Don’t Gentrify Our University

Photo Credit: Siteda Art

I write this statement in an attempt to bring awareness on CSULA’s “Admission Proposal Plan.” I hope that my research driven by my passion to defend our community serves you well.

When I learned about the Provost’s proposal to implement impaction on CSULA’s entire university, I became very upset. Working class students like myself already go through so much and this only adds to our stress.

To begin with, Cal State LA prides itself in being “LA’s public university for the public good. On the CSULA website and instagram, it quotes: “Cal State LA ranked number one in the U.S. for upward mobility of our students.” It is very hypocritical of CSULA to utilize that slogan for promotional purposes while also planning on denying admission to students who helped them earn that recognition in the first place. CSULA would not be #1 in upward mobility if it was not for the students they have admitted over the years. I fear that if Dr. Mahoney is successful in applying impaction for Fall 2020, it could lead to CSULA losing the title it is often recognized for.

The “Proposed Admission Plan,” which is simply a softer term for the word impaction, is not about solving state funding problems. It is not about allowing students to go to community college to become more prepared. And it is certainly not about the well-being of CSULA students, prospective applicants, and staff. It is about the erosion of working class students in higher education. It is about denying access to education to students who are in need of it the most. Essentially, CSULA will start to pick students from the top and exclude students from the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. This will deny working class students from a golden eagle education and further their marginalization because let’s face it, less opportunities are handed to working class students and it is those students who will be denied (regardless of empty promises from the Dean and Office of Provost).

In educating myself about this topic, I looked into the background of the Provost (Dr. Lynn Mahoney) and Vice provost (Thomas Enders). Tom Enders is currently the Vice Provost of Enrollment Services at CSULA. Upon my research, I became aware about their work at Cal State University of Long Beach. I have read articles from CSULB’s site that recognize Tom Enders a “visionary for student success.” For those who are unfamiliar with CSULB, the university has become one of the hardest campuses to get admitted to in the CSU system. Tom Enders as well as Dr. Mahoney are responsible for that. In fact, there has been several sources claiming that CSULB is becoming an elite university, despite efforts from the university to deny this. It is clear that Dr. Mahoney and Tom Enders plan on bringing this strategy to our university. This is problematic because we do not need people who go against our own mission statement. We do not need people without our best interests in mind. And we certainly do not need people who implement strategies that discriminate against our local working class students and then leave us to work at another school, which is a problem that is very common in universities like CSULA. This brings me to my next question: How long does Dr. Mahoney and Tom Enders plan on staying at CSULA? Will they be there long enough to see the impact of their actions? Or are they planning on leaving CSULA just like they did with CSULB?

Moreover, it is important to remember that CSU’s were created for the public. CSU’s are public universities for people who cannot afford to go to elite universities. It is probable that Enders and Mahoney do not know what it is like to grow up in poverty so why are they representing a university where the majority of its students come from low-income families? As far as their work at CSULB, was there any research following up with the applicants who were denied? Did they care enough to follow up with those students? Rejection from a nearby university leads to several obstacles for that student to overcome. Take me for example. Both times when I applied to CSULA, I did not apply to any other university. I knew early on that I could not afford another school. I could not afford to move away. I could not even afford the $50 that the CSU system required me to pay to apply. I saved my money and applied to the one university that I knew would accept me, CSULA. I had my eyes set on CSULA like many other working class students do. If I had been denied, I would have had to to wait another year to apply to graduate school. Moreover, if CSULA had been impacted way back when I was trying to transfer from Rio Hondo College, there is a possibility I would have been denied. This would have created a barrier for me to overcome and I may have chosen a more expensive university to accept me. Worse yet, it is very likely that I would have put an end to my education due to lack of opportunity. I would not be where I am today. In addition, the high school students who get denied from CSULA may be forced to attend community colleges. Unfortunately, community colleges are extremely overcrowded. It is hard for students to get the classes they need to graduate. Students are often competing against each other for a seat in class. Deterring students from CSULA and rerouting them to community colleges can prolong their education process and discourage them to finish.

Another huge reason why I am against the impaction plan is due to the fact that it has gone under the radar so far. CSULA already seems to be implementing their admission proposal plan to applicants. Professionals in LAUSD schools are hearing about high school students devastated by CSULA’s rejection. Students who qualified previously suddenly do not qualify anymore. This is confusing for the student who does not know what is happening. It becomes another barrier for that student to overcome. Even in the way we are allowed to express our concerns is problematic. The Office of Provost created an online public comment form to write our concerns, but the page does not allow for the community to see each other’s comments. This is not very public at all. It is an ethical obligation for the university to adequately inform the community and stakeholders about their plans to impact CSULA. When I attended a senate meeting, less than 7 students were present. This is not because the community does not care. It is because CSULA has failed in informing the public. Their approach to declare impaction on the entire university is sneaky, it is confusing, and it is unethical, especially on President Covino’s behalf for allowing it to be handled this way.

On a similar note, when I attended the senate meeting, Dr. Mahoney was asked why there is such a hurry to implement impaction. She responded by saying that it is simply due to funding. Unfortunately, this is very hard for me to believe. There has been new additions to the CSULA campus from new food places like Everytable, to dorms, to new parking lots. Where was the Provost and Dean complaining about funding for those additions? Why is CSULA focused on funding dorms when CSULA is reputably a commuter school? Also during my research I found that President Covino has more than enough funding for his salary. In fact, President Covino makes at least double the amount than the average dean so why is funding only a problem when its for the admission of its prospective students?

Another issue that was presented in the senate meeting is whether impaction is reversible. President Covino struck me by surprise when he stated that impaction is in fact, reversible. My question is: what is the probability of that happening? As Mahoney said herself, several majors are already impacted. If those majors have not been reversed from impaction, what is the chance of a university-wide impaction being reversed? It is also critical to remember that not one university in the history of the CSU system has ever reversed impaction and I highly doubt CSULA would be the first to do so.

I also do not appreciate the Provost saying that CSULA is already impacted. This is half of the truth. We have impacted majors, we are not entirely impacted. Statements from the Provost are misleading and I do not appreciate being misled. She went on to say that CSULA is already rejecting a lot of students in a way to make her case. Just because CSULA is currently rejecting a lot of students does not make it okay to impact all majors. That’s like saying “its okay to create more problems because we already have a lot of problems.” I am not sure why the Provost likes to use these arguments in her meetings. To the vulnerable student, it is unethical for her to mislead the university that she is supposed to represent. I highly urge Dr. Mahoney to be as honest as possible to prevent further backlash.

In conclusion, I am against this proposed plan for a myriad of reasons. First, because it goes against CSULA’s recognition of “upward mobility” of its students. Second, because it discriminates against working class students like myself by essentially picking from the top and excluding from the bottom. Third, because of CSULB’s history and Dr. Mahoney’s and Thomas Enders’ work there. Fourth, because community colleges are not necessarily the best route for these students. Fifth, because of it has been handled unethically and sneaky by the Office of Provost. Sixth, because it is very unlikely that impaction will be reversed. At last, because of misleading information perpetuated by the Office of Provost. For all these reasons, I stand against the “Admission Proposal Plan” and I highly urge CSULA to reconsider. I echo the faculty at CSULA and call for one year moratorium on impaction. Thank you for reading this statement.


Ivonne Franco Rodriguez

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