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Cal Poly continues hosting diversity talks, action plan to come later

Tyler Pratt/KCBX News
Hundreds of Cal Poly students protest at the 2018 Open House after a series of racist incidents at the school.

Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts hosted its fourth 'Inclusion Starts with Me' forum this week. The daylong event featured a series of talks and workshops by faculty, staff and students centered around equity and social justice, part of a broader campaign at the state university in San Luis Obispo to reposition itself as diverse and inclusive.

Thursday’s public talks included discussions on slavery, queer politics, how to be a better ally and unpacking sex and gender. But they aren’t the only discussions about diversity happening on campus.

Dr. Geneva Reynaga-Abiko is the director of counseling servicesat Cal Poly. She spoke to KCBX News after a diversity and inclusion talk in late 2019.

“We’ve been having conversations about these sorts of things for many, many years,” Reynaga-Abiko said. “[November’s State of Diversity talk was] officially after the CPX survey, but the conversations themselves aren’t new.”

The CPX Survey is a questionnaire submitted to the campus community last year. It was conducted by an outside group the school hired, and the results overwhelmingly showed students, faculty and staff of color feel marginalized and discriminated-against at the school.

The ongoing CPX talks are part of the administration's response to those findings, and to the multiple racist incidents that occured at the school over the past few years.

Adrien Torres is a second year political science major at Cal Poly. He spoke with KCBX News after the November discussion.

“One big [takeaway], which is very simple, is just having respect and learning how to be culturally inclusive and how to understand everyone’s needs and make everyone feel included,” Torres said.

Torres said he thought the goal of the discussion series was for the administration to come up with a diversity and inclusion plan, but Torres and Abiko said they weren’t sure what the plan was.

“I honestly don’t know,” Reynaga-Abiko said. “I didn’t really hear any next steps from an action perspective. I hear that we are going to have more conversations, but I'm curious about that myself.”

In emails with KCBX News, Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote, “Cal Poly is committed to building a well-rounded, nurturing support system that positively impacts not only academics but also student life; diversity, equity and inclusion; and health and well-being.”

Lazier pointed those curious about Cal Poly’s diversity plan to examine the CPX Milestone’s page, which states that Cal Poly will announce an action plan this summer. And Lazier also said a new $670 annual fee added to out-of-state tuition has helped establish and bolster cultural centers on campus and support financial aid for lower-income students.  

Many in the Cal Poly community have expressed hopes that future changes at Cal Poly will impact how the school recruits students from diverse backgrounds, in addition to methods used to hire and retain faculty of color. There are also concerns, especially on student social media accounts, about the school's affordability issues that don't allow everyone to have equal seating at the educational table.

“We really need the more powerful forces to make the kind of systemic change that I think needs to happen,” Reynaga-Abiko said. “Not just at Cal Poly, but around the world.”

Cal Poly has more diversity talks scheduled. There will be events centered around inclusivity for women, unpacking queerness and a discussion about the state of Middle Eastern and Asian Pacific Islander communities on campus. As part of a social justice conference coming up, the school will be hosting political and civil rights activist Angela Davis at the end of this month.

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