Cal Poly Triota and Queer Student Union (QSU) hosted the first ever “Queer Town Hall,” in a Q&A format with the four Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) presidential candidates Monday.
The meeting began with opening statements from the candidates, agricultural sciences junior Riley Nilsen, biomedical engineering junior Davis Negrete, business administration sophomore Archie Mitchell and political science junior Chase Dean. The discussion, moderated by political science sophomore Katie Ettl, allowed each candidate one minute to respond to a question with a 30-second rebuttal, if the candidate had one.
Question topics included involvement in the queer community, faculty resignation within the cross cultural center, education about queer studies, gender-neutral bathrooms, economic and racial imbalances, mental illness, sexual assault and the steps candidates would take to make Cal Poly’s campus more inclusive.
Representing the queer community
Negrete said he would go to the student groups prior to meeting with a university official or administrator to make sure he voices the right opinion of the students.
“I’d like to not put words in people’s mouths,” Negrete said.
Mitchell said “communication would be the biggest aspect of it.” He would want to give those individuals platforms to voice their opinions.
Dean said leaving the office and attending meetings of the under-represented groups would be a way to receive their input. He also said acknowledging protests as a valid way to express an opinion would bring more recognition to marginalized voices.
Nilsen said her close friendships within the queer community would continuously leverage her support for them if elected.
“I know that I will always keep those friends in mind when talking about an issue like that,” she said.
Participation and enrollment in diverse studies
Nilsen is taking Survey of Indigenous Studies (ES 241), her second class in ethnic studies. In regard to having more classes focused on women’s and gender studies and ethnic studies within the USCP requirement, Nilsen said she would look toward working with the academic senate to redefine the requirements for USCP. Nilsen was the first to point out that the regulations have not been reviewed since the late ‘90s.
“The time is now to work with the academic senate and redefine what those requirements are,” Nilsen said.
Mitchell said he has neither taken a women’s and gender studies class nor an ethnic studies class. However, he said that both are important components to understanding the people he would represent.
“I think one of the biggest keys towards inclusivity is understanding,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell added that he would advocate for a queer studies minor — which Cal Poly has already added to its 2017-19 catalog.
Dean has taken an introductory ethnic studies course, and this quarter he’s enrolled in Survey of Latino/a Studies (ES 243)and Native American Cultural Images (ES 321). Like Nilsen, he would like to see the USCP requirements revised. Furthermore, he would like to see the work of ethnic studies’ professors acknowledged more frequently.
In regards to taking ethnic studies courses, Dean said students “need to be taking classes that are actually presenting the material how it should be presented.”
Dean also nodded to the ethnic studies faculty and their commitment to their publications.
“I think we need to acknowledge the hard work the ethnic studies faculty does; I heard that a professor is publishing three times as much as other people, but not getting the classes they want,” Dean said.
Negrete would like to see the USCP requirements focused more on ethnic studies or women’s and gender studies as well.
Negrete said he has not taken a women’s and gender studies or ethnic studies class, in part because his major does not offer any free electives.
Keeping the Cross Cultural Center afloat
Within the past year, 100 percent of the Cross Cultural Center’s faculty left, according to Ettl. One of the questions asked was how to prevent the Cross Cultural Center from diminishing.
Each candidate addressed the severity of the issue, with Dean referencing a specific action he took to move toward hiring more faculty of color.
Recently, he wrote an endorsement for a resolution with the academic senate to have third party “x” interviews for faculty of color. He wants to make sure that faculty feel comfortable in their positions after hearing about micro-aggressions against them on campus.
Mitchell said he’s not sure how he would fix the problem, but he sees it as a huge issue.
“I think the staff at the university should be representative of the students,” he said.
Nilsen said the fear of the Cross Cultural Center’s presence leaving campus raises a “huge red flag” for her. She said there are opportunities within ASI for students to feel more incorporated, especially with the new added space to the Cross Cultural Center.
Negrete referenced his experience working in the multicultural center, and how the faculty he worked with felt they had little support from the administration. The support and connection is something that Negrete sees lacking, and would make it a point to address.
In the remaining 30 minutes, audience members had the opportunity to ask the ASI presidential candidates questions on their concerns.
After the discussion concluded, both the QSU and Triota Cal Poly decided to endorse Chase Dean for ASI President.
The QSU is a campus club for queer identifying students to participate in “activism, community building, and social programming,” according to its Facebook page. Triota Cal Poly is the “safe space for expressing feminism in all of its various styles” on Cal Poly’s campus.
To watch the entire Q&A, visit the Queer Student Union Facebook page here.