Zach Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. | Ian Billings/Mustang News

Ian Billings/Mustang News

“I could easily make the argument that both students and residents use negative experiences to broadly apply negative stereotypes. I could say it isn’t fair to commit the logical fallacy of composition, where one assumes that all things are one way because of a singular instance. Not all students are disruptive, and not all residents dislike students. This much is obvious.”

Zachary Antoyan
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Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News. 

Difficult discussion incoming.

I like to think of myself as a part of the San Luis Obispo community. I consider it to be my home, as compared to the city I previously lived in for 18 years; Fresno is just the place where my entire family and high school friends live.

I have spent the past three years or so building friendships, making connections in the community, exploring all of its hidden gems and areas, creating memories and, in essence, making this place my home.

However, this self-identification with the community and county at large has been met with a few road blocks, some of which seem nearly insurmountable. Those walls, erected by both Cal Poly students and long-term residents of San Luis Obispo not only serve to brand each other incorrectly, but prevent a cohesive and unified community from even existing.

Fractured is the word I use to describe the relationship between Cal Poly students and long-term city residents, and since today is Halloween, this rift is never more apparent (with perhaps the exception of St. Patrick’s Day and Week of Welcome).

Now, I could easily make the argument that both students and residents use negative experiences to broadly apply negative stereotypes. I could say it isn’t fair to commit the logical fallacy of composition, where one assumes that all things are one way because of a singular instance. Not all students are disruptive, and not all residents dislike students. This much is obvious.

What is not obvious is how much students resent the greater community because of the stigma placed on them, and how much the long-term residents resent the students because they think the students do not listen. In this case, it is not the actual actions that push each side apart, but instead what each thinks the other is thinking about them.

Because I cannot overtly tell who holds what feeling towards me as a student, I am consistently on the defensive. Even though I know for a fact that not all long-term residents hold negative views of students (as some of them are Cal Poly grads themselves), I conduct myself around the community as if it has grudge against me.

Perhaps, however, this is just me. But comments from students about the community largely revolve around whether or not their neighbors are going to call the police for loud noises.

Additionally, sentiment about students can be seen in letters to the editor of the San Luis Obispo Tribune, which commit the same wrong: “Long-term residents of SLO have had to endure student (Cal Poly and Cuesta) misbehavior problems for many years. SLO has lost many of its long-term residents because they couldn’t live with the loss of peace and safety in their neighborhoods.”

Because I assume what others are thinking about me, I feel we as students have to work from a deficit to prove our worth to the community. For instance, Cal Poly Orientation Programs works extremely hard to snuff out the negative stigma surrounding the Week of Welcome within the community. After having been a leader in the program three times, it is clear their devotion to proving the importance of the week is reflected in nearly everything they do. However, year after year, that task remains just out of reach as Hathway Avenue is flooded with people and WOWies descend upon the town, both of which merely add fuel to the fire.

Additionally, community residents may feel as if their efforts to curb rowdiness, noise, property damage and injuries are in vain, simply because students continue to act contrary to those worries.

What I want more than anything is for this to be resolved, because I care so much about this place. I know there are plenty of others who feel just as I do, long-term residents and students alike. Every time my father comes back to San Luis Obispo, he still talks as if he is a part of the community here, even though his time at Cal Poly ended nearly 40 years ago.

There is a magic that exists here, and it is unlike any other place in California or beyond, because it can connect all these people in very personal ways. Students, please be aware of not only your actions, but your ideas about those that live in our city. And long-term residents, please understand not only the pressure you place on students, but your perception about why students act the way they do.

This is Zachary Antoyan, calling it as he sees it. Have a fantastic week, and stay safe everyone.

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