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SDSU’s own internal documents reveal that the true purpose of many of the strategies we have seen over the past decade—from dual admission in 2002 to the current requirement that students apply to a major or pre-major—is “so we can ‘deny’ more locals access….”


By Pat Washington, PhD


October 31, 2009 (San Diego)--Approximately two weeks before the application period for San Diego State University (SDSU) began, President Stephen Weber announced that, among other things, the budget crisis forced the university to eliminate the local student guaranteed admissions policy. The policy guaranteed admissions priority to CSU-eligible students in the SDSU service area. However, SDSU’s claims that changes to its admissions policy are driven by the state budget crisis don’t hold up under scrutiny.


Arguably, discouraging local student enrollment has been a primary focus of SDSU’s administration ever since President Weber was hired in 1996. For instance, according to SDSU Faculty Senate Minutes of December 7, 1999, President Weber requested, and was granted, impacted campus status for SDSU as early as May 1997—eight months after taking the university’s helm. In the fall of 1999, SDSU used this “impacted campus” designation to radically alter established CSU admission requirements for local students.


Fortunately, the impaction policy that SDSU implemented in 1999 did not sit well with either the CSU Chancellor or the Board of Trustees. Chancellor Reed mandated SDSU immediately amend its impaction policy, and the Board quickly adopted enrollment management principles to ensure “guaranteed access to a local campus for all eligible local students.”


According to an internal document, SDSU administrators began concocting ways to go around CSU enrollment principles designed to protect local students. The document, entitled “Resisting the Localization of SDSU,” administrations provides suggestions on how to “reduce an increasing ‘provincialization’ of the University (or … [to prevent] SDSU becoming a great-big 4-year Community College).” The suggestions included,” Create a “dual admission” policy … [which] would remove a significant portion of mandated local first-time freshmen.” Or one that is currently in play for 2010 admissions: “Raise the academic criteria for admission into individual pre-majors and majors so that we can ‘deny’ more locals access to their desired fields.”


SDSU’s own internal documents reveal that the true purpose of many of the strategies we have seen over the past decade—from dual admission in 2002 to the current requirement that students apply to a major or pre-major—is “so we can ‘deny’ more locals access….”


One of the new changes to the admission policy is the requirement that new out of service area admits, including those north of 56, live in campus housing. This requirement is presumably in response to SDSU’s concern that all those dorms are sitting empty because local students don’t need campus housing. But all the hand-wringing about empty dorm rooms running up costs to the university is disingenuous. If having empty dorms is such a problem, why did the university pay $26 million dollars for the Albert Apartments the very same day it dropped the local student guarantee? It’s clear that while SDSU is “rationing” space for the local students in its service area, it is making plenty space available for out of area students.


Several of SDSU’s internal documents reveal undisguised contempt for local students. For instance, in “Resisting the Localization of SDSU,” local students are seen as “provincial” and disparagingly called “locals” whose admission to SDSU is seen as downgrading the university to a “great big 4-year Community College.” In another document, the Provost describes the local guaranteed admission policy as “a major threat to the academic quality of this institution…” (Senate Executive Committee’s Minutes of October 26, 1999). For the Provost local students are a “problem” threatening to “swamp” (SDSU Senate Minutes of November 6, 2001).


In a Union Tribune interview, President Weber, states that “At some point, [he’s] got to place [his] bet on the student that’s most likely to be able to succeed and graduate.” For Weber, that is the non-local student. Local community members are calling upon SDSU to restore the local student guaranteed admissions policy because for us, our students are human beings, not horses. Denying CSU-eligible students access to the only four-year university in their own backyards has far graver consequences than placing bets at the race track.


The views expressed in this editorial reflect those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org.

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