Credit: Andy Sherar | Mustang News

The College of Liberal Arts is hosting its fifth annual Teach-In on Thursday, Feb. 11. The event will have scheduled Zoom workshops and talks throughout the day focused on equity and social justice.

“It’s really important for us to ensure that students feel the full richness of what can be possible here at Cal Poly, in what is otherwise a primarily white institution where, to be frank, students of color sometimes don’t always feel comfortable,” ethnic studies assistant professor Alpen Razi said. “We still have got a long way to go before we create a truly egalitarian and equitable environment.”

This year’s theme was anticipated by the organizing committee, according to Razi. When calls for proposals to the teach-in were made, the committee noticed clusters with similar themes in submitted papers surrounding issues around public health, racism and anti-Blackness.

“Just the very nature of our teach-in is designed to speak to our political moment—our social climate,” Razi said.

The committee put together a variety of topics, including health disparities in the time of COVID-19, according to Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach Director Kari Mansager.

In addition to scholars and activists outside of Cal Poly, university professors from various disciplines are also scheduled to speak. These include professors of ethnic studies, physics, sociology, biological sciences and more.

The shift to a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic had its silver lining, Razi said. While usually limited by resources and space, the virtual format lifted these restrictions and allowed the committee to accommodate more proposals. While the shift away from tradition was initially alarming, it opened up conversations around incorporating a hybrid model of both virtual and in-person sessions in future years, according to Razi.

“What we as faculty have been discovering is that even though there’s a lot of loss that happens when we can’t teach in person … there [are] new possibilities that are afforded by this format,” Razi said.

The committee has also been broad with conducting outreach for the event.

“This isn’t just Cal Poly faculty,” Razi said. “It’s activists from within the community. We are really opening it up to scholars outside of Cal Poly, in the California academy, in the UC system and in other universities at large.”

The keynote speaker, Andrew Jolivette, is also expected to bring a lot of interest from attendees. He will give a talk at the end of the event, titled “Black Lives, Indigenous Lives: From Mattering to Thriving.”

Other teach-in sessions include:

  • Ethnic Studies Department Chair Jenell Navarro will give a talk titled “Black & Indigenous Futurity: World-Making Our Way Home”
  • Safer advocate Sara Wilson is one of several speakers who will give a talk titled “A Restorative Justice Framework for Campus Sexual Harm”
  • Biological sciences professor Ben Ruttenberg will give a talk titled “Climate change, social justice, and the search for solutions: A new hope?”

“Ultimately the hope is that students come away not just having learned something, but having been inspired,” Razi said. “And having a greater sense of optimism for what Cal Poly can be and how it’s continuing to evolve in the right direction.”

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