Engineering is a frill at SF State

San Francisco State’s president, forced to cut the budget, is threatening to close the School of Engineering, writes Debra Saunders in the Chronicle. Raza Studies, Recreational and Leisure Studies and Women Studies would remain, preparing students for . . . Well, leisure studies will come in handy for the permanently unemployed.

My fave: The Institute on Sexuality, Social Inequality and Health.

It makes you wonder if the guys in Engineering should rename their discipline. You know, call it The School of Engineering, Structural Inequality and Disparity Dynamics. Even better: The School of Social Engineering. Then maybe engineering wouldn’t be expendable.

Some 700 engineering students would be out of luck if SF State dumps the department.

About Joanne


  1. how about agra-engineering: “fruits and nuts!”

  2. Maybe Arnold should just shut SFSU down. Then estabish a new school of Engineering, using the former SFSU engineering faculty. The new school should also include a strong liberal arts program: the faculty should consist of humanities profs who are more interested in scholarship than in activism–which woud probably leave most of the current SFSU denizens out.

  3. Mad Scientist says:

    Just what this country needs to be great: fewer engineers.

    Oh, well, just less competition for me.

  4. Why doesn’t the UC system just establish a University of Victim Studies–and let the rest of the schools get on with , you know, education and whatnot.

  5. Engineering must go for three reasons:

    1. Everyone “knows” that math and science are “phallocentric.”

    2. Eventual low enrollment due to the failure of (fill-in-the-trend) “math” programs.

    3. Who needs people to design anything new? Let’s recycle! Or better yet, abandon technology entirely! Back to the ways of Mother Gaia!


    Seriously, I’m not surprised, given the crazy atmosphere at that school:

  6. Is there anything that can be done to stop this? This is RIDICULOUS.

  7. It is not only foolish from an educational standpoint, it is clearly decadent in a cultural sense. Eliminate the production of practical and constructive skills, and expand the production of the impractical and destructive. It kind of reminds a person of Rome, just before the fall.

  8. Walter Wallis says:

    I heartily approve of everything here but one – spending one taxpayer dime on the upkeep of that waste of a perfectly good expansion parking lot for Stonestown. This is the school where a journalism instructor admitted to requiring her students to participate in the demonstrations as a part of their grade, and not one newspaper editor raised any objection.
    Sell off the land to developers and use the funds for engineering scholarships to Cal Poly SLOBPO. God, I love that school.
    It is time to reopen the horsewhip factories.

  9. Mat Larson says:

    I never even DREAMED of drugs strong enough to cause this…I’m very scared [and tired of apologizing] for my home state.

  10. Actually, on reflection, this may be very appropriate. Engineering is about building things. Modern educational institutions seem to be more about deconstructing things. Perhaps an engineering school is entirely out of place among such people.

  11. John Fusco says:

    Besides being incredibly stupid, closing the school of engineering to make up a budget deficit seems self-defeating – I’m betting most of those 700 students would transfer to another school, taking their tution dollars with them. (on the other hand, I’m betting a lot of the “victim studies” people could easily find another major there.) And I wonder if the president has proposed cutting his own salary…

  12. jeff wright says:

    Does anybody wonder why I’m selling my house in the Bay Area and want to get out of here just as soon as possible? This place is getting scarier and scarier. Reality? Fast disappearing here and in California as a whole.

    I don’t intend to be the one to turn the lights out.

  13. But it makes sense! First, cripple the education of (especially) minority students with “progressive” techinques and the soft bigotry of low expectations. Then, use affirmative action (or some weaselly semi-legal variant) to let them, totally unprepared, into college. Now what — you want them to study a real major? Isn’t that a bit unrealistic given their background?

    I’ll bet that cutting “victim studies” (or “underwater basketweaving”, as we engineers referred to it when I was an undergraduate) is unacceptable politically because it noticibly reduces the “diversity” of the student body.

  14. karen,

    “Underwater basketweaving” is a bit too kind, I think. I imagine that preparing to sit underwater for long periods weaving baskets takes some degree of discipline. Screw up – forget to go down with a full air tank – and you die. Basketweaving in the surface world, as the Atlanteans call it? Now THAT’s relatively effortless. Of course, I can’t weave anything to save my life and I have to think when I tie my shoes, so maybe I should shut up …

    Seriously, isn’t it amazing how your nightmare scenario just happens to come together even without any conspiracy at all? Then again, this shows that individuals with a shared mindset can make independent decisions that all add up to disaster.


    I used to want to be a professor in California. But reading your posts has made me lose all regrets!

  15. jeff wright says:

    Amritas: One should always avoid making significant decisions on the basis of anecdotal evidence. Having said that, however, I spent a month on business on Oahu four years ago and I would trade with you in a heartbeat, haole and all. In fact, I recently had an opportunity to move there, but I decided against it because my long-range plans call for final settlement in the eastern U.S.

    Difficult as this may be for you to believe—I know it was for the many Hawaii residents I encountered—our housing prices are higher than yours. Your quality of life is better. Your golf courses aren’t really all that much better, but they’re awfully good, plus residents get a break on greens fees (I was able to take advantage of that). Your traffic is better. You think those so-called traffic jams in downtown Hono are bad? Piece of cake, my friend. A Californian sneers at them. Weather-wise, probably the only place in the world I’d take over the Bay Area. But, then, I like moderate tropical weather like Hawaii’s as opposed to the nasty stuff in Southeast Asia. Others prefer the variety here.

    Hawaii has a lot of problems. ISTM that employment will always be a problem. Tourism-based, it’s heavily dependent on California and Japan. Japan’s been down for years and Californians have throttled back. 9/11 plays a big role. As a younger worker vice the retiree I will soon be, I would not commit to such an isolated area. And I know a lot of younger college grads beat feet out of there. But, then, you’re a prof and they never get fired. Your politics suck just like California’s. And you have the same problems with underachievers. But then, nothing’s perfect.

    My advice: unless you were to get a very nice chunk of change, I’d think long and hard about California. If you want the mainland, there are an awful lot of nice places in our beautiful country.

  16. Jim Thomason says:

    I think everyone is over-reacting. Of course the President of SFSU is threating to close the School of Engineering instead of the BS (and I’m not talking Bachelor of Science) degree programs.

    This is the same tactic every governmental flunkie uses when budget cuts are talked about. They don’t say that cuts will force them to eliminate wasteful and/or idiotic things that only a tiny minority would support, because that would result in the cuts being enacted. Instead they never mention all the fluff that could be cut out painlessly, and instead yammer about all the essential services that they would be “forced” to reduce or eliminate.

  17. It’s as if there is a coordinated effort to destroy the value of our educational system. Me, paranoid?

  18. Mr. Thomason has the idea … a claim of poverty makes more sense if it involves closing something a lot of people use. It’s not clear that the College of Engineering (which at many universities is a home away from home for immigrant students and faculty) is the best target. The cost centers that would likely have the greatest effect on Californians would be the remedial and retention bureaucracies and the no-credit courses. More on this at my site.

  19. dhanson says:

    I second Jim Thomason’s comment. I worked at a state university for a number of years and every time serious budget cuts were threatened, the administration would emphasize the impact those cuts would have on the the school’s most important or most popular programs.

    That’s how you get news coverage, that’s how you get alumni stirred up, that’s how you get legislators to back down.

    Of course, they could be serious in this case (which is a frightening thought) but I tend to think it’s just a tactic.

  20. This strategy is so well recognized and documented that it has a name. It is referred to as the Washington Monument Strategy. When faced with the threat of budget cuts, the National Park Service (or other appropriate agency; I forget which) always threatened to cut back visiting hours at the Washington Monument. When faced with budget cuts, a public entity has an incentive to threaten to cut back on the most visible and popular programs. I learned about while studying political science 25 years ago.
    _________________________________________________ Is there any escape? Drinkers Purgatory

  21. How much authority does the actual government of California have to fix the colleges? Can Arnold say? You are fired to this president? Can they tell the colleges they are going to cut specific programs? They should take San Francisco State and turn it into The California Institute of Technology at San Francisco.

  22. Two Tone says:

    Re: The Washington Monument Strategy

    Charles, I’m sure you’re right on this. The truly sad thing is that California’s state budget is in SERIOUS need of fat-trimming and instead we get proposals to cut muscle and bone, exclusively.

    Before Gray Davis was recalled, I remember the discussions of the California budget and what to do with it. It occurred to me at the time that there are four kinds of public spending:
    1. Fundamentally essential – you’re not a State if you don’t do them, (e.g., operation of the courts, holding elections)
    2. Wise – these pay off in improvements in quality of life for your citizens, with the best acting as investments in that they reduce future spending by the state or its citizens (e.g., road maintenance, flood control) or they improve future tax revenues (e.g., education that boosts citizens’ productivity and income)
    3. Wasteful – pork-barrel projects flushed down any of a million toilets. (e.g., Lawrence Welk’s boyhood home in North Dakota, Steamtown in Pennsylvania, Boston’s Big Dig)
    4. Downright Damaging to society at large – money that’s better spent if you DO flush it down the toilet. (e.g., Victims’ Studies departments at SFSU, Maryland’s former fertility-assistance programs for welfare mothers)

    My recommendation is that Arnold’s team should review every item on the budget, and label each one with one of the four categories. Immediately cut everything that is Wasteful or Downright Damaging. If the budget is still in deficit after that, start looking for better efficiencies in the other two categories. If that doesn’t do it, go to the people with an honest accounting of what you’ve done and what you’ve cut and explain that, now, a tax increase is truly justified. As a lifelong Californian, I could justify paying higher taxes if I felt they would truly help bring the state back to its former greatness. At this point, though, I have almost no faith that my tax dollars are wisely spent.

    One last point. I must be truly middle-aged, as I remember when California’s sales tax rate was 4.5 %, compared to 8.25% now. This is a tax that automatically indexes for both population growth and inflation. We’re paying almost double the amount of sales tax, and FOR WHAT? How has California gotten better in the past 40 years with access to this growing revenue stream? What do we have to show for all this money spent?

  23. Isn’t money probably the motivating factor here for the university? If SFSU makes more money from the stupid programs than from Engineering, then of course the incentive is to cut the program that’s not making the most money.

    That, in itself, is pretty pathetic. I don’t know what the actual numbers look like in this, so I’m speculating, but I doubt that the main motive is ideological.

  24. john from ok says:

    I do remember, when living in Sacramento, cuts were always threatened for “libraries and the zoo”, and whose only salvation involved bond measures. Meanwhile they spent $700,000 for a ramp for city hall so that wheelchair people could go through the front door instead of the back door.

  25. Michelle Dulak says:

    I’m not sure this is the “Washington Monument strategy,” actually. Isn’t it just as likely to be the “no demonstrations strategy”? I mean that cutting any of the programs Debra Saunders makes fun of in her SF Chron piece would bring out a certain stratum of activists in force. Whereas the engineering students and faculty will make a public stink, but probably not invade the administrative offices.

  26. Might a school of engineering cost more per student than a school of underwater basket weaving?

  27. Michelle Dulak says:

    markm: Probably, but not my as much as you might think. My undergraduate degree was in Mech.E., from UCB, and I spent most of my instruction time in classrooms taking notes, just like a humanities student. Unless there are different pay scales in different departments, one professor lecturing to a classroomful of students costs pretty much the same as the next.

    There are differences when you get to lab work, which any engineering department is going to require. But I would think that the big capital outlay would be in initial purchase of lab equipment and space, not yearly supplies. I’m not saying there’s no expense there, but by the side of something like staff pay it has to be trivial.

  28. Look at their website at the list of academic departments. Soooooo much stuff. They could make a quite posh tech school if they began eliminating stuff.

  29. Mad Scientist says:

    Might a school of engineering cost more per student than a school of underwater basket weaving?

    Yes. However, Engineering schools typically bring in many more dollars through research funded through private companies and government grants than do their counterparts in the humanities.

    For example, my company funded a research program to the tune of $200,000 two years ago to help improve our processes. I just can’t see our company spending the same $200,000 to research “women’s studies”.

  30. if I were on the engineering faculty there, I’d start discussing the possibility of “seceding” and starting a new, independent engineering school – preferably a private school so as to avoid all kinds of government mandated stupidity to get money – and maybe even consider the possibility of going with ‘sponsorship’ of one or another of the industries that would be employing the graduates.

    From informally discussing with colleagues and folk at other universities, in a lot of places the SMET faculty (Science Math Engineering Technology) are having “circle-the-wagons” feelings in the face of grade inflation and dumbing down in other departments, as well as courses that project a sort of phony relevance (e.g. “‘Seinfeld’ and the Modern American Consumer”). I’ve had many students come to me and tell me they get A’s in their Communications or Sociology courses, but are failing or nearly failing my biology course, the implication being that I am “too hard”, not that the other courses are “too soft”.

  31. Lots of very interesting comments, but one notices that with all the talk of California’s budget problems, no mention has been made of immigration, the key factor. As for the School of Engineering threatening to close, I’m with the poster who wants to get out of here, because this is a symptom of everything that’s wrong with the state.

  32. Let em.

    Why drag down a perfectly good, servicable engineering department with “social justice” types. The engineering students can relocate to a less vulgar environment, and the moonbats are free to have their massadah all by themselves.

  33. Harsh everything. Soft bigotry. There is some truth in karen’s statement…based on what I witnessed in the classroom this past fall whilst reviewing some ugrad engineering courses. A lot of students are not prepared to even handle the curriculum. My engineering prof spent far too much time reviewing prerequiste calculus, such that a significant amount of the course content was not covered by the end of the term; perpetuating the cycle of ill-preparedness. And now the engineering administration wants to tout diversity with it’s back against the wall, when it’s ‘preferred’ MO is to diminish students instead of uplifting and empowering the lowest common denominator. I truly ain’t surprised this is all going down. At least the smart students are in the process of implementing contingency plans and attaining escape velocity elsewhere, just in case the program is 86’d….

  34. Ken Summers says:

    Late to the discussion but what the heck…

    I’m only surprised that Ms. Saunders didn’t mention the most important major at SFSU: Jew-Baiting Studies

  35. Bill Leonard says:

    Interesting thread.

    Those among ye who are not California residents should take particular note of comments by Jeff Wright and other dwellers here in la-la-land.

    This state is well on its way to implosion, economically and in every other way that matters. Meanwhile, in spite of Arnie’s efforts in Sacramento, we have an entrenched legislature that is doing everything it can to turn this state into another turd world country. Like Jeff, I’m here now, but I sure don’t plan to be the last one out!

  36. Know that the BA in Social Work and MA in Gerontology programs are being cut at SFSU, too. This was announce today by President Robert Corrigan.


  1. Mouth-breather alert

    Joanne Jacobs reports that San Francisco State is proposing to tighten its budget by closing the University’s School of Engineering, while keeping all the wacko special study programs, such as "The Institute on Sexuality, Social Inequality and Hea…