Cal Poly Asian American students run a variety of cultural clubs that bring Eastern Asian culture to campus. Cal Poly’s Chinese Student Association (CSA) hosted their 60th annual Chinese New Year Banquet in Chumash Auditorium. The event was attended by people of many different ages, cultures and backgrounds. In 2016, about 12.56 percent of freshman students enrolled in Cal Poly identified as Asian American, the second largest minority group on campus.
Some of these clubs, such as CSA, identify as a social gathering club with cultural elements, while clubs like the Pilipino Cultural Exchange (PCE) consider themselves first and foremost a cultural club.
In addition to being the largest cultural club, CSA is the second largest club on campus after taking in about 180 new members this year alone.
“With [CSA] it’s like more social events,” Social Chair and Event Planner Christian De Los Santos said. “We have a few Chinese cultural aspects like the Lion Dance Team and we have the Chinese New Year Banquet where we had ribbon dancing and other traditional stuff like that, but for the most part actually, and especially in fall quarter which is our biggest quarter, we are more social than cultural.”
The Chinese Lion Dance is a traditional dance involving two dancers in each lion costume, one in the front and one in the back. The dances usually take the form of skits and stories. They also include acrobatics such as lifting and jumping, making the art very physically strenuous.
“That’s our biggest thing that’s culture based,” CSA President Jason Lu said. “They’re the only lion dance team in [the] Central Coast, so they’re a big part of the culture we try to bring to Cal Poly. They perform for weddings, for restaurants, for schools.”
CSA holds social events for members every Saturday, ranging from physical competitions to parodies of game shows such as the Amazing Race.
“Our main goal is also to be culture-based, but also to be inclusive in general as well,” Lu said. “So you could say how we bring culture to campus is that we find people who relate to you and through that we can spread the culture to your group and community.”
Cal Poly has its share of culture-oriented clubs as well, such as the PCE. Like other cultural clubs on campus, PCE has weekly social events, but puts in a considerable effort to make sure they have a cultural element to them.
Similar to the Lion Dance Team, PCE has their own traditional dance group called Kasayahan, which translates to ‘celebration.’ Usually, Kasayahan performs in the spring alongside a play. To raise more interest in the group and to make it more approachable, Kasayahan choreographed their traditional Filipino dances to more modern music last year.
“We have a lot of people of varying ethnicity and races, we’re very open to that. We’re actually one of the most diverse out of the cultural clubs and we take almost anyone,” PCE staff member Samantha Bituen said.
Recently, PCE also celebrated a cultural week with daily events ranging from cultural workshops to cooking lessons. The week ended with a club potluck.
While members of the Korean American Student Association (KASA) may label the group as a social club, they still have modern and traditional cultural roots.
In every KASA meeting, the club board members lead off by stating a Korean fact of the week, which can range from the very traditional to the very random. For example, a traditional tidbit could be talking about the hanbok, a traditional garb worn at events such as weddings.
“We try to make events towards Korean culture,” KASA social chair Julienne Chow said.
Chow described an event called Running Man based off of a Korean variety show of the same name. The game consists of two teams competing in a variety of game-like events, and the winning team is rewarded. Chow claimed the show isn’t traditional by any means and is more modern, but still cultural.
Besides their social events, KASA also has a Korean pop dance team. KASA members gather at the Cal Poly Recreation Center several times weekly to dance. The KASA dance crew also performs at several events on campus such as Culture Fest, which happened in early Fall 2016.
Next year, KASA will add a new board position: cultural ambassador. The ambassador will be tasked with integrating more culture into club activities, such as cooking lessons where club members learn how to make and eat Korean dishes.
On the surface, Cal Poly may not seem like the epicenter of Asian culture in San Luis Obispo. However, since Asians are the second largest minority group on campus, there are plenty of students working to share their culture with the community.