Shaun Tanaka is a second Business Administration major with a concentration in Finance who has been living on campus in Poly Canyon Village since the shelter in place order. Even though Shaun has stayed in San Luis Obispo, all his roommates have gone home, leaving Shaun alone in the apartment for the last seven weeks. “I think now, I’m doing a lot of things that I didn’t necessarily prioritize before. A lot of people are constantly saying ‘Oh I don’t have time, I don’t have time.’ I don’t necessarily think that’s true, it’s just you didn’t prioritize it before. For example, now, instead of prioritizing a social life, because it kind of can’t exist, I have to prioritize myself.”

This letter was originally published online by the writers on August 19, 2020. On August 24, University Housing announced that they will only offer single dorm rooms. The views expressed in this letter do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

Dear Cal Poly students, parents, and supporters, 

We are writing to alert you to the significant health and safety risks posed by Cal Poly’s current campus reopening plan. We appeal to you to consider these factors as you make your decision whether to return in person for fall quarter. Scientific evidence and the recent experiences of other schools and college campuses strongly suggest that bringing back thousands of students, the vast majority of whom will be learning entirely online, will significantly and unnecessarily jeopardize the health of both the Cal Poly campus and the wider San Luis Obispo community.  

Cal Poly’s reopening plan includes two major risk factors: inadequately “de-densified” student residence halls and insufficient coronavirus testing capacity. Although only 13% of Cal Poly classes will be held in person this fall, and most of these are upper division specialized labs or student research projects, the university’s current plan calls for reopening dorms at 70% of typical capacity (roughly 6,000 out of  8,500 spaces filled). Because of this relatively high density, Cal Poly cannot guarantee single room occupancy, as recommended by state guidelines. Additionally, even at single room occupancy, transmission can occur in shared bathrooms and due to inadequate ventilation. Cal Poly also will not be able to provide routine universal Covid-19 testing. Instead, the university will offer initial Covid-19 tests only to students who are symptomatic and their close contacts, relying on students themselves to self-monitor and self-diagnose.

Such narrow testing is not sufficient for congregate living facilities like dormitories. When there have been outbreaks at other congregate facilities such as jails or skilled nursing facilities, a key to stopping the spread has been the testing of all residents, regardless of symptoms. Experts recommend universities test every student, staff, and faculty person every few days to control and manage the pandemic. Without regular testing, asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread can lead to outbreaks that go undetected until it is too late. If our university and county do not have the capacity to provide regular and repeated testing (and there is no indication that they can or will), then we cannot safely house students at 70% capacity. Since Cal Poly is also encouraging thousands of students who live off campus to return to SLO as well, testing will be even more limited.

Two weeks ago, the University of North Carolina reopened its campus on terms very similar to those proposed by Cal Poly. Dormitories were partially de-densified and testing was guaranteed only to symptomatic students. Within days, the university saw a major spike in coronavirus cases, with multiple outbreak clusters connected to student housing. The university was forced to revert immediately to fully online teaching and to mandate that students leave campus as quickly as possible. This is not only disruptive, but also increases the probability of spreading the virus back to students’ communities as they return home. Just days later, a similarly dangerous outbreak forced Notre Dame to halt all in-person classes, even with more comprehensive testing protocols in place. 

From an ethical perspective, we believe that on-campus housing should be reserved only for those students with a compelling need, whether related to finances, health, safety, or study abroad requirements. It is essential to limit the number of students on campus during this pre-vaccine (and pre-effective treatment) phase of the pandemic, especially in the absence of rapid turn-around surveillance testing to catch outbreaks early. 

The time available for housing decisions is short, and we are urging the Cal Poly administration to extend all relevant deadlines. But the hard truth is this: the only safe and effective way to reduce risk right now is for students to choose not to return to campus. As painful as it may be, we are asking you to opt out. 

We know that living and studying remotely is not ideal for most of you. Many of you indicated in the early part of the summer that you would come to SLO regardless of the housing or virtual class situation. Many of us shared your optimism, but we now have a clearer indication of the risks involved. We also now know that your experience on campus this fall will bear little resemblance to campus life before the pandemic. Most common spaces will be closed, there will be no dining together (campus meals are grab and go), socializing will be discouraged and likely monitored, and most classes will be virtual. In addition, the constant risk of Covid-19 exposure may repeatedly force students into quarantine and isolation. If and when outbreaks occur, there is a strong chance of spread to custodial or housing staff, to their families, and to the larger community. Additionally, we now know that even some otherwise healthy young people can be susceptible to negative health consequences of the virus. The stress and anxiety from these conditions could affect your ability to focus on your classes. 

Students, we miss you! We wish we could safely work with you in a classroom and will be so excited to return when it is safe to do so. You deserve a safe, clear path forward. Until Cal Poly can provide that path to you, however, all we can do is ask you to help us keep our campus safe, to protect our staff and their families, and to collaborate with us to make our virtual classes engaging, challenging, and rewarding. We urge all of you who are able, whether you were planning to live on or off campus this Fall, to stay in your home communities, so we can control the spread of this potentially deadly disease. We have reason to be optimistic and patient. Rapid testing has been approved by the FDA and better treatments will be arriving in the coming months. While we understand that it is hard to wait several months to start or continue your college education in person, we will be here when you return to ensure that the time you do spend here will be some of the best years of your life.


This letter was composed by a team of concerned faculty. We welcome anyone who wishes to support the message of this letter to sign by clicking this link. We acknowledge that different roles on campus provide different levels of protection, so if you wish to sign and remain anonymous, that is an option.

Signatories will be updated below periodically.

Name (or anonymous) and department (as applicable)Role on campus
1Candace Winstead, Biological ScienceFaculty
2Lewis Call – Professor of HistoryFaculty
3Charles Knight Biological SciencesFaculty
4Anonymous/ CAFESStaff
6Anonymous and Scared Housing EmployeeStaff
7Sandi Clement, Biological SciencesFaculty
8Bree Hugins, FSNStaff
10Scared Mom and Housing EmployeeStaff
11Neal MacDougall, Agribusiness Department and the California Faculty Association (CFA)Faculty
13Erica FryerStaff
14Morgan White — EnglishFaculty
15Anon/ COSAMFaculty
16Pamela Dougherty, CTLTStaff
17Stan Yoshinobu, MathematicsFaculty
18Alice Hamrick, Biological SciencesStaff
19Elizabeth- Student AffairsStaff
21Arianna BushOther
22Dr. Laird, Lecturer in the department of Chemistry and BiochemistryFaculty
23Nisa Morey – Chemistry & BiochemistryFaculty
24Anonymous, Department of Kinesiology & Public HealthFaculty
25Terrified Housing EmployeeStaff
26Ryan Anthony Hatch, EnglishFaculty
28Sarah Bridger, History DepartmentFaculty
29Caleb Nichols – LibraryStaff
30Stephanie AllenStaff
31Christopher Boreham, AlumniOther
32Lily Holzner, Career ServicesStaff
33Danielle Robbins, PsyDFaculty
34Anonymous from University HousingStaff
35Gita Kolluru, Biological SciencesFaculty
36Philip Costanzo, Chemistry and BiochemistryFaculty
37Kaila Bussert, LibraryFaculty
39anonymous, engineeringFaculty
40Debora Schwartz, EnglishFaculty
42Brenda Helmbrecht, EnglishFaculty
43Jean Davidson, Biological SciencesFaculty
44Anonymous — CENGFaculty
45Anonymous, School of EducationFaculty
46Conny Liegl, Kennedy LibraryStaff
50Art MacCarley, EE Dept.Faculty
51J. Bartel, EnglishFaculty
52Marc Horney, Animal ScienceFaculty
53Anonymous (IME, CENG)Other
54Ronald C. Den OtterFaculty
55Alexander Silva, Biomedical EngineeringStudent
56Fred DePiero – Electrical EngineeringFaculty
57Catherine Waitinas, English ProfessorFaculty
58Martine Lappé, Social Sciences DepartmentFaculty
59James Mealy, Electrical EngineeringFaculty
60Kyleigh Borje, Biological SciencesStudent
61James Eason, Biomedical EngineeringFaculty
62second year studentStudent
63Ingrid Reyes (CAFES)Student
64Nishanta RajakarunaFaculty
65Nathan HestonFaculty
66We miss you | PhysicsFaculty
67Eli LeclairStudent
68Gaby Hutchinson, COSAMStudent
70Nancy Rucci (World Languages and Culture)Faculty
71Anonymous – FacilitiesStaff
72Anonymous | CAEDFaculty
73Chris Den Hartog, Political ScienceFaculty
74Xenia Chiarabini – 2020 AlumnaOther
75Luanne Fose, CTLTStaff
76Lienmir Arradaza (CLA student)Student
77Anonymous, ApplicableStaff
78Anonymous, Student AffairsStaff
79Jennifer AshleyFaculty
80Ashley McDonald, Chemistry & BiochemistryFaculty
81Anonymous Manager in University HousingStaff
83Anonymous – Electrical EngineeringFaculty
85Anonymous Manager in University HousingStaff
86Dan See, Civil EngineeringFaculty
87Jennifer Klay, PhysicsFaculty
88Alan L. Kiste, Chemistry & BiochemistryFaculty
90Anonymous, PhysicsStaff
91Alejandra Yep, Biological SciencesFaculty
92Gary ClayFaculty
93Robert Campbell, MDOther
94Anonymous Resident AdvisorStudent
95Dale Kohler, Information Technology ServicesStaff
98Concerned parent of a freshmanStaff
99Pete SchwartzFaculty
100Jason Linn, HistoryFaculty
102Eric J. Kantorowski, Chemistry & BiochemistryFaculty
103Anonymous Resident AdvisorStudent
104Eric LeRoy – Community Healthcare providerOther
105Matt Beekman, Assistant Professor, Department of PhysicsFaculty
106Emily Hamilton, MathematicsFaculty
107John Saghri, Electrical EngineeringFaculty
108Ally Pasulka, Biological SciencesFaculty
109Anonymous, University HousingStaff
111Anonymous – JournalismFaculty
112Michael Jones, Lecturer, Biological SciencesFaculty
113John Sharpe, PhysicsFaculty
114Robert inchausti Emeritus, Dept of EnglishFaculty
115Anonymous, Kennedy LibraryFaculty
116Eric Paton, Industrial Engineering, Materials Engineering, Aerospace EngineeringFaculty
117Jason Blank, Biological SciencesFaculty
118John Saghri, Electrical EngineeringFaculty
119Emily Taylor, Biological SciencesFaculty
120Jeong-Ah Lee, PhysicsFaculty
121Christy Strand-Biological SciencesFaculty
122Anonymous, with family members at high risk for COVID-19Student
125Eli BalderasStudent
127Laura CooperOther
128Lois PettyOther
129Anonymous, Liberal StudiesFaculty
130Lizabeth Schlemer, Industrial and Manufacturing EngineeringFaculty
131anonymous – retired facultyOther
132Anonymous- campus health and wellbeingStaff
133Melinda Keller, Mechanical EngineeringFaculty
134CENG, Class of 2021Student
135Anonymous, Campus Health & WellbeingStaff
136Sean Echols – PhysicsFaculty
137Vickie Bryant, RNOther
138Brandon chestnutOther
140Steven Ruszczycky, English; Women’s, Gender, & Queer StudiesFaculty
141Christopher Culbreath, PhysicsFaculty
142Sandra Ward, Chemistry & BiochemistryFaculty
143Anonymous – Mechanical EngineeringFaculty
144Alexander Ameri, CAED ASI Board of Directors, Architectural EngineeringStudent
147Sarah Milad, EESSStudent
148Jonathan Fernsler, PhysicsFaculty
149Mallory St. GeorgeOther
150Riley ChestnutOther
151Anonymous – Academic AdvisingStaff
152Raymond bowden daughter at campus clinicParent
153Lauren Kolodziejski, Communication StudiesFaculty
154Colleen Marlow, PhysicsFaculty
155Kristine EllingsonOther
157Ronald Brown, Professor of Physics, EmeritusOther
159Darrell VossOther
160Lisa MorenoOther
162Ray Fernando, Chemistry and BiochemistryFaculty
163Julia VossOther
164Anonymous, CENGStudent
165Jessica MayOther
166Karenna Case, OCONStudent
167Gregory Scott, Chemistry & BiochemistryFaculty
168A concerned faculty, CAFESFaculty
169Christine Lam, President of CLA AmbassadorsStudent
170Justin Cooley, Political ScienceFaculty
171Anonymous, Computer EngineeringStudent
172Vickie Bryant, RNOther
173Glen Gillen, PhysicsFaculty
174Anonymous ParentParent
176Briana Ronan; School of EducationFaculty
178Olivia Weinbaum, Civil Engineering StudentStudent
179Anonymous, CENGFaculty
180Raphael PhamStudent
181Anonymous, Campus Staff MemberStaff
182Anonymous Spouse of Campus Staff MemberOther
183Brad Campbell, EnglishFaculty
186Alysson Loo, Mechanical EngineeringStudent
187concerned faculty / CAFESFaculty
188Laura PompaStudent
191Mary DonnellyOther
192Todd PierceFaculty
193Cheri Love, Cal Poly ’10Other
194Kari Bennett, CENGStudent
195Anonymous, Computer ScienceStudent
196H. Tetsuo Uyeda Ph. D.Other
198Lydia Yang, CLAStudent
199Rachel Best, NRESStudent
200Anonymous, CLAStudent
201Courtney KaylorParent
202Anna MuellerParent
203Worried Healthcare Worker form Campus Health and WellbeingStaff
204Jasmine TillStudent
206Jennifer Lee, ASI Secretary of Wellbeing, NRESStudent
207Anonymous and concerned parentParent
208Brayden Prichard, Computer ScienceStudent
209Natalie YoungStudent
210Conner O’NeilStudent
211Tonya Tong/ OCOBStudent
212Samantha Halpin SenetOther
213Anonymous Health CenterStaff
214Anonymous high risk student, Biomedical EngineeringStudent
215Michael Wollman Electrical EngineeringFaculty
216Michelle Call – faculty spouse and parentOther
218Jane Lehr, ES/WGQSFaculty
220Vickie Bryant, RNOther
221Jennifer Carroll, ChemistryFaculty
222Christian AndersonFaculty
223Anonymous Alumna, Community Member and CLA FacultyFaculty
224Tayler Garis (concerned alumni)Other
225Anonymous COSAMStudent
226Nicky Sandoz, Graphic CommunicationStudent
227Meredith Milam CAEDStudent
228Sandy Stannard, ArchitectureFaculty
229Leanne Berning, Animal ScienceFaculty
230Padma Maitland, ArchitectureFaculty
231Anonymous (Biological Sciences)Faculty
232Wendelin AsburyParent
234anonymous, JournalismFaculty
235anonymous, liberal studiesStudent
237Bethany Porta – POLS/ESStudent
238Shelley L. Hurt – Political ScienceFaculty
239Anonymous –PsychologyStudent
240Anonymous, CLAStudent
241Madeline Wales, Graphic CommunicationStudent
242Leah NielsenOther
243Laura Rios — PhysicsFaculty
244Merav LevesonStudent
245Ian Finneran — concerned family of facultyOther
246Stephanie EnzmingerStudent
247Hasan Palandoken, Chemistry and BiochemistryFaculty
248anonymous, liberal studiesStudent
249Anonymous, EngineeringFaculty
252Kara, BiologyFaculty
253Anonymous, Biological SciencesStudent
254Elle Philips – Graphic CommunicationStudent
255Shanju Zhang, Chemistry and BiochemistryFaculty
256Craig Arceneaux – Political ScienceFaculty
257Maxwell Freeman EESS majorStudent
258Grace, Social ScienceStudent
260Sofia Warner, CLAStudent
261Meaghan Coyle, COSAMStudent
262Ava BrackenburyStudent
264Megan CampbellStudent
265Anonymous Athletics DepartmentFaculty
268Welby Nielsen, D.O.Other
269anonymous political science student (CLA)Student
270Anonymous – IMEStudent
271Robert Hostetler, History Department Class of 2019Other
272David Mitchell, Physics & Liberal StudiesFaculty
273Troy S Bundy, parent and Trial LawyerParent
274Katharina Gillen, PhysicsFaculty
275Anonymous OCOBFaculty
276Jeanne Marie StormParent
278Anonymous front-line staff member in University HousingStaff
279Chance HoellwarthFaculty
280Ally Lai, CENG studentStudent
282Anonymous, EngineeringParent
283Anonymous, Kinesiology & Public HealthFaculty
284Anonymous, Business AdministrationStudent
286Anonymous, CENGStudent
288Anonymous – Office of the RegistrarStaff
289Noah Aragon, Political ScienceStudent
290Rose Duran, Extended EducationStaff
293Ruby Moz, Office of the RegistrarStaff
294Megan O’Neill Biological SciencesFaculty
295David Braun, Electrical EngineeringFaculty
296Jacob Lafarga, history department alum and SOE teacher candidateStudent
297Mark W. MartinezStaff
300Marilyn Tseng, Kinesiology and Public HealthFaculty
302Anonymous – Animal ScienceStudent
307Jean Williams, Political Science and WGQSFaculty
309Anonymous (OCOB)Faculty
310Sara, SaferStaff
311Anonymous Campus Health and Wellbeing Health ProviderStaff
312Odile Ayral, professor emeritus, modern Language dept.Faculty
313Anonymous, Mustang Success CenterStaff
315Anonymous – AthleticsFaculty
316Mark Stankus, MathematicsFaculty
318Anonymous & Immunocompromised | Campus Health & WellbeingStaff
319Anonymous – CAEDFaculty
320Anonymous, PhysicsFaculty
321Anonymous, family of CAFES facultyOther
322Shelly LandersStaff
324Extremely worried 2nd yearStudent
325Anonymous Immunocompromised with CancerFaculty
326Misha DaviesOther
327Britt brownParent
329Korinne Valler, CLAStudent
330Kristina TomaStudent
331Emma SturmStudent
332Heather Liwanag, Biological SciencesFaculty
333Bob Tedone, alumnusOther
334John Hagen, Chemistry and BiochemistryFaculty
335Anonymous alumnus & immunocompromised community memberOther
336Anonymous, Electrical EngineeringFaculty
337Electrical Engineering FacultyFaculty
338Tony Prado – Journalism lecturer in a high-risk category with family at home also at high riskFaculty
339anonymous, public health studentStudent
340Christopher Toft OCOBStudent
341Concerned parent with background in immunology and infectious disease researchParent
342Karen Muñoz-Christian, World Languages & CulturesFaculty
343Test all studentsStudent
344Raphael PhamStudent
345Anonymous (college of liberal arts)Student
347Anonymous CAFESParent
348Richard Schmidt, Architecture Faculty EmeritusFaculty
349Anonymous Engineering StudentStudent
350Amanda GersoffStudent
351anonymous (engineering)Student
352Rose Duran, Extended EducationStaff
353anonymous – economicsFaculty
354Anonymous, OCOBFaculty
355Anonymous, Mechanical EngineeringFaculty
356ANON Counseling Services PsychologistFaculty
357Scott NelsonOther
358Anonymous – Econ/College of BusinessFaculty
359T GreeneOther
360Welby Nielsen, D.O.Other
363Anonymous CSMFaculty
365Anonymous, EEStudent
366Paul Hiltpold, EmeritusFaculty
367Dean Arakaki, Electrical EngineeringFaculty
368Anonymous, Cal Poly CorporationStaff
369Second year studentStudent
370Second year studentStudent
371Anonymous / CAFESFaculty
372Anonymous / CAFESFaculty
373Anonymous Cal Poly CorporationStaff
374Suzanne PhelanFaculty
375Anonymous, Kinesiology and Public HealthFaculty
376Anonymous – Liberal StudiesStudent
377R. Hawthorne, Alumnus and neighborOther
379Anonymous family of facultyOther
380Parent of continuing student in dormsParent
382Steve SmithOther
383Your de-densify numbers are too highStudent
384Anonymous: English DepartmentFaculty
385Anonymous, Kinesiology & Public HealthFaculty
386Vanessa MariscalOther
389L.P., Computer EngineeringStudent
390Please close until you can at least test EVERY SINGLE STUDENT, FACULTY MEMBER & STAFFStudent
391Sandra Rowley, community memberOther
392Jnan Blau, Communication StudiesFaculty
393Very, very worried parent!Parent
394Scared parent of a 3rd yearParent
395Mieko Temple, ASCIStudent
396Anonymous – student affairsStaff
397Learn by being responsibleStudent
399Anonymous, OCOBFaculty

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