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Into the fire? 

What do you do if you run a university that few students want to attend? That's the question haunting the California State University (CSU) system, which oversees 23 campuses, including the wildly popular Cal Poly SLO with its nearly 21,000 students. While tens of thousands apply to Cal Poly every year, California Maritime Academy, located in the Bay Area town of Vallejo, has seen its enrollment shrink from 1,100 students in 2016 down to a little more than 700 in 2023. Only 700? The average American high school has 850 students. What's the CSU to do?

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If all goes as planned, Cal Poly—like a giant sci-fi blob monster—will soon subsume Cal Maritime, which would essentially become a satellite campus to Cal Poly. The idea is to boost Cal Maritime's mojo by connecting it to Cal Poly's "stellar" reputation.

I get it. Cal Poly's very popular. In fall of 2024, Cal Poly received 79,015 applications for 5,400 freshman spots and 956 transfers. That's about an 8 percent acceptance rate. If the merger happens, students applying to Cal Poly to pursue maritime professions—oceanography, marine biology, marine engineering, fishing, seafood processing, and shipyards—can choose between campuses, hopefully boosting enrollment at Cal Maritime, and giving Cal Maritime graduates the ritzy bedazzling status of being Cal Poly degree holders.

The question is why has Cal Maritime fallen out of favor with students? According to CSU executive Steve Relyea, vice chancellor and chief financial officer, many prospective students don't know Cal Maritime exists. On top of that, he thinks many believe maritime professions are in decline, when, in fact, "There's a huge deficit of people filling needed jobs, so ... if you graduate from Cal Maritime, you are absolutely guaranteed a well-paid position."

Schmaybe ignorance of the institution and its potential careers is the culprit for waning enrollment, but there was also a very damning April 13, 2023, LA Times article that chronicled Cal Maritime's reputation for sexual assault and misconduct allegations from students and employees, who allege rape and sexual harassment. And there was a captain who, in addition to sexual harassment toward women, made disparaging remarks about the LGBTQ-plus community during a 2021 training cruise. An Instagram page called CSUM Student Voices has 80 posts with sexual harassment, sexual assault, and discrimination stories.

Speaking of ignorance, Relyea couldn't comment on whether that article or the institution's tarnished reputation might have something to do with its shrinking student population because he isn't informed enough to know, see? I mean, what is he supposed to say?

My burning question is what's going to happen to Cal Maritime's colors and mascot? Will the blue and gold Keelhaulers become the green and gold Mustangs? And really? Your athletics teams are called Keelhaulers and your mascot is a one-eyed pirate? Keelhauling was a form of punishment and potential execution in which a sailor is tied to a line and thrown overboard to be dragged under the ship's keel, ripped apart on the ship's barnacles and probably drowned. Go, Keelhaulers?

And then there's Cal Poly, which in 2021 had the dubious honor of having the highest reports of sexual assault in the Cal State University system. In 2019 and 2020, it had the second highest. Is the idea to take Cal Maritime out of its frying pan and throw it into Cal Poly's fire?

Cal Poly used to have a program where a red handprint would be painted on the ground of every location on campus where a sexual assault had occurred, but the university ended it because prospective students and their parents visiting the campus kept asking their tour guides what all the red handprints painted all over the place meant.

"Um ... nothing to see here. Move along. Hey, look at the size of our Rec Center's swimming pool!"

In another case of "nothing to see here, move along," did you hear about the 7,600-gallon raw sewage spill into Morro Bay Harbor? Maintenance work at the Inn at Morro Bay, which was built in 1960 and formerly known as the Golden Tee Resort Lodge, resulted in the accident, which either is or isn't a big deal. You decide.

"WARNING," screamed the sign in bright red capital letters posted near the Inn at Morro Bay. "Water contact activities PROHIBITED." "Sewage spill." "Wet sand and water pose a potential health threat."

Yikes! Sounds scary.

"The county of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department advises the public to avoid ocean water contact 50 yards north and south of the release location," the county announced. "Contact with ocean water while swimming or surfing may increase the risk for certain types of illnesses such as rashes, fever, chills, ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea."

Double yikes!

But, nah. No biggie. Director of Environmental Health Peter Hague dismissed the spill: "There is an enormous amount of water in that bay," he said. "It dwarfs that amount of sewage that's released."

Yeah, we could totally dump a shit-ton more shit in here and it would be just fine, right?

It's not just Morro Bay, either. After a manhole overflowed near Pismo Coast Village Campground, 100 gallons of sewage entered a nearby creek. Like Morro Bay, Pismo Beach is now reopened and ready for business.

Hello, summer! Δ

The Shredder doesn't go in the water. Tell it your shark attack story at [email protected].

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