Jean DeCosta
Mustang News File Photo

Cal Poly released proposed changes to the university’s Diversity and Inclusivity office last Friday. The changes were made after weeks of student protests and the resignation of former Executive Director of University Diversity and Inclusivity Annie Holmes.

President Jeffrey Armstrong and Interim Executive Director of University Diversity and Inclusivity Jean DeCosta oversaw the creation of the Diversity Strategic Framework and the draft Diversity Action Plan.

In SLO Solidarity’s list of 41 demands, they asked for an action plan before the start of Winter 2016. According to Armstrong, the action plan was shared before the end of Fall 2015 with the Academic Senate Executive Committee, Campus Advisory Council and Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) leadership.

However, SLO Solidarity’s demands were not the only influential factors in prompting the new diversity and inclusivity policies, DeCosta said in an email to Mustang News.

“SLO Solidarity is one of the many voices involved in this campus-wide discussion, and everyone who has weighed in so far (including administration, which already had many diversity-related endeavors under discussion when this issue came to the forefront last quarter) shares the same goal of improving our campus’s diversity and inclusivity,” DeCosta said in the email.

The Diversity Strategic Framework addresses four main goals: diversifying the campus community, supporting and retaining a diverse campus community, enhancing campus climate and exemplifying inclusive excellence in Learn by Doing, scholarship, teaching and learning.

The Diversity Strategic Framework and the Action Plan go hand in hand, DeCosta said.

“As you review the items under the Suggested Action Items category, you will see there are actions which can fall under one or more of the goals,” DeCosta said.

For example, the first item in the action plan is to include more diversity education in Week of Welcome (WOW). This addresses both areas of enhancing campus climate and supporting and retaining a diverse campus community, DeCosta said.

“The efforts made by New Student and Transition Programs to expand their programming in this area will help to inform and educate students in this critical area, and also, will help to improve campus climate as new students attend classes, interact with students from different backgrounds,” DeCosta said.

SLO Solidarity has made advances by working with the administration to achieve common goals and changes. SLO Solidarity organizer and political science sophomore Matt Klepfer said there are more changes that should be made — such as creating a position in the Cross Cultural Centers for all culturally based clubs and organizations, including more diversity education in WOW and adding “mandatory cultural awareness” online programming for all students.

Despite the expected changes, the vague wording of the action plan leaves room for interpretation, Klepfer said.

“By using vague words like ‘continue,’ ‘consider,’ ‘improve’ and ‘collaborate,’ the administration is able to decrease responsibility on their end while showing the campus community they are doing something,” Klepfer said. “I’m hopeful, however, that the following action items they listed in one of the three action plans we were sent will come to fruition quickly and in accordance with their timeline on their most recent action plan.”

The administration and SLO Solidarity’s goals have overlapped; therefore, the student body must help in achieving these goals, Klepfer said.

“I ask myself this question: ‘If SLO Solidarity were to dissolve now that the administration has released an action plan, would anything actually change on campus?’ I’m not so hopeful,” Klepfer said. “If we, the student body, want to see any change, we have to keep the pressure on. We have to hold our administration accountable to follow through with their action plans and to follow through with their rhetoric of wanting to make Cal Poly a better place for underrepresented students.”

Even with the combined efforts of the administration, SLO Solidarity and other advocates, implementing change for diversity and inclusivity is still a work in progress, DeCosta said.

“I expect to see more ideas and changes as we continue our work and focus our energy on implementing the draft plan and bringing about systemic change,” DeCosta said.

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