Cal Poly open house festivities draw 10,000 attendees, including student protesters

Thousands thronged to the Cal Poly campus Saturday for the final day of the university’s 24th annual Open House.

The campus was alive with energy as prospective and current students, parents and grandparents, university staff, volunteers and others made their way past dozens of booths offering everything from tri-tip sandwiches to Hawaiian shaved ice, henna tattoos to the opportunity to try line dancing.

Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said organizers estimated between 10,000 and 11,000 people showed up Saturday for festivities that also included the Poly Royal Parade, dozens of guided tours and numerous demonstrations.

Fourth-year business administration student Kyle Hoff said Saturday’s events were a chance to bring awareness to all aspects of campus life. He and others ran the booth for KCPR, the student-run radio station.

“When we first got here, for a lot of us, it was important to know there was a radio station on campus,” Hoff said.

Though many who walked the crowded campus streets Saturday will be students in the coming academic year, others in attendance were a bit more long-term prospects.

Natalie Bounds, a 10-year-old from Visalia, said she enjoyed the hands-on demonstration offered by the Cal Poly Fencing Club.

“I thought it was interesting because I never get to do that with my sister,” she said.

Bounds said she hopes to attend Cal Poly and become a veterinarian.

Another 10-year-old, Alex Kaufmann of Sacramento, posed for a “Newest Mustang” snapshot with his father, Cal Poly alum Jim Bob Kaufmann.

Nearby, his mother, Amy Kaufmann, said “We came for open house and the rodeo.”

Three generations of Kaufmanns were at Cal Poly on Saturday, including Alex Kaufmann’s grandmother, Amanda Kaufmann, who came all the way from Wyoming.

“I have a granddaughter in the rodeo,” she said.

The Kaufmanns said they planned to cheer on their granddaughter, Molly Sparrowk, when she competed Saturday night.

Amy Kaufmann called Cal Poly “a huge family school.”

Not all of Saturday’s events were planned by Cal Poly.

A small but vocal group of students took to Dexter Lawn about noon for a protest, which later turned into a march. Coming just a couple weeks after a California State University systemwide tuition increase, about a dozen members of the Cal Poly Students for Quality Education, Cal Poly Queer Student Union and Cal Poly Disorientation groups held signs and took turns chanting slogans through a megaphone as passers-by stopped and watched, some interacting with the protesters.

Morgan Grace, a fourth-year graphic communication major, said Saturday’s protest action was the groups’ first of the new quarter, and that the open house was chosen as a way to raise awareness of their cause to those considering attending or supporting students who may attend Cal Poly.

Protesters handed out flyers listing numerous complaints about the university administration: Rising tuition and fees, the struggle to attract and retain ethnically diverse faculty and students and the university’s “continued disrespect for the rights of free speech of protesters” and “militarized policing of peaceful student protest” when controversial former Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos spoke at the university in January.

Asked what she hoped to achieve with the protest, Grace said, “We would like a response from the administration.”

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7929, @andrewsheeler

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