Governance Structure of Student Experimental Farm

I, Pete Schwartz ** wish to support activities at the Student Experimental Farm as effectively as possible. In an effort to navigate a diversity of interests and an ambiguous power structure I’m describing below what I see as the present SEF governance so that it is clear to all. This clarification should also make the policy more easily amendable by allowing one to identify something that could be changed, and allow for open discussion.

In the spring of 2014, there was no access to the SEF, but I had a history of running experiments there with my classes and student research. The Horticulture and Crops Science Department gave me permission to continue these experiments. Students requested access to the SEF for their own experiments. I decided to not only allow students and student clubs access to the SEF, but to also listen to their ideas for how activities would be run and how the SEF might grow. At one point during the summer of 2014 we had a large number of students, a few faculty, and several people from San Luis Obispo unaffiliated with Cal Poly attending meetings. I’m not sure what we agreed upon, but we discussed about how we might govern by consensus. While I don’t remember the outcome of this meeting, the premiss of self governance is counter to fact: Cal Poly owns and will determine the future of the SEF. It is up to us to conduct activities that Cal Poly wishes to support. Happily, Cal Poly’s administration is proud of the “Learn By Doing” motto, and embraces and supports the diversity of projects that in Spring of 2017 are blossoming at the SEF. Just as it would be unrealistic for us to deny Cal Poly’s ultimate authority, it would be wise for me to recognize my responsibility and authority; and to distinguish (1) my explicit responsibility to Cal Poly, (2) my own choice; and (3) choices I freely make because I think they are favorable to Cal Poly decision-makers. This third category is important because the Cal Poly administration may at any time reassign “our” two acres to a different purpose they find more valuable.

As per my obligation to Cal Poly:

  • All activities at the SEF will be consistent with the local, state, and federal laws. Additionally, any Cal Poly rules must be followed. For instance we have to keep the road clear, maintaining access to through traffic, and firefighters.
  • Everyone doing work at the SEF must sign a liability waiver (accessible on the main SEF website).
  • Consumption of controlled substances and alcohol is not allowed
  • All activities have to be approved by risk management. Here I have some leeway. When a project is proposed it can fall in three categories:
    • I approve it without consultation with risk management when it is clearly safe, such as planting vegetables.
    • I reject it without consultation with risk management because it poses a danger with which I am not comfortable.
    • I pass the project onto risk management because I am not sure. An example of this is the biochar project which involves periodic burns.

As per my personal choice:

  • All projects proposed by anyone in the Cal Poly community are supported unless they are found to be dangerous or physically interfere with other projects. Projects must be consistent with organic agriculture. These projects include class projects for my energy and appropriate technology classes as well as any other class. Applications require submission of a project proposal.
  • Please ask permission before bringing a motor vehicle into the gated SEF area.
  • All social and community building is encouraged, but none is required.
    • If there is a need for community support, such as cutting weeds or mending something, we call all the stakeholders together for a minimal amount of commitment to help.
    • Other than the mission statement, there is no designated SEF culture.
  • I’m committed to listen to student perspectives and interests. I will make every effort to navigate a way to answer everyone’s needs and let the students make their own decisions as much as possible, though I understand that this won’t always be possible. I am willing to consider changing my decisions, including the policies stated herein.

    • Pete Schwartz (Physics) and Greg Schwartz (BRAE) are both advisors for the SEF. This document was written by Pete Schwartz, and is approved by Greg.