (most likely not) for all

Rather than worry about quarters vs. semester, maybe they should worry about GOING OUT OF BUSINESS.

Cal Poly lives on its past reputation of being a good school. It was a good school when teachers were hired to teach and administrators were focused on supporting the faculty. As long as there is that long line of students attempting to get into Cal Poly, it will be business as usual.

Teaching quality is headed downwards at Cal Poly. Larger class sizes, more students teaching courses, faculty being forced away from teaching by being required to perform research without a change in teaching workload… the list goes on and on. The main issue with the semester thang is that it takes time to “retool” a course and a curriculum. Do you think Armstrong intends to providing funds to adequately make the switch? Not even a chance.

Am I missing something, or does the headline disagree with the results stated in the aticle?

The headline writer obviously didn’t read the article.

“to Urdu or not to Urdu?”

Let me just say that I have nothing invested on either side of this argument, but I do observe that no one is putting their cards entirely on the table. The fact that it is ‘rumored’ that the Cal Poly Administration had their legal council attending meetings of the committee smacks of subtle intimidation.

The faculty realize that — more than likely– the following would happen in a change to semesters:

1) The curriculum would change in the conversion of many quarter classes to fewer semester classes. In addition, the amount of ‘release time’ or supervision would be drastically reduced along with a corresponding bump in teaching workload… more office hours and classroom instruction time per professor.

2) Programs and courses viewed as away from the university mission would be dropped. If ‘Urdu’ was in the language department, I suspect it would be one of the first to go. This would give the President the ability to ‘fire’ tenured faculty when their underlying departments or programs were dropped.

3) Cost savings from reduced faculty and pared back administration departments ( such as possibly Registration and scheduling) would be used for expanding other areas… possibly more useless vice provosts.

The ‘virtual campus’ or on-line csu campus as many refer to it has been a long time in coming. Most universities have significant on-line programs and the CSU system is well behind the curve. I believe the reason for this lies in some of the technophobic leadership in the CSU… after all, I remember asking a couple of techie guys at Cal Poly a few years back why they weren’t on facebook… and they said ‘someone above’ didn’t like the idea. With a change or too… Cal Poly has moved forward on this idea finally. Staying or leaving the quarter system will not be a benefit to Cal Poly in joining the on-line university… the on-line university is meant an alternative… say ‘replacement.’

President Armstrong missed an opportunity by showing HOW the university would move to a semester system, what programs would be affected and how students and faculty’s experience would be changed. Obviously, there is a lot of bad news in this package, but putting it out for everyone to see and discuss is the first step to ‘transparency.’

So, President Armstrong, are you going to share your plans?

We don’t need to see Armstrong’s plans: we can predict what they are with 100% accuracy. The one and only required qualification for hiring and promoting people at Cal Poly, particularly administrators, is to have the ability to carry out objectives from above without question. Every decision made at Cal Poly is based purely on economics and never on quality of education. As a result, cuts to education will continue, and, the administration will continue to grow. Even though this report had relatively nothing good to say about moving to semesters, the note Armstrong sent to faculty indicated that he was moving forward with the idea. What you’ll see now is a firing up of the giant Cal Poly spin machine. As with the student success fees, Cal Poly will do its best to convince everyone that semesters are best for everyone and it will happen.

I agree in part.

Cal Poly doesn’t make decisions based on costs or economics… evidence the recent hires in high level administrative positions at a university slated to cut huge amounts in their budget. If economics plays a part, it is merely coincidental.

As for the “Armstrong Plan”, be assured that there is one… when someone says they are moving forward with the idea, then the ‘idea’ is more of a plan. I would be surprised if a detailed plan wasn’t already in existence. BTW, in the past, select committees were hand picked to deliver the desired administrative outcomes, I really don’t think that has changed. In addition, did members of the committee have to sign non disclosure agreements or promise not to disclose the activities of the committee? Why would administrators ever require that?

I don’t see a lot of ‘transparency’ here.