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Cal Poly faculty, students petition university to implement more COVID-19 safety measures

Cal Poly's coronavirus dashboard shows a spike in cases after students returned for winter quarter 2022.
Courtesy: Cal Poly
Cal Poly's coronavirus dashboard shows a spike in cases after students returned for winter quarter 2022.

A petition demanding increased COVID-19 safety measures at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has gathered more than 3,000 signatures since Friday.

Cal Poly, like the rest of San Luis Obispo County, is currently seeing a surge in COVID cases. As of Monday, January 10, the campus reported nearly 1,000 positive tests from students living on and off campus in the last seven days.

The petition was authored by members of San Luis Obispo’s chapter of the California Faculty Association. The authors expressed concern regarding the university’s response to the pandemic at the start of the winter 2022 quarter and demanded specific policy changes.

Dr. R.G. Cravens is an assistant professor of political science at Cal Poly and one of the co-authors of the petition. He said he was apprehensive about returning to campus and fearful for the safety of students and other faculty members. He said this surge was predictable and preventable.

“We knew as far back as the fall that Cal Poly wasn’t planning to test students before they returned to in-person instruction and we just sort of saw that this was probably going to happen,” Dr. Cravens said.

The university required students to get a COVID-19 test before the end of the first week of classes, rather than before returning. Many classes are also required to be in-person. Dr. Cravens said he feels both of these choices are irresponsible.

The petition offers several solutions to ending the surge, including allowing faculty to choose the modality of their courses for the winter and spring quarters.

“We think that it’s important to have that flexibility for people who have caregiving responsibilities or for our students who are quarantining or isolating or test positive at various times throughout the quarter and can’t come to class," Dr. Cravens said. "There are equity reasons behind that.”

The petition also asks that the university require the use of N-95 and KN-95 masks on campus and schedule in-person classes in spaces with proper ventilation and distancing.

In a statement to KCBX News, University spokesperson Matt Lazier said that Cal Poly’s response to the pandemic is "continually evolving" and that "the university continues to make decisions in close consultation with San Luis Obispo County Public Health and county Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein" as they "have been directed to do by the CSU system."

Dr. Cravens said the authors of the petition will be discussing next steps if the university chooses not to implement their demands.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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