Is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation team trying to make Cal Poly break the law? It sure seems like it.
In case you didn’t hear, the WASC team re-approved Cal Poly’s accreditation. But in its review, it made an issue about our lack of diversity, telling Cal Poly to “actively increase the diversity of students, the diversity of staff and the diversity of faculty.”
How exactly do they expect Cal Poly to suddenly become more diverse?
I’m all in favor of a more diverse campus. Who am I to question the wide body of research cited by so many universities that prove the benefits of diversity in the classroom? While these studies always seem a bit vague and manipulated to achieve specific agendas, there’s no doubt people from different walks of life bring unique and valuable perspectives to the classroom.
Diversity has become incredibly important to Cal Poly in recent years. After being “removed” from his former position, Cornel Morton was reassigned as a senior adviser to the president to work with him on increasing the number of diverse, first-generation college students at Cal Poly. The humble fellow has kept very private about his work, but I’m sure there’s one question everyone is asking: How will Cal Poly actually increase the overall acceptance rate of “diverse,” first-generation applicants?
As far as I know, Cal Poly has never had a history of racial, ethnic or gender discrimination. In the last few decades, Cal Poly has gained an incredible reputation of attracting some of the best and the brightest students (and faculty members) and producing some of the most highly-demanded graduates in the job market. The school has been perhaps deficient in representing a few racial/ethnic groups, but I wouldn’t blame the university for it.
Why should Cal Poly change its acceptance standards (assuming it has not already)? WASC Accreditation Board has not, of course, directly requested this drastic action, but the implications of their post-review comments seem pretty obvious, even if it was explicitly more nebulous than Joe Biden’s contributions to the Obama Administration.
Here’s the truth: WASC wants Cal Poly to use affirmative action measures without calling it affirmative action. This phrase “affirmative action” is taboo at this point. Proposition 209 (passed in 1996) outlawed all forms of affirmative action in California, and the law still remains valid under the California Constitution. So, WASC will obviously not be indiscreetly advocating it.
WASC would likely argue that it is simply encouraging Cal Poly to work harder in attracting qualified, diverse applicants and faculty candidates.
But haven’t we already been doing this these past few years? If not, what has been the point of the Inclusive Excellence Council?
When it comes to faculty, the university’s most classic excuse is that we simply don’t have enough money to sway those candidates who are in high demand. Is WASC going to give us some money to solve this issue?
Interestingly, the committee commended Cal Poly’s ability to thrive under serious budget cuts.
“In so many situations, people use the budget deductions as an excuse not to do something,” committee member George Pardon said.
Instead, Cal Poly has committed itself to “maintaining and increasing services.” Yet in this kind of financial strain, how do they expect Cal Poly to fund the most qualified “diverse” candidates?
If they must resort to selecting less qualified “diverse” candidates in the name of diversity, then the line of affirmative action has indeed been crossed, whether hiring boards admit it or not. And the civil rights of all the more qualified candidates would be violated as a result.
I am not suggesting that affirmative action is currently occurring at Cal Poly; I certainly have no proof. However, any reasonable person would conclude that the WASC committee’s suggestion certainly encourages it at both the student and faculty level. In other words, they are slyly encouraging Cal Poly to break the law.
Instead of placing impossible burdens on university leaders, WASC should encourage the state to develop inner city communities and improve the high school education quality of low-income neighborhoods. How else will students receive the tools necessary to succeed at the university level? How else will they receive the necessary grades and test scores for admission?
Doesn’t this community-based solution seem (dare I say it) more “sustainable”?
Cal Poly refuses to challenge the opinion of the WASC for fear of losing its accreditation in the future. However, someone needs to point out the facts and put an end to the useless rhetoric of this self-righteous commission.
College campuses can’t increase diversity on their own. The process needs to start before teens even turn in their college applications. That would be some change I can believe in.