One university

Chico State’s college system runs counter to academic goals

Chico State students, faculty and staff who returned for the new school year Monday (Aug. 21) couldn’t help but notice sets of banners mounted on light posts lining the main promenade. One message holds particular resonance: “We are one university.”

However, its academic structure is not so unified. Chico State, in some key respects, is not “one university” in its systemic organization; it’s a collection of seven colleges, five schools and 29 centers/institutes. At least for the colleges, this structure has bred silos and competition for resources.

Take the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. As reported in Newslines (“Existential crisis,” by Evan Tuchinsky, page 8), that unit of the university has a sizable deficit. Without a bailout of sorts from the provost, humanities would be in the red nearly $2 million; as it stands, Dean Robert Knight still is running numbers, with contracts pending from some part-time instructors even after classes began, but he told the CN&R he anticipates a deficit in the half-million range, or 5 percent of his budget.

Chico State uses a complicated system to fund its colleges. The primary allocations are primarily based on “productivity”—crudely, butts in seats—but adjusted for the type of class. A college gets less per student for an introductory English composition class than for an upper-division chemistry lab. General education courses fall more heavily in the former category; since the humanities college delivers a greater proportion of GEs than others, it’s the equivalent of a loss leader for Chico State.

Or, it would be if Chico State budgeted more holistically. Instead, Humanities and Fine Arts suffers from teaching the basics and low-tech classes, plus offering majors that aren’t as marketable as, say, business or criminal justice.

Chico State prides itself on its interdisciplinary approach to education. “One university” will remain a partial platitude if inclusion does not extend into academia.