As part of Cal Poly’s $243,000 partnership with Diversity Specialist Damon Williams and his Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership and Social Innovation Team, the Cal Poly Experience (CPX) campaign was released Feb. 28. The first stage of the new diversity initiative includes listening sessions on March 12-14.
About 50 sessions were scheduled and are based on different student populations with the goal of creating meaningful dialogues within small group discussions. During the hour-long sessions, students are given three big questions, then asked to provide written responses for the researchers to collect. Then, the questions are discussed within the group.
Students are asked what they think is going well, major challenges they face and recommendations they have related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
While the sessions are confidential, Mustang News spoke with students who attended the listening sessions and asked about their experiences at the sessions.
Mathematics sophomore Kenji Kurose, who is on the Student Diversity Advisory Committee (SDAC) and also a student assistant for CPX, attended both the general student and Latinx sessions. He said he felt breaking up the listening sessions into population groups was very effective.
“It was a lot easier to talk for me personally in [the Latinx] environment,” Kurose said. “I think that’s what’s great about the CPX setup because they do have individual groups for Black students, for Latinx students, for Asian students and it makes it easier to open up and to share.”
Business administration freshman Lydia Dasari said that while there were many good thoughts and suggestions thrown out during the sessions, one of the things she thinks will really make a difference is making a change within the curriculum.
“I think one of the recommendations that could actually do something is mandatory ethnic studies or women’s and gender studies [courses],” Dasari said. “I think if that was mandatory and everyone had to take at least one course their freshman year, I think that would change a couple things because yes, we do SLO Days and WOW, but you don’t have to show up to that and you don’t have to pay attention. It should be core curriculum.”
Comparative ethnic studies freshman Manmit Singh Chahal said he saw many diversity issues first-hand when attending Poly President’s Night last quarter. He said the oblivious nature he observed from many students is why changes need to be made.
“You know in one of those movies where you live in a matrix and you have no idea what is going on it’s like, ‘What, racism exists, since when?’” Chahal said. “That’s how the students were sitting in Poly President’s Night and I was just listening to students, thinking, ‘Do you not know the problems on our campus?’ They are just so oblivious to the existence of it.”
The next stage of the diversity initiative is the CPX survey opening April 9 in order for Williams and his team to gather more information about student and faculty experiences. The survey will remain open for four weeks.
Kurose said it is important for students to participate in the survey so their voices can be heard.
“The thing that was difficult about CPX is that it was the week before finals so it is very difficult for students to go out to these sessions,” Kurose said. “I’ve definitely heard a lot of frustration around that, but there will be the survey coming up which will be important for a lot of students to participate in.”
Once the CPX study is complete, Kurose said he hopes Cal Poly takes the information gathered and outlines exactly what they are going to do to change each of the issues students, faculty and staff discuss.
“I think a lot of students are not hopeful around this, but a really great step for Cal Poly would be showing that this was worth something, that CPX was worth something and that they are actually listening to the students,” Kurose said.