This past weekend, PolyCultural Weekend (PCW) hosted over 300 potential students and highlighted the resources and clubs that Cal Poly has to offer for underrepresented students. PCW provides these students with the opportunity to connect with current Cal Poly students, experience life at Cal Poly and see that there is a community that will support them.
“PolyCultural Weekend is probably the most important program that’s trying to bring in diversity at this school because there’s really no other program that directly tries to influence students in this way,” political science junior and housing committee head for PCW Adena Chen said. “There’s no other program that brings so many students with a cultural background into Cal Poly and shows them all of the resources that it can have and that there is a home for them.”
Participating prospective students are housed with students who volunteer to be hosts during the duration of the program. The PCW housing committee carefully pairs participants with hosts based on ethnicity, major and interests.
“A majority of hosts do it because they were hostees and they want to give back their experiences,” civil engineer senior and lead coordinator Gage Garabedian said. “Other hosts who may not have attended PCW may want to do it not only to promote Cal Poly’s goal towards diversity, but also to help their organizations grow, because when these students attend campus, and they’re hosted by someone in a specific organization, they are more likely to also join that organization.”
While the lack of diversity at Cal Poly is something that is acknowledged early on in the program, participant’s host’s serve as a resource to continue this discussion, ask questions, and share their own personal experiences as a minority at Cal Poly.
“Cal Poly does have a lot of issues around campus climate and PCW highlights that a lot of students here are trying to change that,” sociology and comparative ethnic studies junior and organization representative for PCW Carla Pangan said. “There’s communities and support here for them.”
Following the success of PCW, a photo of a Lambda Chi Alpha member in blackface from an event over the same weekend circulated social media.
“I was really disappointed because so many people came together to create this huge event. There were over 300 hostees this year that want to come to Cal Poly and were thinking about it, and I know a lot of students who are now reconsidering.” Chen said. “A lot of these organizations stressed that yes Cal Poly is not diverse, but this is a safe environment, and there are people here for you, and the fact that they went home and this immediately happened is just really disappointing because we just promised them we’re here for them.”
Mustang News asked university spokesperson Matt Lazier about the university’s stance on the blackface incident happening during PolyCultural Weekend.
Lazier wrote in an email “PolyCultural Weekend provides a platform for prospective students to explore community and what it means to be a Cal Poly Mustang. The weekend allows attendees to imagine themselves here and develop relationships with current Cal Poly Mustangs. PCW attracts a number of students from underrepresented backgrounds and provides the cultural capital to navigate educational and social aspects of out campus life at Cal Poly. In doing so, out goal is to enhance the ways attendees identify and connect with the organizations and resources that promote college success and persistence , while developing their own sense of community as Cal Poly Students.”
Plaza Palooza, a club showcase for PCW, gave prospective students a chance to get a feel for the clubs and organizations that students can join. PCW organization representative for the National Society of Black Engineers Sekaye Knutson said he showcased his own project at the event.
“For Plaza Palooza, we had our own table and one thing I did was I brought my own robot, that I created my first quarter, to give the prospective students a sense of what they might be doing,” computer engineering freshman Knutson said. “It’s definitely made me feel really involved already, and it’s made me feel like I’m part of a community already.”
This year, 27 cultural clubs on campus came together to highlight academic, social and cultural resources to prospective students. Through a club showcase, cultural club performances in the Performing Arts Center, campus tours and more, PCW involved about 1,000 people.
“The amount of cultural organizations that participated in PCW is something really great that maybe most students don’t know even exists, that we have that many organizations that are culturally related,” business administration senior and PCW lead coordinator Jason Lu said. Lu said he also wants to encourage Cal Poly students to look into the many events that these clubs put on throughout the year.