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Warren Baker moves on

The Tribune serves up an exit interview with Warren Baker in the Saturday edition. Friday was Baker’s last official day as president of Cal Poly, stepping down after 31 years on the job. The interim guy, Dr. Robert Glidden, starts Monday.

I’ve been told that Hometown Radio is considered “anti-Cal Poly” by some on campus, especially those in the administration building. In truth, Cal Poly is an excellent university, a fine school for which all of San Luis Obispo County can be proud. And a lion’s share of credit for that deservedly goes to Dr. Baker.

Baker came here from Detroit in 1979 and began a magical transformation of the campus. He did his job in raising both the money and the profile nationally. I don’t envy the person who tries to follow in his footsteps — those shoes are way too big.

But, as someone who worked on five different college campuses as an instructor, I always faulted Baker in two areas: His relationship with the town and his relationship with students. Quite honestly, I don’t think he ever gave a good god damn what the people of San Luis Obispo thought. He made few, if any, overtures, to reach out to the city. He was never a good neighbor, blindly turning an eye as Poly students overran neighborhoods and strained city resources.

And all his travels and fundraising kept Baker from more time with students and it often became a running joke on campus. I’m biased, i guess, because my campus experience was largely with smaller, private schools where the college president was expected to more of an on-campus presence. And off-campus, too, especially when hundreds of students were gathering for large parties. It would have been nice for Baker to spend more time helping to quell the noise.

However, give the man his due. California State Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo became Cal Poly and the school is the envy of the California State University system. That didn’t happen by accident.

So what happens to Cal Poly now? CalCoastNews has an interesting report about how the CSU Chancellor just smacked down Poly’s plan to set up an MBA degree program in Santa Barbara. He wants CSU Channel Islands to run the program instead. I don’t think that would have happened if Baker was still in charge.

My Poly sources tell me that Cal Poly is about to be taken down a few notches by the Chancellor’s office and Charles Reed will have more to say about what happens in San Luis Obispo.

  1. californiawiseguy
    July 31, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    It seems to me that Cal Poly is way overrated as a place of higher learning. It’s rare that we ever hear of any great discoveries, great books, great inventions, great research findings, etc. coming out of Cal Poly.

    It seems it is mostly a place that private industry uses as a cheap way of getting some of its work done for it—which accounts why Baker has been good at bringing in money. But is he prostituting the school?

    The last great “discovery” I recall be trumped by Cal Poly is when someone there figured out a way to make “non-melting cheese” to help improve the quality of micro-wave dinners. Gosh, what would the world do without THAT!??

    And I still recall about ten years ago the former head of the Cal Poly Ag department who, it was discovered during a public forum, literally did not know what hemp was. This at a time when hemp was being widely touted for its great potential as an efficient source of material for food and industry.

    Am I wrong in assuming that Cal Poly’s “strength” is in pumping out efficient, well-trained, compliant human robots for corporate America? (That and boosting the fortunes of local alcohol purveyors.)

  2. jurisdoctor78
    July 31, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    As it should be. Poly needs to pull it’s weight. There should be at least 30,000 students there by now and growing. No more kid gloves. It’s time SLO comes into the new millennium.

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