Opinion » Letters

Your presidential finger-pointing was lame

master of public policy student, California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo

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When I overheard at a party last night that a New Times article had been written about Cal Poly President Armstrong and the renovations done to the University House during a time of financial crisis (“Tribulations and renovations,” May 12), I had to read it for myself.

The fact that you honestly believe, and portrayed to the public, that going $191,000 over budget while renovating a historical home that had not been lived in since 2004 was somehow some sign of corruption on behalf of Armstrong and Cal Poly is not news, it is decontextualized slander. While covering a story on the downtown retrofit for Central Coast Magazine some years ago, it became very clear to me that this type of budgetary discrepancy is not unusual; in fact, it is the norm. For instance, $11,000 is a modest price to spend on lighting, particularly in older structures. Perhaps Cal Poly's PR offices were ignorant of the true cost, or at worst-case scenario, were untruthful about the true cost of the remodel, but the way this article was written as though $337,000 is "expensive" for remodeling a 5,089-square-foot historical home is completely out of context in terms of real construction and material costs.

Additionally, nowhere in your article do you cite how much of this money was spent on the wages of contractors, laborers, and architects—all fields that have been hit hard by the Great Recession—on any of these construction projects.

The writers also state that Poly execs have experienced "dramatic pay increases" of 69 percent from 1998 to 2011, while professors' wages have been frozen since 2009, without mention of how much professor's wages had grown from 1998 to 2009 before they were frozen.

It may be horrible to spend so much money on renovations and construction while staff and professors feel "vulnerable"—and rightly so—with university cut-backs looming, however, pointing the finger at Armstrong and his nefarious craftsman light fixtures is, well, lame.

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