Video by Alexa Bruington
In light of the recent inappropriate comments on the Free Speech Wall, students attended an informal assembly of multiple minority clubs on campus, including the Queer Student Union, Black Student Union and feminist group Triota, and have created a movement called SLO Solidarity. This will serve as a safe space for students to express their feelings, according to political science sophomore Mick Bruckner.
“The Free Speech Wall and the context of SLO Solidarity is one symptom of a much larger problem,” Bruckner said. “A lot of campus has perceived our rhetoric as a kind of bashing on free speech, and that’s completely beside the point of our cause.”
SLO Solidarity first formed at on Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 9 p.m. to protest the Free Speech Wall. At the event, called Stand in Solidarity, students came together to share their feelings regarding the wall and their frustrations with the current campus climate.
“Our cause is improving the campus climate and that has to do with the Free Speech Wall,” Bruckner said. “It’s not a debate over whether or not they had a right to write those things; it’s about why did they write those things and how do we as a campus address that.”
Bruckner saw more diversity at Stand in Solidarity than he had ever seen on campus previously, he said.
Students protested in the University Union (UU) Plaza on Thursday while chanting “Love, not hate” and organized a forum in the same place on Sunday, Nov. 15.
Students voiced their opinions following the Free Speech Wall, according to Gharibian.
“In the beginning, we stated how we are not denying the right to free speech, but rather to address the fact that those things were said on campus,” English and ethnic studies senior Mehra Gharibian said. “And this relates to more pervasive experience for minorities on campus with regard to hearing these kinds of things all the time.”
According to ethnic studies sophomore Jabe Marvis S. Williams, more than 80 students and faculty attended the forum.
“There has never been a movement of this scale at Cal Poly,” Williams said. “As we move forward, we will lay the foundation of the movement to hopefully inflict change in our current campus climate.”
While SLO Solidarity is receiving support from a large number of students and staff, they are not going to become a club. If they were to form an Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) club, they would be mandated to create hierarchical positions, Gharibian said.
“We don’t want that level of hierarchy because we want students to use this as a starting off point to create change,” Gharibian said. “If it was more like a club, it would be an ending point.”
Students will be organized into teams in order to meet their goals, Bruckner said.
“We have formed a horizontal kind of structure with less hierarchies because we want it to be community-centered,” Bruckner said. “In order to incorporate all these individuals, we have to organize them around different aspects like communications and organizing teams.”
Moving forward, SLO Solidarity wants to create a movement toward a more inclusive campus, Gharibian said. This would include hiring a more diverse faculty and staff and changing orientation programs.
“We want a campus where minorities are no longer marginalized into groups,” Gharibian said. “Our specific goals are education, accountability and changing campus culture.”
SLO Solidarity also aims to address specific groups on campus such as ASI and greek life, which they have already started conversations with.
“Specifically for ASI, we want to talk about diversity initiatives and integration in ASI,” Gharibian said. “We want to discuss ways with which we can encourage or provide assistance for low income or minority students to run for ASI positions because as the status quo is right now, minorities don’t feel that ASI represents them, which they don’t.”