Search begins for new Poly president

The search for the next president to replace Cal Poly’s Warren Baker has officially begun.

The committee that will interview candidates and make a recommendation to the California State University board of trustees gathered Tuesday at the Performing Arts Center for its first and only public meeting.

The 18-member group includes CSU Chancellor Charles Reed and five CSU trustees, as well as representatives of Cal Poly faculty, administration, staff, students and alumni.

Committee members and public speakers at the meeting emphasized the need for a president who understands and continues to develop Cal Poly’s hands-on, learn-by-doing education.

Some noted it will be difficult to replace President Warren Baker, who they said helped guide Cal Poly to becoming a top national public-master’s university and said that a president who stays on a similar track would be welcomed.

“The next president needs to have a good understanding of and appreciation for Cal Poly as a polytechnic university, as well as an equal passion for its liberal arts education,” said Phil Bailey, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.

Reed said that the candidates aren’t limited to those with experience in education and mentioned applicants such as those with legal or military backgrounds, for example, might be considered.

Many said that Cal Poly’s next president needs to encourage diversity and strive for better recruitment of minority students and employees, as well as females in male-dominated disciplines, such as engineering.

Some faculty said that managing a challenging budget, and keeping faculty-to-student ratios down, will be critical.

“Some classes that once were 30 students to one instructor have grown to 50 to one,” said Jim LoCascio, a mechanical engineering professor.

Some suggested a new president should also be adept at fundraising, as Cal Poly now receives 51 percent of its operational budget from state funding compared with 90 percent in 1986.

Reed said the search team in coming months will recommend applicants, make a list of top candidates and narrow that group, and conduct interviews.

Three or four finalists will be announced. They will visit the campus before a final recommendation to the full CSU board of trustees, which will make the final decision possibly in June.

Trustee Roberta Achtenberg, chair of the presidential search committee, said the average CSU president earns about $300,000 per year.

But Achtenberg said a salary range hasn’t been established yet for the Cal Poly position.

Reed said that some of the top candidates may be taking pay cuts if they accept the position, and the CSU will need to consider presidential salaries at comparable universities to “get the best people for the job.”

Several on the search committee said they hoped for a president who communicates well and continues to make Cal Poly a top institution for preparing future California workers.

During public comment, Cal Poly English professor Johanna Rubba warned against allowing corporations to have too much influence over university operations and decisions.