CSU chancellor talks change during Cal Poly visit

CSU Chancellor Timothy White speaks during a forum Thursday, May 2, at Cal Poly.
CSU Chancellor Timothy White speaks during a forum Thursday, May 2, at Cal Poly.

California State University Chancellor Timothy White immersed himself in Cal Poly’s learn-by-doing philosophy during a two-day tour of the campus this week, but he was also greeted by a small group of student protesters opposed to a possible switch to a semester system.

During an interview with The Tribune and later at a public forum Thursday, White acknowledged his preference for semesters, but said he also sees the value in quarters and remains open minded on the issue.

However, he added, “my responsibility is beyond San Luis Obispo — to think about the whole Cal State as a system and (what) things we can do to make it more successful.”

Having all 23 campuses in the CSU system on semesters could increase opportunities for faculty to share curriculum online with students at other campuses, and ease the transition for community college students transferring into the system, White said.

Six of the 23 campuses are on quarters. White said two of those campuses, Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State L.A., will start the process to switch to semesters next year.

If Cal Poly made the switch, the university would likely not start the process to convert until the end of the decade. White said he expects a decision to be made by the fall.

In the meantime, about two dozen students holding signs and passing out candy gathered to show their support for the quarter system.

Other groups on campus, including the Academic Senate and a task force established by Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, have also urged Cal Poly to remain on its current calendar.

“Why fix what isn’t broken?” chemistry junior Molly Burns said during a protest she helped organize on Dexter Lawn. “We’re renowned. We’re industry ready because of our fast term pace.”

White was selected last October to lead the 23-campus system and decided to tour each campus.

Cal Poly was his eighth stop, and during the visit, he met with student leaders, advisory councils from each college and the president’s cabinet. He also received an overview of a variety of hands-on projects in various departments.

“It’s a naturally distinctive campus,” White said. “Cal Poly is at the front end of the curve of experiential learning. This learn-by-doing motif doesn’t really describe how it’s integrated across the disciplines.”

About 200 people gathered at the Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly to hear him speak and ask a few questions.

White said the CSU system hopes to add students and provide modest raises for employees (not including Armstrong, he noted) using an additional $125 million in funding included in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed state budget.

Fee hikes that have become routine in recent years to make up for lower state funding for the system are not included in the proposal, according to The Sacramento Bee.

White ended his talk by saying the CSU system would make “sure that our students, when they leave us, are able to live, work, compete and more importantly, prosper, in a global economy. Our challenge is to make sure students have the knowledge, discipline and ability to be effective in a rapidly changing environment.”