After a Chinese Students’ Association (CSA) club meeting was “Zoom bombed” earlier this month, members say they have been overwhelmed with support from the campus community.

“We’ve been very grateful for the support and knowing that we have such a large community backing us,” CSA co-vice president and nutrition sophomore Elaine Cheng said.

CSA posted a statement about the incident on social media — receiving more than 900 likes to date.  

Other cultural clubs have stood in solidarity with CSA, including Pilipino Cultural Exchange (PCE), a social-culture club consisting of approximately 200 active members, which posted a statement of solidarity on Instagram.  

PCE president and computer engineering senior Celestine Co said this statement condemned acts of hate and expressed unity for the Asian-Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) community.

Hopefully we are using our platform to encourage other organizations and community members to stand in solidarity with CSA and the APIDA community,” Co said. 

This statement also included resources for students, including Cal Poly’s Bias Incident Report form and Pilipino Workers Center’s petition for U.S. Attorney General William Barr to begin prosecuting hate crimes against the Asian-American community.  

Not only have Cal Poly social-culture clubs shared CSA’s statement via Instagram stories  — students unaffiliated with social-culture clubs have shared CSA’s statement, too.  Typically CSA’s posts receive 30-60 likes, however, due to widespread sharing this official statement post received more than 900 likes. 

Co said individuals who shared CSA’s statement post on their Instagram story promoted diversity awareness among Cal Poly’s students.  Cheng said this diverse support has emphasized the importance of social-culture clubs.

The people who’ve shared the post are already cognizant that these cultural clubs are needed on campus,” Cheng said.

English sophomore Renee Hernandez learned about last Tuesday’s Zoom bombing after a friend shared CSA’s statement post on their Instagram story.  Hernandez is not affiliated with a social-culture club, however, said she was at a loss for words upon reading CSA’s official statement.  Hernandez said she took time to process the incident and its impacts on Cal Poly.

“I didn’t really know what to think,” Hernandez said.  “I felt like stuff like this doesn’t happen at my school — it shouldn’t happen at my school.”

Hernandez said this racist incident is one example of systematic inequalities faced by people of color.

CSA’s Zoom bombing was not the first time this year a Cal State social-culture club experienced a racially charged attack.  On April 10, San Diego State’s Pilipinx-American cultural organization’s Zoom meeting was interrupted by strangers who repeated xenophobic slurs.  

While Hernandez was not directly impacted by either racial attack, she said it is important to address racism, express support and stand with the greater community. 

“We are all Cal Poly students. Even though I wasn’t a victim, it still is not okay,” Hernandez said.  “I didn’t know what to say, other than we stand with you.”

Hernandez said she feels the responsibility to use her privilege in a productive manner.

“I’m white, I have white privilege,” Hernandez said.  “Although I am a woman, I’m a white woman and people listen to my voice more.  It’s sad, but it’s true.”

During her first two quarters of freshman year, Hernandez said she was unaware of Cal Poly’s social-culture clubs. Once Hernandez became involved with New Student and Transition Programs in spring 2019, she became more familiar with this aspect of campus life.

“I am grateful to have had that exposure,” Hernandez said.  “Looking back to the way I was in high school, I was a lot more ignorant than I thought I was.”

Hernandez’s advice to Cal Poly students who are unfamiliar with various cultural backgrounds is to educate themselves.  Hernandez said students may choose to access the Multicultural Center’s resources online or participate in social-culture clubs to engage in conversation.

Co said while Cal Poly has made progress towards a diverse, inclusive campus, the university still must work to provide a safe environment for all students.

“There is still a long way to go for having people of color feel welcome and safe at Cal Poly,” Co said.  “A lot of responses have been reactionary instead of proactive.”

Co said as a predominantly white institution, many Cal Poly students do not have an extensive knowledge of cultural awareness.  Leaders of social-cultural clubs, she said, have facilitated this discussion and empowered students to embrace their heritage.

For many students, social-culture clubs provide a home away from home and a community to share in cultural traditions with.  Cheng said she is redirecting feelings of anger towards the Zoom bombers into passion for CSA.  

While the 20 Zoom bombers were not identified as Cal Poly students or residents of San Luis Obispo, Cheng said this incident further emphasized the importance of social-culture clubs.

Despite Cal Poly’s transition to a virtual spring quarter, social-culture clubs continue to host meetings via Zoom and offer events for students to connect with their community and each other. 

In honor of Asian-Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month, Pilipino Cultural Exchange (PCE) hosted an APIDA Open Mic night in collaboration with other social-cultural clubs. On May 15, 80 students representing six social-cultural clubs gathered on Zoom to share various talents with Cal Poly’s greater multicultural community.   Students both submitted pieces and performed live, with talents spanning from music and dance to spoken word.  

Throughout the two hour event, club presidents monitored the virtual waiting room and granted access solely to students affiliated with a social-culture club.

“It was nice for the cultural clubs to get together and appreciate the talent in our community,” Cheng said.  “It was very unifying.”

Cheng said she, alongside many college students, has had a difficult experience coming to terms with her Chinese-American identity. However, support from her social-culture club members makes it easier.

“I have grown so much, especially with the help of CSA,” Cheng said. “I will not let bigoted individuals on the Internet strip that away from me.”

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