As HSU makes its transition to a polytechnic university, several new undergraduate and graduate programs are being proposed. The courses are majority STEM-based with interdisciplinary elements. The polytechnic has the potential to bring new opportunities to Northern California. New programs are being introduced as soon as Fall 2023. Some students have concerns about the polytechnic change. For many students, there is a lack of communication and uncertainty about what the transition to a polytechnic means.
Madeleine Fisher is a fine arts student feeling confused about the process.
“I don’t know what it means, is it gonna change tuition, when is it gonna happen?” Fisher said. “I feel like there is not a lot of communication to current students.”
Another large concern for many students is housing. Arcata already faces a stressed housing situation. The prospectus estimates that Humboldt State University would expect to see an enrollment increase of 50% within three years and 100% within seven years. The student body would be somewhere over 11,000 with these numbers. Art student Emily Rune feels like there is no space for new enrollees to move to Arcata.
“It feels like 99% of everyone I know here struggles to find housing,” Rune said. “There is no space here, nowhere to live. The housing is getting so much more expensive.”
Vivian Spear is a senior working on her bachelor’s in studio arts. Spear feels that arts are already being pushed to the side as it is, and seeing the polytechnic transition also brings concerns about how it might impact Arcata’s artsy community. Arts students have always been involved in the community and organizing events.
“The painting department is just one teacher right now,” Spear said. “There are no studio classes for painting. I feel like the artists who are here are connecting to the community, but the school isn’t helping with that.”
According to an announcement from Humboldt State Now, the timeline for implementing these programs has been accelerated based on proposed state funding by Governor Newsom. At this time the funding is being considered by legislature. The programs still need to be approved by the CSU Chancellor’s Office, CSU Board of Trustees, and receive accreditation before they can be implemented.
The new programs are Cannabis Studies, Applied Fire Science & Management, Data Science, Energy Systems Engineering, Engineering & Community Practice, Geospatial Information Science & Technology, Marine Biology, Mechanical Engineering, and Software Engineering. The goal is to see them in course catalogs by Fall 2023.
“In the workforce, the arts and humanities play a crucial role in helping companies and organizations understand these complex discourse and attitudes, and their insights will increasingly shape decisions made by politicians, entrepreneurs, civil society activists, consumers, and citizens,” it said in the prospectus, highlighting the need for arts and humanities in STEM.
The transition has the potential to make great strides for Humboldt students and communities. There is however the risk of losing part of what makes this school so special, our quirky art space and integrated communities. Students feel left out of this conversation and powerless against the changes to be faced. Maintaining identity is a major concern that students have.