A petition signed by more than 1,400 people protests a new Cal Poly policy that entering students must enroll in two orientation programs or lose their offer of admission to the university.
But university officials counter that the Student Life Orientation Days (SLO Days) and Week of Welcome (WOW) programs are critical to helping students transition to life on campus and develop the skill set for college success.
Orientation programming includes workshops in personal safety, substance abuse, self-esteem and sexual assault, academic guidance and adjustment to campus life.
The petition says that the university is creating a hardship for working, low-income and out-of-state students, contending they may not be able to afford the combined $365 registration fees and may face difficulty in paying for travel costs.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The university will offer financial aid for orientation to those who qualify, and bus students from Southern California and the Bay Area. But the petitioners believe not everyone in need will qualify for the university’s financial aid program or be able to attend without a burden.
“While there is a complicated process to request permission to not attend orientation programs, Cal Poly should not create additional barriers for students who are new to bureaucratic processes and/or who cannot participate in orientation,” the petition states. “Further, Cal Poly should never kick out accepted students simply because they cannot attend orientation.”
Though the university made orientation mandatory in 2015, this the first year that Cal Poly has enforced a policy to rescind offers of admissions for those who don’t register.
Cal Poly officials said more than 99 percent of fall quarter’s incoming freshman and transfer students have met the orientation requirement thus far. Twenty-four students had their admissions offers withdrawn for failure to sign up to SLO Days, and four appealed their withdrawals and then were reinstated.
“In phone calls to those students, most did not sign up because they had decided to not attend Cal Poly and had neglected to inform the university of their other educational plans,” said Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier. “The number of admissions offers withdrawn this year is on par with past years.”
Nobody’s admission should be rescinded. That’s not what the university should be about.
Matt Klepfer, Cal Poly student
The process to sign up for WOW — scheduled for Sept. 10-16 — is ongoing (Tuesday was the last day to sign up to avoid a $75 late fee). It’s unclear how many students may not register.
“SLO Days and WOW provide a foundation for the Cal Poly experience, making them critical to student success, retention and timely graduation,” Lazier said.
Matt Klepfer, a Cal Poly student who helped draft the petition, believes orientation is helpful, but to force students to attend goes too far.
“Taking a two-day vacation in the middle of summer to attend SLO Days for an overnight stay might be fine for those students who can afford it, but for those who are working, or facing financial hardship, this is an extreme burden,” Klepfer said. “Nobody’s admission should be rescinded. That’s not what the university should be about.”
In addition to the costs for orientation, the petition notes the increasing cost of a Cal Poly education, saying that “since 2002, tuition has increased nearly 300 percent. On our campus alone, student success fees have risen more than 55 percent since they began in 2011.”
Orientation programs are designed to be a stepping stone to student success, not an obstacle.
Matt Lazier, Cal Poly spokesman
Cal Poly student Mick Bruckner said that the orientation fees are higher than the tuition hike of of $270 across the CSU system for 2017-18, which students lobbying to keep costs down rallied to oppose.
“The orientation issue is part of a larger trend at Cal Poly of not listening to marginalized students,” Bruckner said. “That’s the core of the narrative.”
But Lazier said that the orientation fees offset only a portion of the overall costs to administer orientation programs.
“Fees are adjusted each year with the aim of providing financial support to offer the best possible orientation programs while also bearing in mind affordability and access for all students,” Lazier said. “Orientation programs are designed to be a stepping stone to student success, not an obstacle.”