Keith Humphrey takes over as new vice president of student affairs. 

Mustang Daily Staff Report

Cal Poly announced its new vice president of student affairs Tuesday, ending a nearly year-long search that spanned across the country.

Keith Humphrey, the current assistant vice president of student affairs at the University of Arizona, will take over leadership of Cal Poly’s student affairs programs in February, according to a university press release.

Humphrey said one of the many reasons he is excited to come to Cal Poly is the school’s “Learn By Doing” philosophy and the positive attitude that goes along with it.

“There is a clear desire to really make this a better campus, and that’s where I want to be,” Humphrey said.

The incoming vice president is currently in charge of more than 200 staff members and a $28 million budget in Arizona. With that, he oversees health and counseling services, student media, early academic outreach, cultural centers, judicial affairs and academic integrity, greek life, parent and family programs, student activities, student government and veterans’ services, according to the press release.

The Cal Poly Office of Student Affairs handles Associated Students, Inc., Career Services, the Disability Resource Center, University Housing, health and counseling services, parent programs and the Office of Student Life and Leadership.

There are two specific areas Humphrey sees room for improvement in at Cal Poly: relations between student affairs and faculty and staff, as well as students’ relations with the San Luis Obispo community. Students at the University of Arizona have a “good relationship” with their neighbors, Humphrey said — but it was not always that way.

“It’s something we’ve had to work hard at,” he said. “I see a lot of opportunity to forge better relationships (in San Luis Obispo).”

Humphrey said he plans to immerse himself in Cal Poly when he first gets to California so he can learn the culture of the campus. Part of this will be making himself visible on campus, he said, in areas students frequently gather in.

“I cannot be an effective leader from behind my desk,” Humphrey said. “I try to get out and about.”

But in his leadership position at the University of Arizona, Humphrey encountered both on- and off-campus controversy this year.

He first made headlines when he named himself as part of a group suing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer over her denial of equal healthcare benefits for same-sex partners of state employees. Humphrey said, because of this, his partner went through a period where he was not insured due to the lack of state coverage.

The lawsuit, Humphrey said, is not political — it is instead a “human-rights issue.”

“All of us come to the table with different identities and each of us deserves the opportunity to be treated the same,” he said. “It’s about receiving equal pay for equal work.”

Humphrey plans to remove his name from the lawsuit when he moves to California in February, since he will no longer be an Arizona resident, he said.

Controversy found Humphrey’s office once again when the student newspaper at the University of Arizona published a cartoon that led to thousands signing a petition calling for the resignation of the paper’s editor, cartoonist and copy editor. Humphrey wrote an open letter to the newspaper in support of the its right to free speech, and helped students organize a forum to address the community’s concerns about the cartoon.

“The events of last week allowed me to reflect on how privileged I am to work in an environment that honors and practices free speech principles on a daily basis and has individuals who are committed to our values of diversity and inclusion,” Humphrey wrote. “As I look back on the vibrant debate of the past week, I was struck by the fact that the First Amendment imposes upon all of us certain burdens of tolerance for and understanding of viewpoints with which we don’t always agree.”

President Jeffrey Armstrong, who made Humphrey’s official appointment, said in a statement that the new vice president’s “strong background” will help to strengthen Cal Poly’s many student divisions.

“He shares our value that student success is the top priority,” Armstrong said, “and he knows the critical role that Student Affairs programming plays in students’ academic success.”

 Sean McMinn contributed to this article.

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