Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong responds to petition concerning COVID-19 precautions
Cal Poly SLO President Jeffrey Armstrong refused the demands of a faculty and student petition that asked for changes to the university’s COVID-19 safety measures.
The petition was written amid the surge of COVID-19 cases hitting Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo County from the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.
It asks the administration to allow faculty to choose the modality of their courses, require the use of N-95 and KN-95 masks on campus and schedule in-person classes in spaces with proper ventilation and distancing.
More than 3,600 students, staff, faculty and alumni have signed the petition, but in an Academic Senate meeting on January 11, President Armstrong refused to make the changes.
“The data, and where we are now with cases, does not merit the actions that you are proposing,” Armstrong said.
He said the university works in partnership with the SLO County Public Health Department to outline its COVID-19 plan. He said he discussed the petition with County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein and she did not recommend the university make the suggested changes.
Armstrong said virtual learning has significant negative consequences for students. He said the university is minimizing the risk of in-person learning with masking, vaccination requirements and encouraging booster doses.
“Being virtual is not a cure-all solution," Armstrong said. "Virtual courses are not stopping the spread of Omicron at other universities.”
Cal Poly Provost Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore said the university’s response to the pandemic is continually evolving but echoed that changes to in-person learning will not be made at this time.
“If the situation rises to a level that our public health advisors are telling us to do something differently and making recommendations to make some adjustments, then I would advise the broader campus on that in terms of modality,” Jackson Elmoore said.
Several faculty members called into the meeting to urge the administration to reconsider the demands of the petition, expressing concern for personal and community health and wellbeing.
Armstrong said he understands the concern, but the university is sticking to its plan.
“I understand the anxiety and, believe me, we will make changes as we need to, as we have demonstrated," Armstrong said. "But I cannot make decisions based on petitions or anxiety.”
Dr. R.G. Cravens, one of the authors of the petition, told KCBX News for a previous story that the faculty would be discussing next steps if the university chose not to implement their demands.