The Cal Poly P has been around for almost a century at Cal Poly, overlooking the campus and city of San Luis Obispo.
Safety concerns prompted the university to temporarily close the P while members of the University Union Advisory Board (UUAB) of Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) allocated $100,000 to fund the first major renovation of the P since 1997, according to UUAB chair Sevelyn Van Ronk.
“The students that serve on the UUAB saw a campus need to restore this iconic symbol to ensure that the campus tradition can continue in a safe manner,” Van Ronk said.
On July 9, 2015, a reconstruction project began on the P in order to improve access and movement around the structure.
“The Cal Poly P and various trails leading up to this important campus landmark had erosion damage,” Van Ronk said. “This created potentially unsafe conditions for students who decorated the P, and facility maintenance staff who maintain the P.”
Construction involved rerouting 900 feet of trail and taking corrective measures at its base.
The California Conservation Corps workers have come to reconstruct the P as well as divert water from the upper portion of the hillside to prevent further erosion, Associate Executive Director of ASI Dwayne Brummett said.
“Work began on rehabbing the trails that go up to P in order to create more mature entrances so that people aren’t driving any vehicles up there,” Brummett said. “Also, they are repairing the P itself and trying to retain the walls around the P.”
None of these renovations would taken place had the rivalry between Cal Poly, previously a four-year polytechnic high school, and San Luis Obispo High not occurred. Several large stone H letters, standing for High, used to surround San Luis Obispo. In response, Cal Poly students changed the H to P. After a bit of back-and-forth, Cal Poly focused on preserving the P overlooking campus. It has been there ever since.
In 1921, Cal Poly students filled in the rock outline P with calcium hydroxide and powdered lime to further maintain the P.
The P has also been used to represent various events and clubs at Cal Poly. It has been altered, with the use of white bed sheets twisted into letters, to represent the letters of fraternities and sororities. In 1964, the P was changed to GOP and in the 1980s, it was used to spell out “SPRINGSTEEN.”
“I believe that the P stands as an iconic symbol of school spirit for Cal Poly,” Van Ronk said. “Decorating the P and using it to spread messages is a long-standing campus tradition.”
The Cal Poly P will be reopened in the next few weeks before Thanksgiving, Brummett said.
“UUAB has been talking about the best way to create an event to commemorate the finished construction of the P,” Brummett said. “The P will probably be unveiled mid-November at a ribbon-cutting celebration where local folks and students can come and celebrate it.”