Cassandra Garcia is a journalism freshman and Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Imagine living in a dorm where maintenance problems are a constant norm and there is no community center to meet other students. But hey, you’re also sharing a bathroom with 11 other people despite it only having two showers, two toilet stalls and two sinks. On top of it all, you didn’t choose which dorm you were placed in since your academic program is what designated you to live there.
This is the current problem faced by residents in the North Mountain Residence Halls at Cal Poly.
Cal Poly uses Residential Living Communities (RLCs) to designate first and sometimes even second-year students to a dorm. Most of the time, RLC’s are assigned to residence halls based off of the number of students in the RLC. So if a RLC is large, they will be placed in larger halls with more dorms.
When students start their housing application in their Cal Poly housing portal, they can choose which RLC they prefer to be a part of. However, this isn’t the case for students accepted into Cal Poly Scholars, Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) or are a part of the TRIO program.
According to the Cal Poly Scholars website, the program “seeks to support and retain high-achieving students from California schools, who come from low-income backgrounds, by providing financial, academic, and community resources.”
Educational Opportunity Program is similar in the way that its main goal is “to improve the access, retention and graduation of students who have been historically, economically and/or educationally disadvantaged,” according to the EOP Cal Poly website.
TRIO on the other hand is a “federal outreach and student services [program] designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Every incoming Cal Poly student gets to rank their preference for an RLC, whether that be mindful living, substance-free or leadership. However, members of these three groups don’t get to choose an RLC and instead must live with others in their program. The problem with this is that the students who are a part of these programs are usually minority students. This year, they were all placed in North Mountain Residence Hall.
Because of this, Cal Poly effectively segregates most of their minority students and places them in subpar living situations.
Some may say that students choose whether or not they want to be a part of the program but that isn’t necessarily true.
Cal Poly Scholars, EOP and TRIO all give financial support to students who need it. So while students do have the option to choose whether or not they want to be a part of the program, the financial gain these programs provide ultimately allows these students to attend Cal Poly.
North Mountain dorms are the oldest dorms at Cal Poly, making them the cheapest. From the looks of it, Cal Poly automatically places students with financial needs in these dorms, knowing that they are more affordable.
While this may seem “kind” of Cal Poly to do, one may ask why they don’t level the playing field by lowering the housing prices altogether or making all the dorms at the university the same price.
Cal Poly is the most expensive university in the CSU system. With the higher prices, Cal Poly should be able to afford to make their dorms a fairer price.
When looking at the other dorms at Cal Poly, like brand new yakʔitʸutʸu, and seeing the students placed in those dorms, it makes you question, “Why are the majority of them wealthy, white students?”
The yakʔitʸutʸu dorms have benefits like private study rooms, huge kitchens and bigger co-ed bathrooms that contribute to a better sense of wellbeing, mental health and academic performance.
These benefits are not just benefits that make living in those dorms more comfortable, but they also allow students who live there to have a different lifestyle compared to those students who live in the older dorms.
The yakʔitʸutʸu dorms were named to honor the Chumash Native American tribe who were stripped of their land. This is even more of a reason to question why Cal Poly decided to place majority white, wealthy students in these dorms.
The students who should be placed in the yakʔitʸutʸu dorms are Cal Poly Scholars, EOP and TRIO students. As stated before, the students in these programs are minority students who have needed financial help due to a system in the U.S. that doesn’t allow minorities to progress.
People may also state that these students should be thankful that they have somewhere to live on campus. Yes, they are grateful, but the fact that the North Mountain dorms do not have the same benefits as the other dorms, and they haven’t been recently renovated, gives the impression that Cal Poly doesn’t care about their minority students’ needs.
As a woman of color, specifically Latina, living in the North Mountain dorms, I see these problems first hand. It is already hard enough being a woman of color at Cal Poly, but now seeing the lifestyle difference of my white counterparts makes the racism that is ingrained in Cal Poly more prevalent. It’s a system that is being dismantled slowly, but persists in many minority students’ lives at Cal Poly.