Education

Here's how Cal Poly plans to improve campus diversity

Forbes Magazine selected Cal Poly as the best public master’s university in California when the publication released its list of America’s Top Colleges in 2018 on Tuesday.
Forbes Magazine selected Cal Poly as the best public master’s university in California when the publication released its list of America’s Top Colleges in 2018 on Tuesday. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Cal Poly officials plan to take several steps to improve the cultural climate on campus in the wake of a racially-charged spring quarter at the university.

In a campus-wide email Thursday, Jozi De Leon, the school's vice president for diversity and inclusion, released a 30-page document outlining Cal Poly's past, ongoing and future diversity initiatives.

"Inclusion means we have a responsibility to insure that everyone feels safe and a part of our community," De Leon said in a school-produced video. "Inclusion means that we honor differences of opinion, even when we strongly disagree."

The document highlights some of the progress the university has made in recent years, noting the number of applications from underrepresented minority students doubled between 2008 and 2018.

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In 2005, more than 67 percent of Cal Poly students identified as white, and that number has been declining nearly every year since.

Jozi De Leon (2)[5]
Jozi De Leon Cal Poly

In fall 2017, 54.8 percent of Cal Poly's student body identified as white — the highest mark of any school within the 23-campus CSU system, as well as the 10-university UC system.

Of the 16,466 students accepted by Cal Poly for the 2018 fall term, 19 were African American students, its fewest since 2010. Last fall, 41 first-time freshman African American students enrolled at Cal Poly.

Cal Poly's racial divide has been under the microscope this spring after multiple racist photos emerged on social media, causing widespread outrage on campus and eventually leading President Jeffrey Armstrong to place all fraternities and sororities on suspension.

The diversity action initiatives document also highlights the success of the Cal Poly Scholars program, which recruits low-income students — many of them first-generation and underrepresented — from California partner high schools.

"The key point is that Cal Poly supports diversity from the top down," De Leon said.

Cal Poly plans to implement pre-enrollment diversity training for new first-year and transfer students, and also will create a "Cal Poly Core Pre-Orientation" for African American, Latino and Native American students.

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It also plans to invest $150,000 in funding from the California State University system for "a cluster hire of up to 10 faculty positions that focus on diversity and inclusion in a variety of scholarly areas throughout Cal Poly's six colleges."

Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said the cluster hires would be full-time, tenure-track faculty positions.

Other future goals for Cal Poly include:

  • Providing equal access to academic support services for all students; increasing the variety and types of academic support services available; designing and delivering consistent training and evaluation of peer support providers; and centralizing academic support services through virtual and face-to-face connections.
  • Increasing, in a Proposition 209-compliant manner, the hiring of diverse faculty utilizing cluster hires every other year.
  • Engaging the campus, through Academic Programs and Planning, in a self-study on the theme of “Diversity, Inclusion and Student Success."
  • Evaluating the implementation of teaching related to diversity and inclusion within each General Education subject area.
  • Providing additional training and facilitation for Poly Reps — a student ambassador program that provides campus tours — around privilege, inclusive language and diversity at Cal Poly, and to include implicit bias training for the program's recruitment committee.

The complete 30-page document can be viewed here.

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