A new Instagram account is sharing anonymous posts written by Cal Poly students who have had negative experiences with COVID-19. These posts criticize Cal Poly’s testing centers, isolation policies and the administration’s response to the omicron surge. The account also urges Cal Poly to change their COVID-19 policies.
The account, @covidcalpolyslo, first posted on Jan. 24 and shared their intentions of giving a platform to students’ stories and voicing change to the school.
“We strive to call the administration of our university to both address and act upon the obstacles we face due to the virus,” the post states.
“It started mostly with concern over [COVID-19] policies at Cal Poly and the first few weeks were really chaotic. A lot of people were suffering; a lot of people were getting [COVID-19] and Cal Poly could’ve handled it better,” co-creator of the account and sociology junior Iman Laique said.
“The idea to have an anonymous page was very much inspired by Shades of Cal Poly and we’re hopeful that because it’s anonymous, people are more likely to share,” co-creator of the account and sociology junior Siena Parsons said.
In addition to sharing students’ stories anonymously, the account advocates for changes in Cal Poly’s COVID-19 policies.
These changes in policies include: allowing professors to choose to teach online or in-person for winter and spring quarters, ensuring a virtual or hybrid option for students who cannot come to class because of COVID-19, enforcing weekly testing for all vaccinated and unvaccinated students, increasing diagnostic testing for students and providing N-95 and KN-95 masks to all students.
Laique cited Stanford University as an example for Cal Poly with implementation of weekly testing for students regardless of vaccination status. Chapman University also provides KN95s to on-campus students and allows students to request KN95s on campus, Laique said.
Currently, KN95 masks are only available to employees on Cal Poly’s campus. Surgical masks are available to students in various locations across campus.
The account has 259 followers as of Feb. 20 and there are 14 stories from students posted to the page. Each post talks about a difficult experience the student had with COVID-19 at Cal Poly.
“A few people swiped up on one of the stories that we had posted … and that was really sweet to see because I feel like people don’t really talk about their complaints with how the administration has been handling the surge in [COVID-19] cases,” Parsons said. “It’s nice to feel that it’s not just us who’s concerned.”
Several posts criticize testing on campus and call into question the accuracy of the University Union testing center’s tests.
One student from the Class of 2023 stated in their post that they got tested on campus at the UU during the first week of school and tested at the Veteran Hall off campus on the same day just in case. The student thought they were negative since Cal Poly did not contact them, but a few days later they received a positive test from the Veteran Hall.
“I felt terrible that I was supposed to be home quarantined that first week,” the student wrote. “I am glad I got tested off campus because I could have been exposing people unknowingly for the whole time I was contagious.”
The UU saliva tests were developed by faculty at Cal Poly. Cal Poly has said that the tests are highly accurate. The device collects the exact amount of saliva needed for the tests, so they can run more efficiently.
There are also many posts that detail how isolating it is to deal with COVID-19 as a Cal Poly student. Another student from the Class of 2023, who lives off-campus and chose to isolate in a hotel to protect their roommates, stated that they had to pay for the hotel themselves without help from the school.
“When I tested positive, I felt very alone,” the post reads. “I had to bike to my hotel (two miles away) because I had no other way of transporting myself. I fell behind in my classes and I’m still struggling to catch up.”
At the beginning of the quarter, Cal Poly began housing COVID-19 positive students living on-campus in hotels to isolate. This measure was taken after isolation beds in Poly Canyon Village and Cerro Vista filled up. Cal Poly also offered gift cards to the University Store to students as an incentive to move home for their quarantine period.
The idea for the account came from a sociology class creators Laique and Parsons are currently taking with Professor Ryan Alaniz. The social change class allowed them to receive feedback from Professor Alaniz and solidify exactly how Laique and Parsons wanted to take action.
“We don’t want that [it started from a class] to take away from the legitimacy of what we’re trying to do because we do care about this issue,” Parsons said.
The submission form states that they “would like to hear some of your personal experiences with COVID at Cal Poly and your thoughts about [the] administrative response.”
Parsons and Laique said they are also currently working on an email template with more statistics and data to include in their Linktree. They think the email template could be used by students and faculty to send to the administration to further the account’s goals of COVID-19 policy change on Cal Poly’s campus.
“This isn’t something that should be negotiable –– our health and well being,” Laique said.
Correction Feb. 21: Siena Parsons’ name was updated to the correct spelling.