Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Unintended consequences

Paul Orfalea is a talented and generous entrepreneur and it is easy to understand why Dean Dave Christy wants to create opportunities for business students to gain from his experience.

There are numerous ways Dean Christy could have facilitated Orfalea’s interaction with Cal Poly students without violating the students’ educational rights and faculty contractual rights.

Unfortunately, Dean Christy’s decisions about the structure of this class produced some unintended negative consequences: First, students’ rights to a fair learning environment were compromised. Second, the academic system of faculty governance was subverted. Third, a lecturer’s contractual rights were violated, and finally, the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars were wasted.

The California State University system and the California Faculty Association have created a structure of faculty governance in order to protect the quality of education on California State University campuses. Dean Christy’s decision to ignore faculty governance norms compromised Cal Poly’s ability to provide an equitable, high-quality educational environment.

In Orfalea’s class, 25 students were selected for a special experience and information about this class was not available to other business students who might have wanted to apply for the opportunity.

These 25 students were guaranteed an “A” in the class and received the same four units of credit as students in the other two sections of the class, even though Orfalea’s class did not follow the curriculum approved by the three tenured faculty who are responsible for the international business curriculum.

The students in Orfalea’s class did not have a syllabus or a text book and were not required to complete any exams or papers. They didn’t even have to sit in a typical classroom for four hours each week because a free catered dinner was provided during one hour of every class. Certainly not all classroom situations are equal, but the disparity between the requirements and perquisites of Orfalea’s section and the other two sections is unacceptable.

In an attempt to circumvent the California State University’s collective bargaining agreement with faculty regarding lecturer rights and a clause in the furlough agreement that limited people volunteering to teach classes to those who had taught the past year, a retired faculty member was listed as the instructor of record for the course and was paid to teach the class through our Faculty Early Retirement Program. This faculty member had not taught this course in the past, never attended the class and did not assist in course design or evaluation. A lecturer in the college who had taught the class previously therefore had a contractual right to teach the course.

Clearly, it is in the California State University’s best interest to protect the rights of its qualified faculty and avoid a situation where deans can unilaterally replace faculty members in violation of our negotiated contract. The California Faculty Association is committed to defending these rights.

It is my understanding that faculty members in the international business concentration attempted to discuss this situation with the appropriate administrators and committees within the College of Business and were unable to resolve any of their concerns. The issue is now being considered by the university-wide Academic Senate.

Despite The Tribune’s original headline, the problem isn’t that “Faculty complain about Orfalea course” (March 9). The problem is Dean Christy’s actions.

If the dean had worked within the rational and equitable system designed by the California State University and California Faculty Association, the faculty and students wouldn’t have such excellent grounds for complaint.

Jim Conway is the chair of the Faculty Rights Committee, Cal Poly Chapter of the California Faculty Association.