How has increased enrollment really affected students?

Here we are in Project 1, and we really just decided to go for it.  Bryce pitched a really interesting story idea that she mentioned Pat had previously brought up.  We’ve been seeing plenty of stories about how Cal Poly went way over the mark with admitting students.  There have been a couple stories about how the administration is accommodating this, but those have mostly been about on-campus housing.  However, we wanted to see how the increased student population is affecting not only the dorms but the quality of education on this campus.  This meant looking at things like infrastructure and class scheduling. In my opinion, this is such an important and often overlooked factor, and I think all of us were wondering why no one else has written about it.

It’s probably because it takes a lot of work to write a story like this.  I think all the work it takes to write a good story is often overlooked because it’s easy to forget how quickly it has to be done.  Journalism is not only about efficiency and accuracy, but it is about timeliness. The most obvious current example of this is everything surrounding the Lambda Chi Alpha incident.  Something new seems to be popping up every second, and Mustang News has been getting content out almost immediately after these incidents occur because that’s just how journalism is.  A story like this needs more than a day or two. Heck, it needs more than a week or two.

I think we all realized pretty soon after we began this project that if we were going to do it right, not only did we need to spend a lot of time looking into data and numbers and conduct proper research, but we needed to talk to a lot of people.  Finding students to talk to is one of the easier tasks because there are plenty of people who have trouble getting the classes they need, and they aren’t afraid to complain about it. Faculty is a bit harder because it’s clear they are hesitant; they’re concerned talking about this issue could potentially affect their employment.  

“Right now we are interviewing as many sources as we can. It’s important to be correct with facts as well as making sure to capture the emotions from all involved.”- Nate Edelman

By the beginning of our second week, Nate had scheduled an interview with James Maraviglia, who is the Vice Provost for Enrollment Development & Chief Marketing Officer.  All four of us decided to attend this interview so we could all get a better sense of direction for this story. After leaving the interview, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief because he gave us so much information to work with.  We got about 30 minutes of content, which was more than enough. As we were talking, we realized we all had the same aha moment when Maraviglia said this:

“Yes, Cal Poly, our applicant pool is significantly increased. What hasn’t changed is our space and our size. That hasn’t changed since I believe 2003, so are we planning on growing? No, not until … new facilities, faculty hired, and more money to support students. Because we’re over capacity. To be honest with you.”

It’s a really great feeling when you’re interviewing a source, and they say something you’re really hoping they’ll say.  It lets you know that you’re on the right track and aren’t wasting your time.

“As our team goes farther into this story, the more essential angles and perspectives seem to surface. It’s both exhausting and exhilarating because it makes me realize how important it is to get our questions answered.” – Mady Minas

This was only the beginning though.  After interviewing Maraviglia, Bryce interviewed a couple other people who not only provided a decent amount of information but expanded the story even more.  Because of this, we talked with Brady and decided to expand it into Project 2. So for now, this story is to be continued.

When I asked Bryce about how this process has been, she summed up the experience perfectly: “I’ve sent more emails every day for the past week than I have in my entire life. It’s really intense to feel like we’ve got such a vital story to tell. I’ve been talking to everyone in my life about this project, all the time, because it’s all I can think about. I love feeling like we’ve got our hands on something really important.”