Chance of impaction sparks debate

by Staff

San Diego State University President Stephen Weber urges the Faculty Senate to make a quick decision on the university’s impacted status.

Lack of physical space and monetary shortages from the state have forced San Diego State University to make some hard decisions on limiting its enrollment.

The Senate held an open meeting in Montezuma Hall Tuesday to debate the issue of impacted status. There was mixed reaction from the hundreds of students, faculty and community members who attended.

SDSU is currently 1,200 students over the amount it can afford this year even though the application deadline was moved up to Dec. 15, and overenrollment is only expected to get worse.

Assuming SDSU will grow 2 percent each year, which is a conservative estimate, it will be absorbing $4 million to $5 million by the year 2000, said Ethan Singer, associate vice president for academic affairs.

The Senate’s Academic Planning and Policy Committee submitted a statement Tuesday recommending the university petition for impacted status. This could mean that SDSU would have the power to use extra criteria in deciding which students it will accept.

“Impacted status gives the university an element of control over the distribution of majors and the composition of our student body,” said AP&P Chair Robert Carlson, in a report to the senate. “Non-impacted status provides no control and leaves the distribution of majors and the composition of our student body to chance.”

In a follow-up meeting today, the Senate will either vote to accept AP&P’s recommendation, which would mean it would have to decide what the supplementary criteria would be, or it could decide to postpone any decision until May.

SDSU President Stephen Weber said he could wait until May, but he can’t wait any longer than that.

“This is probably the most important question this university has to face right now,” Weber said. “If I don’t have your decision by May, I will have to make it with or without your advice.”

If the Senate votes to wait until May, SDSU won’t be able to petition for impaction before the 1998-99 academic year as planned.

Instead, other enrollment management strategies could be used one of which includes rewriting the college’s disqualification and reinstatement policy.

Amending this policy could mean that undergraduate students who are on probationary status which means they earned less than a 2.0 GPA for more than one semester will be kicked out at the end of one semester, instead of one year as the policy is now.

Students who have been disqualified twice from SDSU will no longer be considered for reinstatement.

In the fall of 1996, 1,366 students could be subject to disqualification if the policy is rewritten.

If SDSU decides to declare impacted status, the question will then be what supplementary criteria will be applied.

For freshmen, higher GPA and SAT scores could be required. In addition, socioeconomic factors, space availability in major, regional proximity to the campus, leadership and exceptional skills and special perspectives could be considered before a student is admitted.

Similar criteria would be applied to limit the number of transfers.

One of the arguments against declaring impaction is that it will have a negative effect on diversity. GPA and test scores are invalid indicators of a student’s potential for success, said James Wood, sociology chair and Senate member.

Declaring impaction also breaks the “master plan that the university has with the people of California,” said Carlos Razo, Associated Students vice president of external affairs.

Traditionally the CSU system has accepted the top third of high school graduating classes.

A negative stigma is also sometimes attached to universities that have declared impaction. For this reason, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, uses the term “over-subscribed” instead of impaction, Singer said. Cal Poly SLO and Sonoma State University are the only two schools in the California State University system that have declared impacted status.

Those against impaction offer other solutions to solving the overenrollment problem. Some include: utilizing Internet and remote access technology, creating stronger partnerships with community colleges, focusing on undergraduates instead of graduates, and disqualifying students who are on probationary status.

“We need to think more seriously before we make any decision on impaction,” said Maria Senour, a faculty and Senate member. “We need to consider what is best for society. Whatever we decide, it will be a painful decision.”