Thursday, December 10, 2009

My latest op-ed - "The Legacy of Warren Baker"

News item: Cal Poly President Warren J. Baker Announces Retirement...

Warren J. Baker (Photo:

For those of you outside the realms of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo or higher education...feel free to move on.


Here is my latest op-ed at Cal Coast News: "The Legacy of Warren Baker." I don't know if it's as much a tribute as it is an attempt to set some things straight.

Downtown SLO... Photo: The Old

In case you weren't aware, I worked for Dr. Baker...back in the day. During my four years or so there as director of Public Affairs, I had the opportunity to work with him on everything from the university's Centennial celebration to hitting up state legislators for additional funding. I didn't always see eye-to-eye with President Baker, but I always found him to be a straight-shooter. While some of the university's bureaucrats didn't always serve him - or Cal Poly - well, I know from my experiences at the school/with him that he put the university (and others) ahead of himself - consistently.

Among the issues he struggled with on a regular basis was the ages-old one of "town-gown" tensions. With an enrollment of close to 20,000 students, Cal Poly is the force majeure in and around SLO. The results are, predictably, good and bad. And because he's Poly's leader, most of the blame gets dumped on him...for whatever the reason (correctly or incorrectly).

The Cal Poly campus...

While there is always room for improvement in the way it relates to its SLO neighbors, Poly goes the extra mile when it comes to attempts to do right by the community. I know what I speak of. I've worked at three different universities - public and private - and Poly (under Baker's direction) has worked very, very hard to be a good neighbor. But that is a near-impossible task to accomplish. At one university I worked at, the men's basketball coach once told me that it was nerve wracking to " a bunch of college kids run up and down the court with [his] paycheck in their mouths." In other words, you can do everything possible to teach the students - in and out of the classroom, but when it comes to the bottom line it's up to each individual...not the president, teacher, etc...Add to this a hypersensitive community with more than its share of NIMBY types and you get the picture; you understand why Baker hasn't received his due.


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