California State Polytechnic University Improves Diversity Plan After Pressure from Student Group

Under pressure from students to improve upon diversity and inclusion efforts, California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo (SLO) released an updated draft of a plan to address students’ concerns and create a more tolerant campus community.

Student group SLO Solidarity has been pushing for change after several hate speech incidents involving Cal Poly students last fall. To begin to address this group’s demands, the university drafted an initial version of the plan in January, followed by the latest version last week.

The updated plan includes adding more diversity education to the Week of Welcome, creating an anonymous online reporting system for incidents of bias, and promoting minority student involvement in student government.

“This is a working document, reflecting the many large and small efforts being done across the Cal Poly campus to bring about meaningful and systemic change,” Jean DeCosta, the university’s interim executive director of the Office of University Diversity and Inclusivity, said in a statement. “This approach also recognizes that we will improve as we implement change, and we will learn from our efforts.”

Although updates to the plan are more comprehensive and students recognize the updates as progress, SLO Solidarity leader Matt Klepfer said the plan doesn’t address the group’s demands.

“If [administrators] do not want to address many of our demands, then they need to be innovative and come up with other ways to make a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable Cal Poly,” he said in a statement. “If we have different ways of getting to the same point, that is great, but they need to do more.”

Specific actions or activities outlined in the updated plan include, but are not limited to, annual anti-stigma education around mental health awareness and suicide prevention; diversity training as part of student government professional development; training for students and staff who work or live in on-campus housing on ways to better support underrepresented groups and deal with behavior that is insensitive and hurtful; and the development of an ally program for non-minority student leaders to support underrepresented students. These goals are also accompanied by specific time frames.

However, Klepfer said that Cal Poly needs to do more to address specific concerns, such as adding more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, creating mentoring programs for Arab American students, and setting benchmarks for more diverse faculty hires.

Some students have criticized Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong for not taking a more active role in promoting and executing the plan. Yet, in recent months, Armstrong has taken a firm stance against hate speech and intolerance on campus, including rallying alongside students and faculty at on-campus protests and publicly condemning attacks on students.

“As I’ve said before, I don’t understand why anyone would write something knowing that it would be hurtful and offensive to others,” Armstrong said after a student found his door defaced with swastikas and racial and homophobic slurs in February. “Incidents like this challenge all of us who want a more accepting and inclusive campus.”