Tag: Education

‘A game changer’: Humboldt State University ponders becoming third Cal Poly

Humboldt State University will conduct a self-study, at the request of the California State University system, examining whether it should become a polytechnic university.

HSU announced Monday that it would conduct the study and would complete it by spring 2021. There is no guarantee the university will become a polytechnic and no timetable for when it might.

“Designation and recognition of HSU as a polytechnic university would make your campus increasingly attractive to students from around California and beyond, creating a robust and stable student body at the undergraduate and graduate levels.” CSU chancellor Timothy White wrote in a letter dated Friday to HSU president Tom Jackson

By becoming a polytechnic university, HSU would join Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as the third polytechnic CSU in the state and the only one in Northern California.

Jackson on Monday wrote in a letter, “this designation would build upon HSU’s strengths, help us meet important needs for the North Coast and California, and make our campus increasingly attractive to students from California and beyond. Building on the collective vision emerging from our academic and strategic planning, we can reimagine the polytechnic university for the 21st century — marked by a focus on sustainability, hands-on and career-focused programs, and a broad liberal arts education. Beyond traditional polytech programs, we can infuse traditional ecological knowledge, renewable technologies, equitable and ethical practices, and more. There are many possibilities, and I believe this is a time to raise our sights.”

HSU has the highest percentage of courses with a hands-on component in the CSU system, and it has the third-highest percentage of students in natural resources and STEM programs (behind Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona). HSU also has the CSU’s highest percentage of STEM graduates who go on to earn doctoral degrees, ranking eighth nationally among 660 master’s level institutions, the university said in a news release.

White said HSU was positioned well to meet needs the state’s future workforce needs.

“(HSU) is a vital institution on the North Coast and for California,” he wrote. “The campus currently has many distinct strengths in the sciences, with a special capacity for matters pertaining to forestry, oceanography, energy, and agriculture. As we look to the needs of California in the decades ahead, programs dealing with the development and application of new knowledge in the fire sciences, aquaculture, sustainable energy, North Coast crops, and environmental sustainability are among a few areas where HSU could provide world-class programs.”

College of the Redwoods president Keith Flamer, whose institution recently announced it would be introducing an aquaculture program to prepare students for job opportunities at the soon-to-be-built Nordic Aquafarms fish farm in Samoa, lauded the potential for more collaboration between the two schools.

“This will allow CR and HSU to expand the transfer pathway in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, forestry and aquaculture fields,” Flamer said. “CR’s administration and faculty are committed to working with our (HSU) partners to build a pathway from our high-quality, STEM-related programs to HSU. It is a ‘win-win’ collaboration.”

A polytechnic designation, as described by both White and Jackson, would make HSU a more desirable destination for prospective students across the state, and nation, during a time in which HSU is combatting decreasing enrollment. HSU fields 85% of its students from outside the county.

Although the university did see a significant improvement over its estimated 2020-21 enrollment projection, the university is still planning for a 20% decline in enrollment for 2021-22 because of current “uncertainty” amid the coronavirus pandemic and other uncontrollable factors.

Jackson, in an interview with the Times-Standard, said HSU already offers a number of polytechnic courses.

“This would enable us to play on those strengths,” Jackson said. “It’s no secret that California needs a more career-minded, technically trained people in its workforce. Being a polytechnic is a very specific brand, and it is one we are already delivering.”

The state’s other two polytechnic universities, according to Jackson, turn away more students yearly than HSU enrolls.

“I’m not saying we would get all those students, but (HSU becoming a polytechnic) would give those students another option,” he said.

Jackson said, for example, HSU may look at adding more types of engineering courses and increasing its offerings in its sustainability and environmental science course, areas which would give HSU its own lane in the CSU’s polytechnic trio, should it become one. Jackson said specific course additions would be up to faculty to determine what is best.

“It’s about growth in certain areas to meet the needs of this state,” Jackson said. “Being a polytechnic doesn’t mean we would lose anything we already have — it just means we would gain more.”

As Nordic Aquafarms nears construction of its fish farm, and as RTI Industries prepares to land a series of fiber-optic cables stretching from Singapore to Humboldt County’s coast and connect them in Arcata with other new lines from the Digital 299 project, Jackson says it “couldn’t be a more opportune time for Humboldt State, and for our county, for HSU to become a polytechnic school.”

“This is big,” Jackson said. “This is one of the biggest things that, potentially, could happen to this university in its history. This a game changer.”

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman lauded the potential for the district he represents.

“Becoming the third polytechnic university in the CSU system could be an exciting way forward for HSU, its students, and the North Coast community,” he said.

Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson, whose district includes Arcata, called it a natural fit.

“To me, it’s a recognition of the important role this institution continues to play in our understanding of natural systems, our impacts on the planet and the quest for solutions to make all communities more resilient,” Wilson said.

L.A. County takes first steps toward new youth justice department

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted to take the first steps in transitioning to a rehabilitative, ‘care-first’ model of juvenile justice, a plan expected to ultimately move funding and responsibility out of the probation department and into a new Department of Youth Development by 2025.

The move was based on a set of recommendations laid out in a report titled Youth Justice Reimagined, produced by the county’s Youth Justice Work Group. It calls for reducing the overall size and scope of the juvenile probation system and investing in community-based resources.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl previewed the plan Monday in a briefing with reporters.

“Honestly our current system really isn’t working. It’s not working for us, it obviously isn’t working for the young people,” Kuehl said then.

“Rather than a punitive system in a prison-like setting with big buildings and barbed wire, far from their communities, what we’re proposing and beginning to explore with this motion is more of a homelike setting in communities, still with public safety in mind.”

Kuehl and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas co-authored a motion calling on the board to adopt the ‘care-first’ values outlined in the report and direct the CEO and the Office of Diversion and Reentry to return in 60 days with a report on establishing a transition-planning team.

It also calls for a legal analysis of responsibilities that could be assumed by the envisioned Department of Youth Development, as well as an analysis of the probation workforce and the staffing needed for the DYD.

Though the number of minors in care of the probation department has declined significantly in recent years, Los Angeles County’s youth justice system remains the largest in the nation with approximately 500 young people in the county’s two juvenile halls and six probation camps.

As with county jails, the juvenile system is characterized by and promotes ongoing racial inequities. Black youth are six times more likely to be arrested and 25 times more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers. Research shows that a single arrest nearly doubles the likelihood of a young person dropping out of high school.

More than 100 county staffers, community leaders, labor partners and activists, including youth previously in detention or otherwise involved in the justice system, worked over the past year to generate the report.

They imagine something that is bigger than reform and more on the order of transformation.

“Probation is not a system that can simply be reformed,” Milinda Kakani of the Children’s Defense Fund said. “This system of incarceration and punishment is no place to lift up the potential of L.A. County’s youth.”

The work included discussions with probation officers, who reportedly expressed fear about losing their jobs, but also hope about a system that might better serve everyone.

Probation will maintain responsibility for adult probationers and Kuehl said the transition will be gradual.

“The county does not like to let anybody go,” Kuehl said Monday, noting the absence of layoffs even during the pandemic.

“We want to explore sort of redesigning the work so that people who are in our union working in probation have the opportunity to shift to roles in this new department.”

The county is simultaneously making plans to handle the state’s shut down of its juvenile justice system. California will end the transfer of minors to state lockups as of July 1.

A report on the county’s plans to accommodate that change is expected Dec. 15.


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