Oops! Cal Poly math blunder costs university administration some credibility

Cal Poly University entrance.
Cal Poly University entrance. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

It was an impressive bit of data: Cal Poly added 21 management positions between October 2014 and October 2015, yet spent $71,000 less on administrative salaries. That’s something to brag about — which Cal Poly did — until it redid the math and discovered a slight problem: The information wasn’t accurate. As we now know, Cal Poly miscalculated; it actually spent $93,000 more on administrative salaries.

Ordinarily, a blunder like that — while embarrassing — would be quickly forgotten. But these are not ordinary times for the university. The entire California State University system is in the middle of a contract dispute with faculty, which is threatening a five-day strike in April if its demand for a 5 percent raise is not met.

As expected, faculty leaders at Cal Poly, who maintain the university is top heavy with administrators, have been putting the university’s budget under a microscope. So from the administration’s standpoint, the timing of the mistake — which does nothing for administration’s credibility — could hardly have been worse.

President Jeffrey Armstrong did apologize for the confusion, though that doesn’t quite make up for the botched assignment. We doubt Poly professors would let their students get away with such a blooper, but we believe in second chances. In lieu of an “F,” the administration gets an eraser-tipped brickbat.