David Hogg speaks with Cal Poly students at the Student Leadership Institute on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. Credit: Bobby Groth | Mustang News

At Cal Poly’s 2022 Student Leadership Institute on Friday, Oct. 14, co-founder of March for Our Lives David Hogg met with students and staff to discuss the role students play in activism.. Hogg, now 22 years old, is a survivor of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida — an event that transformed him into a national gun control activist.

“Death is the ultimate infringement on all of our rights,” Hogg told students.

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Video by Ethan Telles

The Leadership Institute kicked off in the University Union, where students worked to identify what they believed to be preventing diversity and inclusion on campus. The conversation was open to all, giving anyone the opportunity to contribute to conversations and leave with valuable insight on how to better guide their communities on campus.

Student attendees said they felt there is minimal effort on behalf of the Cal Poly Corporation to amend disparities for students of underrepresented groups on campus. 

After this conversation, attendees moved to the Student Moderated Interview between ASI President Gracie Babatola and David Hogg. This interview was centered on the student body’s prominent issues on campus regarding equal access and representation.

Students at the conference discussed that if change is going to happen, it needs to happen fast because there is limited time students spend on campus pursuing their degrees. Attendees also repeatedly discussed a lack of minority representation in the student body  as an underlying cause of many campus-related disparities;Babatola heavily participated in this aspect of the conversation.

“Representation is tied to education,” Babatola said. “Under the surface, as an institution, we have less than 2% Black students on campus.”

Hogg also urged student leaders to reflect on the positive changes they have made during their time on campus. After describing his personal struggle as an advocate after having faced doubt from the public and a lack of support from the “adults failing to do their job to protect us [students],” he discussed the importance of recognizing success in advocacy. 

 “Ultimately, you can’t get somewhere if you don’t know what it looks like to win,” Hogg said.

The event concluded with a meet-and-greet for students to talk with Hogg, where the university provided catered snacks and an opportunity to reflect with one another and Hogg  on their experience at the event. 

Some students expressed praise, mentioning that they found relevance in what Hogg discussed.

“I liked how he held gun owners responsible,” political science junior Tyler Coari said.

Hogg referred to his work as an advocate for protection against gun violence as a marathon instead of a race. With widespread opposition to his work nationwide, Hogg described how he must maintain this mentality to preserve his mental health and prevent burnout. He urged attendees, however, to join him in his marathon.

“I believe that if we can land the man on the moon, if we can do all the great things that we have done by working together as Americans, that we also can stop our damn kids from getting shot in schools,” Hogg said. “Will you join your friends in the community in that fight to be the change you wish to see?”