New president should learn from Baker’s blunders

Brendan Pringle is an English sophomore and a Mustang Daily political columnist.

As three contenders fight for Cal Poly’s top position, we should all address the tasks facing our next leader. For the last 30-plus years, Warren Baker has seen Cal Poly climb to national recognition and subsequently plummet in overall “excellence.” Statewide education cuts have made a significant dent in Cal Poly’s ability to achieve such excellence, but wasteful spending and other preventable factors have plagued this campus throughout the past three decades as well. Cal Poly needs a fresh face in the administration — one willing to steer the university back in the right direction.

As such, here are a few thoughts and questions that should be considered by our three final candidates:

Free Speech

Recently, Cal Poly has had a spotty record of First Amendment protection. From the Steve Hinkle case of 2002 to the Smile and Nod poster incident of 2007, Cal Poly has fumbled when it comes to free speech. This has cost us national embarrassment (Lou Dobbs of CNN called President Baker a “coward and a fool”) and over $40,000 in attorney fees, according to The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

What will you do to preserve freedom of speech on campus, and how will you deal with the pressures of special interest groups or other offices unconstitutionally demanding punishment? Do you think the crop house incident was handled correctly? How will you manage administrators that demand punishment? And finally, do you think free speech should ever be compromised on a college campus?


(FIRE) has rated Cal Poly a “yellow-light” campus in matters of free speech, inferring that the current regulations of our campus produce a “chilling effect” for students wishing to express their First Amendment rights.

What will you do to change this tide of ignorance toward the First Amendment, and bring Cal Poly to “green-light” status?

Administrative-Faculty Relations and Transparency

The only time we seem to hear anything from our current president is when he announces a new costly construction project or the assignment of another unnecessary vice president. The current president has destroyed any chance of a relationship with the faculty after increasing his own salary once again in 2007. He currently earns, or rather “takes,” over $394,000 a year in salary and benefits, and has increased the salaries of our many vice presidents and administrators, the Sacramento Bee website reads. Just to give you an idea, Calfac estimates that the average full-time professor (with 25 years experience) receives $87,715 a year. When you consider all the lecturers and professors whose jobs could have been saved throughout the years, this is absolutely sickening. Greed has created a tremendous impasse in the relationship between administration and faculty.

What will you do to increase your visibility on campus and create a better relationship with students and faculty? Would you be willing to reduce your own salary or consolidate the excessive number of vice presidents in the administration? How do you plan on creating a more pleasant work environment for current and future faculty?


Additionally, transparency on campus is just short of being opaque. In our CSU system, millions in expenditures remain undisclosed, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed Senator Yee’s recent bill demanding transparency from the university system, the Fresno Bee reported. Contributing to this theme of shadiness, Cal Coast News stated that our current president has stealthily taken a $12 to 15 million line of credit from the ever-so-shady Cal Poly Corporation to fund recent construction projects. It seems as though the president’s legacy has come to be more important than the financial stability of our university.

How will you reassure the public about Cal Poly’s overall honesty and lawfulness with regards to the legality of funds? How will you ascertain that the university exercises complete fiscal accountability?

Diversity-Based Curriculum

Lastly, the current Inclusive Excellence movement has taken a turn from the original outcomes of the Cal Poly curriculum. According to the American Association of Universities and Colleges, the ultimate goal is to promote a curriculum that emphasizes the diversity of perspective. Well, a quarter is only so long, which means that other valuable curriculum would need to be omitted in this attempt to promote diversity awareness. Moreover, they attribute the decline of “higher education graduation rates” among Americans to the “collective failure to educate students of color and those from lower socioeconomic groups.” Diverse students should be able to get accepted based on their merit. Their decline is not Cal Poly’s failure.

Do you think diversity awareness is more important as a workplace asset than depth of knowledge in a particular field? How will you prevent the slippery slope of affirmative action as the university attempts to bring more diversity to campus?


Cal Poly needs a “sustainable” president — one that is less concerned with building a legacy, and more concerned with preserving this fine institution. If you’re in it for the perks and the glory — go away. Cal Poly doesn’t need another 31 years of wastefulness and corruption.


Anonymous says:

lol @ diversity based education being a horrible thing. waah you have to take 1 class your entire your entire year at cal poly about diversity, you know, that you usually experience in the work force. Different than the all white cal poly student body

Candidate #3 is from a school with a FIRE ‘red’ light. Were he to come to Cal Poly, would that take us back to ‘red’ light status from our current ‘yellow’ status, I wonder.

Robert says:

First to Wesley…your link doesn’t work and neither does your definition. Fascism is a form of government. Please educate yourself before posting.

Here’s a little help:
Fascism – a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition, regimenting all industry and commerce,and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

If I could give you a dime I would so you could go buy clue.

To Roger. May I suggest checking facts before posting. If you were a booster than you shouldn’t have posted something that wasn’t true. Why in the world would you do that?

To your other points about Cal Poly not being a UC you’re partially correct but largely incorrect especially because you’re trying to compare apples to oranges. Without question, on an undergrad level, Cal Poly is a peer or superior to at least half or all of the UCs. The student quality is there and to say the faculty is not is a direct insult to your wife and her academic accomplishments at UCLA. Are you saying she’s dumbing things down for Cal Poly students. Let’s get real.

Another point, Cal Poly is vastly more selective in terms of admissions than UC Santa Cruz, Riverside or Merced. To suggest otherwise is simply incorrect. What’s more, Cal Poly has surpassed or drawn even with UCSB, UCI and UC Davis on quality of undergraduates. In fact unless Cal Poly is fabricating, which you’re suggesting they are, there isn’t a high school in the State that doesn’t regularly present this data every year to its juniors and seniors.

A couple of more points:

1. At UC headquarters in Oakland, Cal Poly is regularly referred to as the 11th UC. Yet, I at least have never heard a Cal Poly grad express a desire to be part of the UC system. If they’re saying it, does this mean Warren Baker and Cal Poly admissions isn’t lying? Feel free to call the offices there and ask the question without preface.

2. Regarding your blog – It is you that compelled me to review your website after reading your laments on several blogs suggesting Google and other search engines were purposely blocking you. Sure you talk about cooking by you also present Osama Bin Laden in a Cal Poly T-shirt. I guess you think graduates of the university you didn’t attend wouldn’t find that offensive.

3.To your comment that, “is not on a par with a UC or any other large doctoral institution in California.” you’re correct if you’re speaking to research but horribly incorrect when speaking to undergraduate education. However, it’s difficult to attain parity when an organization doesn’t aspire to something and there is no infrastructure in place to achieve it. What’s more, that’s the way Clark Kerr and his team structured the systems in the late-1960s when Cal Poly was removed from its independent status as “The California Polytechnic” and moved into the CSU during the higher-education realignment.

4. Regarding your comment and suggestion that something’s wrong because all Cal Poly presidents have been Catholic. You should be ashamed of yourself for even bring something so irrelevant into the discussion. Warren Baker may be but it’s known that at least a few of Poly’s presidents including Leroy Anderson 1902-1907, Leroy Brown 1907-1914, Robert Weir-Ryder 1914-1921, Nicholas Ricciardi 1921-1924, Benjamin Crandell 1924-1933, Julian McPhee 1933-1966 and Robert Kennedy 1966-1979 weren’t. Even if they were, what’s the point?

5. Regarding your suggestion, “Cal Poly is a back-up school for those who want to stay locally and fail to get into Stanford.” First this is utter nonsense as 55% of the student body is from the Bay Area and less than 10% of students are local. Beyond that, if Poly’s is getting Stanford rejects as you’ve suggested, bravo! You’ve confirmed with this one statement that Cal Poly is securing applicants that are near Stanford quality which means they are certainly UC or better quality.

I must tell you that you’re trapped in a paradigm of thinking about Cal Poly that’s 30 to 35 years out of date. If time permits, call any high school counselor and ask that they provide you their “college night” statistics sheets. You’ll quickly find to your chagrin (which is common for people that attended a UC prior to 1980) that Cal Poly has moved up very quickly during the Baker years, is far beyond any other CSU school in quality and is an “undergraduate” university that is a peer or superior to many of America’s most recognized names. Here are just a few to chew on in no particular order:

Most all UCs with the exception of Cal and UCLA
Univ. of Kansas
Kansas State
Univ of Colorado
Univ of Oklahoma
University of Indiana
Texas A&M
University of Georgia
U of A
Utah State
Univ of Nebraska

This list is much, much greater than this.

Wesley Day says:

I believe my use of the term fascism is perfectly fine by your definition, as it was meant to evoke what a fascist government embodies: a totalitarian state characterized by the forcible suppression of oppression. My use may be stereotypical in a sense, but I believe that it is still valid.

My point is that you are telling Roger, in essence, that he should not bite the hand that feeds him in the same line you state your respect for his/our first amendment rights. Do you really not see the issue with this? Should we, as a people, not speak negatively of an institution if that institution provides some form of convenience to us? Let’s apply this to a few different scales for the sake of bolding what I’m trying to say here. Because a parent provides for a child, should the child not express negative opinions of their parent? Because a workplace provides for an employee, should the employee be unable to express his distresses with his employer? Because the government provides many conveniences for us in the form of services too numerous to list here, should we not express any negative opinions we have of it?

Should Mr. Freberg not express his negative opinions of Cal Poly because it pays his wife a paycheck/it inconveniences somebody on the school’s newspaper site? This is why I used the term fascism to describe your backpedal from the statement ‘I respect your first amendment rights,’ because you certainly don’t, and you’d rather he not be able to express them at all. Perhaps it is a bit extreme for me to make that comparison, however, it fits.

Also, just as a note, Ad Hominem attacks do not help your credibility or your arguments at all.

B says:

You tell him, Wesley!

Anonymous says:


Robert, Robert, Robert….

Man up, dude. Who are you really?

No, I never attended Cal Poly… but I taught here for several years. I even took over classes from a dying friend in another field than my own (Psychology) and donated my salary back to the school. I was on the booster committee, was the first chair for the fund raising arm now called ‘Poly Arts,’ and volunteered as an official at track meets. I think I know Cal Poly, Warren Baker and many administrators far better than most.

By the way, I spent more than poor Laura makes in federal court fighting and then winning against Warren Baker. It wasn’t a fair fight.

However, suffice it to say you have a far deeper knowledge of Cal Poly and my blog (which focuses mainly on cooking) than is healthy. As for Mrs. Baker’s kitchen extravagances, the facts were brought out by another local publication of which I was merely quoting.

Cal Poly is a fine institution and fills a nitch, however,it is not on a par with a UC or any other large doctoral institution in California. That is not the CSU’s mission which I invite you to read. I am not here to criticize the fine job done by underfunded faculty — like my wife — who buy much of their own equipment, pays for her travel and contributes heroically without support; however, I am criticizing the arrogance of people like yourself who think that they can make things true just because they try to shout everyone else down.

BTW, your analysis of the data of school rankings is well… let’s just say, factually in error.

As for statistics, Warren Baker loves to brag about all the folks who apply and what their qualifications are… but the truth as to who actually show up as students is a far different and well kept secret. Get real, Cal Poly is a back-up school for those who want to stay locally and fail to get into Stanford, et al. So, the stats of who apply and who actually come are different and lower.

So, don’t even go there. It’s not just the 45-50 thousand a year in tuition that makes these top California universities competitive, it is a commitment from the top that hasn’t been at Cal Poly in 30 years.

Warrens, gone and maybe we can look at the situation a bit more honestly now.

Reality says:

Hi Brendan:

Interesting article this week. I like how you focused on an issue that is immediately relevant to Cal Poly students. Maybe it’s my inner cynic, but I think you’re giving Baker too much credit here. How much of his job is directly related to governing the school compared to the amount of time he schmoozes with rich alums for donations?

Realistically, it seems like the Provost and other high-ranking administrators are the ones more responsible for the issues you raise with Baker. That being said, they do report to him so I could see one arguing that he’s the guy calling the shots. I think he’s similar to the Queen of England – technically she is in charge of everything, but when it comes down to making day-to-day decisions, that’s the PM/parliament’s job

Additionally, I think you have oversimplified Senator Yee’s bill. The reason that it was opposed by most campuses (and ultimately, the Governator) was because it would make the Cal Poly Corporation (and other Cal State corps) open as well. The argument was that by releasing all their records they would be at a competitive disadvantage against other companies that could compete with the Corp. This seems like a tough fight for you – you obviously hate the Cal Poly Corp, yet you also hate any kind of regulation (what this bill essentially is.)

Also, your citations are pretty much useless. You make a claim and then put the source in parentheses. If you were to mention the article’s name, where to find it, etc. your statements would be much stronger. Similarly, you seem to rely on FIRE a lot for your information. A wide variety of sources will go far to increase the power of your statements because FIRE – even though they claim to be non-partisan – has a lot of right-wing donors and board members (one is an overseer for the Heritage Foundation). For more info, check out the sourcewatch page for FIRE (

Finally, I was hoping at the end of the article you’d endorse someone. I guess that might have to wait until next week. Keep up the good work.

Your Pal,

“Reality has a well known liberal bias”
–Stephen Colbert

In case you didn’t know.

It is my observation and my opinion that nothing happened at Cal Poly with out Baker’s knowledge and approval.

Reality says:


I now know your opinion.


“Opinions are like a**holes, honey. Everybody’s got one and everybody thinks everybody else’s stinks”
–Henry Larson

Robert says:

How very interesting. Your wife teaches at Cal Poly and yet you’ve started a website, a blog and posted on many sites with the focused objective of disparaging the school at every opportunity. Isn’t that called biting the hand that feeds you?

Of your many lunatic posts, perhaps my favorite was the one you presented about President Baker’s wife spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a custom kitchen outside the President’s Suite at Spanos Stadium. That was beyond laughable.

Anybody that’s been to Spanos and walked by the President’s suite knows there’s no kitchen and that you completely fabricated the entire story but that didn’t stop you from posting pure fiction. You’ve clearly been blinded by your internal rage and it’s safe to say it very unhealthy.

Speaking of the US News ranking which you mock despite the fact that your wife and you have apparently contributed via teaching to Cal Poly’s reputation, it can’t be denied that in terms of selectivity and SAT scores Cal Poly is equal or superior to every private schools ranked above. Further, cross checking against the national universities, Cal Poly is also the peer or superior to nearly every UC and certainly superior to many Pac-10 schools. Please see admissions at Oregon, ASU, Arizona, WSU and OSU for detail.

However, for clarification purposes it’s well known the rankings are actually manipulated because private schools have lobbied for and prevailed in having metrics such as alumni giving and student aid included into the assessment equation. Leading the pack for this was Notre Dame which ranked 50th for national universities in 1988 but moved to 18th in 1989. This is how lesser quality private schools jumped public powerhouses including the likes of Cal (with its multiple Noble Laureates), Michigan and UVA.

The rankings also don’t take into consideration that private universities and colleges ranked above schools like Cal Poly do not adhere to nor are they held accountable to accommodate State and Federal affirmative action mandates.

In summary, although I don’t work at Cal Poly I am a graduate. And, while I respect your first amendment rights, I think I speak for many when I say I’d appreciate it if you’d stop bashing our university. A university you never attended but one that does put food on your table.

Wesley Day says:

I like how you state that you respect Roger’s first amendment rights, then you backpedal straight into fascism by telling him that he should keep his mouth shut because Cal Poly writes his wife a paycheck. I could throw out some examples of why an attitude like that is the absolute worst thing to have as a citizen of the USA, but I’m sure you can figure out why.

If you need clarification on why your words are fairly detestable, I suggest you follow the attached link:

Reality says:

Hi Wesley:

Here’s what Fascism actually means. Hope this helps your future comments.


“Reality has a well known liberal bias”
–Stephen Colbert

Listen to what CNN says about Cal Poly\’s Warren Baker and his administration:

\’robert\’, please have the courage of placing your name with your comments… you sound all too much like an administrative stooge.

Agreed that Warren Baker\’s \’achievements\’ are debatable, but get your facts straight. You have many of the right disclaimers attached to your \’facts\’, but you weren\’t always so forthcoming about Cal Poly. Smoke and mirrors doesn\’t make it so, robert.

I love how \’PR\’ folks spin their numbers… here\’s what is really happening: Cal Poly is ranked 6th among masters schools… in the Western Region… behind such powerhouses as Gonzaga, Trinity, Loyola Marymount, Mills… This isn\’t really all that bad, but the truth is what it is, robert. read more? check it out!

As for Warren Baker being non transparent and such, I would agree… ask anyone.

Roger Freberg

Nathan says:

While I don’t have an opinion one way or the other on President Baker, you don’t seem to be really supporting the idea of ‘spinning’ numbers with the link that you provided.

First, Cal Poly is (by a wide margin) the best value college on that list. Everything within ten ranks of us, in either direction, costs 4-5 times as much in tuition. Second, as a student, Calpoly was always thought of (and pitched to potential high schoolers) to be a really strong undergrad school, not a school where you’d complete your Masters at. I’m afraid I just don’t quite understand how you’re refuting his point of Calpoly being a high level school.

robert says:

…Warren Baker has seen Cal Poly climb to national recognition and subsequently plummet in overall “excellence.”…

Can you provide back up evidence for this position?

If memory serves correctly:

– Cal Poly was just ranked the #1 public university in the Western US for the 11th year running by US News and World Report.

– In 2009, Forbes Magazine ranked Cal Poly grads as some of the highest paid in the NATION. Poly tied with UCLA at #3 and was in front of UCSB, UCSD, UC Davis and many others.

– Cal Poly engineering is rated in the top 10 for undergrad universities.

– Cal Poly Architecture and Ag are both top 10 in the nation and the College of Business just a month ago was ranked #64.

– In 2009, 41,000+ applications were received by Cal Poly for 3,800 freshmen openings.

Hmmm, it seems this is far from the “plummet” being described in the article. What’s more, when Dr. Baker was hired Cal Poly was unranked in all areas. Today it’s a completely different story. At some point the guy at the top has to be given some credit.

It’s understood that the Mustang Daily is a student run paper allowing aspiring journalist to practice their craft but please do just a modicum of research before you draft such foolish and unsubstantiated nonsense.

I appreciate articles that delve into how to improve life on the Cal Poly Campus and choosing the right President is a first start, although with only three choices this is a bit forced.

SMILE & NOD — free speech can be offensive and no one has the right to not be offended… Here\’s FIRE\’s take on the matter and how poorly Cal Poly handled it.

BTW… Cal Poly has always had a roman catholic President, but does it always need to be so?

robert says:

Let it go Roger…or should it be said, Don Quixote.

Go back to your blog and gnash your teeth about your wife not getting what you think is a tenured professorship at Cal Poly. Do you realize you’ve become a laughingstock of the SLO community with your tireless and unfounded attacks?

It should be said that you’re really sinking to a new low with the whole Catholic thing. If it bothers you that much please contact President Obama and ask him why six Supreme Court justices are Catholic including his most recent appointee.

You seriously need help. Have you talk to brother Paul about your problem? At least he attended Cal Poly.

Oh, robert…

Please take off your hood, who are you?

Yes, I have a brother who graduated from Poly and two daughters who took a few classes there while they were home.. a wife who teaches there… and yes, I taught there as well.

As for the catholic thing… it is just amusing that we have never had a non catholic as a cal poly president. coincidence?

As for Laura, she is a tenured, full professor at Cal Poly. In fact she get high student evaluation, write text books, but never made ‘distinguished teacher?’… wonder why that is? Oh yeah, she had to take Warren Baker to federal court and won… now what was Cal Poly doing wrong and why did she win again?

So, robert… you need to get your facts right
who are you again?

srhr says:

What was the Smile n Nod poster scandal about?

BTW. the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is an interesting group… check it out:

The organization is a collection of mostly liberal folks including a few ACLU attorneys. One person farther down claims that they are getting some funding from right wing folks… and for now… as seeing that most — but not all — harassment of first amendment rights is happening to conservatives, this should surprise no one. If the situation of who gets harassed changes, the money sources will change correspondingly. Not rocket science here.