SLO Solidarity, a student group at Cal Poly, has issued a statement saying it’s “incredibly frustrated” with the university’s efforts relating to leadership, curriculum and programming changes promised to help create a more welcoming and tolerant campus.
In a statement issued Thursday evening, SLO Solidarity leaders criticized Cal Poly for what it called a lack of transparency, practical knowledge in managing diversity and inclusion, and a commitment to involving students in decision-making.
“What can you do, specifically, to address the disparities that we have identified for you?” the group wrote. “We were promised this, and we have been strung along ever since.”
Cal Poly had promised a plan to improve diversity on campus by the end of the fall quarter, but Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong emailed a letter to the university community last week, saying administrators need more time, conversation and consultation on the initiatives. On Friday, Armstrong wrote in an email to The Tribune that a process of shared governance — including a vetted draft plan with Cal Poly’s Academic Senate, Associated Students Inc. and Campus Advisory Council — must be met.
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“We will not rush or circumvent that process on this important initiative,” Armstrong said.
We were promised this, and we have been strung along ever since.
SLO Solidarity leaders
In recent weeks, SLO Solidarity has protested what it sees as repeated instances of racism and intolerance on campus, and systemic shortcomings in how the campus fosters inclusion and acceptance of its minority students. Past incidents have included a racist display at a Halloween party and a fraternity theme party insensitive to Native Americans.
In November, anti-Islamic and anti-gender identity comments written on a “Free Speech Wall” generated protests, and Cal Poly officials announced that they had been working toward short-term and long-term changes in programming to help provide an open and inviting campus.
That same month, SLO Solidarity sent Cal Poly a list of 41 specific demands that include adding diversity and ethnic studies curricula, increasing sensitivity training for new students, hiring more minority faculty and adding gender-neutral housing options.
Then, a death threat against a student organizer Dec. 1 spurred SLO Solidarity to organize two consecutive days of rallies, including a gathering Dec. 3 of about 1,000 people joined by Armstrong and many university faculty and staff.
In its statement Thursday, SLO Solidarity leaders wrote that over the past 40 years, a rise in bigotry and “a re-emergence or perhaps a persistence of discriminatory practices and policies at all levels of society” has existed and that “we are in the midst of an extraordinary moment in higher education” to contribute to social change.
The group noted that it has participated in numerous conversations with campus leaders and attended listening sessions and forums that have been hosted by campus leaders, including Armstrong.
Mick Bruckner, one of the SLO Solidarity leaders who signed the statement, said Cal Poly’s leaders have been “effectively complacent.”
“I am tired of hearing ‘We are working on it’ or references to Vision 2022,” Bruckner wrote in the email, referencing Cal Poly’s vision for the future with guiding principles. “We know that you have minimally been working on diversity. That is why we are asking you do to more. And I should also mention that the diversity strategic framework is still not even in place. Tick Tock.”
Bruckner said the group doesn’t expect the entire list of demands to be met “right now.”
“What we are demanding, however, is a professional response to the list of demands that includes more than just thin air,” Bruckner said. “We want tangible efforts — we want to see something being done.”
We will not rush or circumvent that process on this important initiative.
Jeffrey Armstrong, Cal Poly president
Matt Lazier, Cal Poly’s spokesman, said the university has been in “open and frequent discussion about this important issue with the campus community, including SLO Solidarity.”
On Dec. 11, Armstrong shared a preliminary draft action plan with several campus groups and student leaders, including members of SLO Solidarity, Lazier said.
The university has announced that some initiatives were already in the works, some are planned to start in the winter quarter, and others will need further consideration by various departments and constituencies across campus. Collectively, they will form an initial action plan, Armstrong said.
“We all agree that improving the campus’ diversity and inclusivity is critical to Cal Poly’s future,” Armstrong wrote in his email Friday.