Presidents Address Pedestrian Safety & Student Fee Increases at Forum

Presidents Address Pedestrian Safety & Student Fee Increases at Forum
Cal Poly Pomona President Michael Ortiz and Associated Students Inc. President Charles Gruver field students' questions about pedestrian safety, fee increases and financial aid.
Hundreds of students gathered in the University Quad for free food and to speak ask the presidents questions.

Cal Poly Pomona President Michael Ortiz and Associated Students Inc. (ASI) President Charles Gruver answered students' questions about pedestrian safety, fee increases and financial aid, among other issues at “Pizza With the Presidents” on Nov. 3.

Hundreds of students gathered in the University Quad to speak openly with the presidents and enjoy free pizza and drinks at the quarterly event hosted by the President's Office and ASI. More than 1,800 pieces of pizza and nearly 800 beverages were served.

In addition, dozens of administrators, staff and faculty were available to address many of the students' concerns and comments.

“This is a great opportunity. I'm glad to be out here because ASI is here to serve you and we want to do everything possible to ensure your issues are addressed,” Gruver said in his welcome. “There are many things we're trying to improve this year such as increasing student engagement and campus pride.”

Ortiz began by asking for feedback on BroncoBytes and BroncoEvents  two new electronic newsletters created this year students.

“One of things that has come up several times since I've been here as president over the last two-and-a-half years has been the lack of communication between what's happening on campus and what's happening with the students, so this year we instituted two mechanisms to provide you with information,” said Ortiz. “I'd like to know how many of you are paying attention to those and what we can do to make it better.”

One student suggested that the information be placed on a Web site in addition to sent via e-mail. Ortiz agreed it was a good idea and said he would work with staff to place a direct link to the information on the Cal Poly Pomona homepage or on BroncoDirect.

Other students said there was a need for better quality classroom furniture, including student desks and chairs, and also accommodations for left-handed students.

Lisa Rotunni, interim director for Academic Resources, said incorporating new classroom equipment is something the university is actively working on.

“We are now buying only the desks that go all the way across in front of you, so they are equally usable by left- and right-handed people,” she said. “We brought in new chairs a couple of weeks ago and now we will reevaluate how many more we need to appropriately stock our classes.”

Concerned students asked if the university was doing anything to increase pedestrian safety.

Ortiz and Police Chief Michael Guerin explained that the university is already discussing the creation of a walkway overpass at Temple Avenue and has asked an expert to analyze pedestrian traffic on campus.

“But, in addition to what the university is doing, it also takes a little bit of concern on your part for your own safety,” Ortiz said. “We're getting so many things that divert our attention, like cell phones and iPods, and then we're endangering ourselves by not being totally aware of what's going on around us as we walk or drive across campus.”

Guerin explained that there are three elements to traffic safety  education, engineering and enforcement. “We're trying to step up our work in those three areas all at once in a sensitive manner to make sure we have a safe place for you to attend classes,” he explained.

Students asked Ortiz to explain the California State University's recent student fee increases and the faculty and executive salary increases.

“When faculty salaries at CSUs were compared to those at peer institutions, it was found that there was a 3.2 percent gap. At the executive level, there was a 49.5 percent difference between what the CSU presidents are paid and those at peer institutions,” said Ortiz. “So, the increase was an attempt to address those gaps.”

As a separate issue, the student fee increases were part of a higher education compact agreement reached in May 2004 with the state governor. It called for the CSU to develop its annual budget plan based on undergraduate student fees increasing by 14 percent for 2004-05 and by 8 percent for 2005-06 and also 8 percent for 2006-07.

Student contributions only attribute 24 percent of the total cost of their CSU education. The balance comes from the State of California and other resources. Cal Poly Pomona raises $1 out of every $3 to support its academic mission.

In response to the fee increases, Gruver encouraged students to get involved in government and vote for candidates who support education.

“The state is in a deficit and the legislature knows that we as students don't vote,” said Gruver. “If they cut money to our education, they know we're not going to go out and vote another candidate into office.”

Gruver also pointed out that without the fee increase, more classes would have been cut and the quality of education would have dropped.

Other items of interest that came out of the discussion included:

  • Plans for an online automated process for transfer credits and degree audits. 
  • The creation of a two-year schedule of classes accessible to students. 
  • Plans to roll out the next version of BroncoDirect that will support additional Web browsers such as Firefox. 

The next “Pizza With the Presidents” will be held Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006, 6-7 p.m., in the Bronco Student Center's Ursa Major Suite.