Imagine meeting parents who are grieving the loss of their 18-year-old son to tell them you are sorry for his death. Associated Students Inc. President Angela Kramer took it upon herself to do just that.
“I was biting a hole in my cheek so I didn’t cry,” she explained. “I held it together pretty well until his dad said something about bringing Carson home to Texas; I was shaking under the table.”
Kramer emphasized that she values each member of the Cal Poly community as her family. Last December, Kramer felt as though she had lost three of her own as she sat in an office, contemplating how to face Carson Starkey’s mother; police said his death was alcohol-related, linked to Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s hazing rituals.
“The hardest part was that it was our fault, it was like, ‘My family took your 18-year-old son away,’” Kramer said. “(SAE members) took him to the hospital and he started throwing up so they thought he was fine, so they put him to bed and found him the next morning — cold. How do you tell a mom that? How do you look at her and say ‘I am sorry?’”
Talk emerged regarding the removal of the greek system from Cal Poly soon after the event, a motion Kramer, an unofficial Gamma Phi Beta sorority member who will have alumni member status when she graduates, was strongly against, citing the thousands of dollars the greek system raises in philanthropic events.
“Unfortunately, certain organizations have taken it upon themselves to participate in those kind of actions and we shut that down,” she said, making it clear that she thinks the actions of few do not represent the entire system. “That fraternity was not only kicked off campus but was removed from nationals.”
ASI presidents are often faced with unexpected obstacles and Kramer’s experience was no exception. Her response to issues such as the controversial symbols displayed by the students at the crop house last fall, three student deaths during fall quarter and fiscal shortcomings shaped Kramer’s presidency. She focused on the positive results of each event, noting that the racially-charged symbols demonstrated by those in the crop house spurred her ideas to improve on-campus diversity, such as the Inclusive Excellence Model and its related diversity learning objectives (DLOs).
“I don’t know if they would’ve come to fruition this quickly,” Kramer said. “Whenever anything like that happens it can divide a community; people from the outside see this as a reflection of the community as a whole, but it’s not like that.”
Empower Poly Coalition membership coordinator Jorge Montezuma appreciated Kramer’s drive to institute change after the crop house incident by working with the administration to turn the event into a proactive turning point. The Inclusive Excellence Model was set forth to make students feel more comfortable by proposing a set of guidelines that teachers must adhere to when teaching their classes. This may include anything from writing anti-discrimination policies in the syllabus to mediating diversity issues in the classroom, Kramer said, adding that the DLOs are quite aggressive and “really have some teeth.”
“I think we freaked out the faculty a bit with them,” she said. “We’re really serious about them, every single class needs to have a component within this model; (they have merited) really positive results.”
She said that while the institution of these objectives is one of her most substantial accomplishments, Cal Poly needs to maintain the program by making sure all of the departments are turning in progress reports to verify they are actually following through with the guidelines.
During her presidency, Kramer made nearly a dozen trips to Sacramento to reestablish Cal Poly on a state level by reconnecting with California State Student Association for the first time in 20 years, Kramer said. She sat in on higher education committee meetings and formed relationships with various congressman such as California State Assembly Republican Member Sam Blakeslee.
“Especially when a time where Cal Poly has already differentiated itself with the College Based Fees, we need to have the support of the legislature to keep going forward while at the same time emphasizing subsidizing state education,” Kramer said. “It is very important that the chancellor is aware of the things that we are doing and we are aware of his perspective. With student fee hikes we need to have an active role in those discussions and at the same time protect our own autonomy.”
Kramer generally didn’t approve of cutting programs or increasing taxes, evident in her public opposition to the increase of the College Based Fees (CBFs), but indicated that isn’t always the case.
“I was a big supporter of the Health Center fee increase; as a hypochondriac I go to the Health Center every two weeks. I have one of the doctor’s numbers on speed dial,” she joked.
Kramer felt that the CBF increase was essential to preserve the Cal Poly’s academic integrity, but was a testament to the state ignoring education as a whole and allocating its funding to entities such as correctional facilities.
“When I said publicly that I was against the fee increase, it wasn’t against the Cal Poly administration and the fee increase, it was against the state turning its back on higher education, which is the biggest crime,” she said.
“It blows my mind how Californians are so OK with mediocre education; they are so OK with a 50 percent retention rate in high schools; they are so OK with the average CSU graduation rate of 47 percent (Cal Poly’s is about 70 percent),” Kramer added. “That to me is a serious reflection of a mismanagement from the top.”
Kramer has been actively working with the CSU Chancellor’s office to push for increasing CBFs, a measure 78 percent of those who voted during Cal Poly’s CBF referendum pushed for.
“The chancellor didn’t really have a right to tell us we couldn’t do it. He asked us respectfully to pause. Who knows if the hike from the trustees is going to go up, it’s only 10 percent,” she said, adding that Cal Poly costs the most out of the California State Universities to educate students but is given the least amount of money.
The political science senior also focused her attention on a greener campus with initiatives such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification of facilities and the The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF).
Poly Canyon Village was the first LEED certified building at Cal Poly and the largest in the CSU system; it earned the certification through energy conservation, water efficiency, emissions reduction and minimal use of resources.
In terms of the Recreation Center expansion vote, more people voted for its LEED certification than the expansion in itself, said Tyler Hartrich, secretary of sustainability on the ASI Executive Cabinet.
Yet, certification is an expensive endeavor that can cost thousands of dollars in order to assess the building and undergo all of the testing and paperwork. Thus, many schools vie for LEED equivalent, which doesn’t need to be assessed by a third party and is less specific in terms of which LEED standards the building abides by, Hartrich said.
The TGIF program will generate grants for student-led sustainability projects at Cal Poly. It requires a $5 raise in tuition fees, but is currently put on hold due to the hike in student fees.
“So many student projects are amazing but they just get done on paper and nothing happens after that,” Montezuma said. “(TGIF) makes the projects a reality.”
Kramer has confidence that newly-elected ASI President Kelly Griggs will transition into the position well.
“It has been the time of my life,” Kramer said. “When you are elected you think you know everything; you spend the summer learning, reading everything, meeting everyone. You make a lot of mistakes and grow into it and hopefully you come out as a stronger person.”