Chase Dean is a political science senior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Cal Poly has carefully mastered the charade of hiding the grotesque flaws within the very fibers of the institution. To the average student, it may appear to be the happiest university in America. However, upon closer inspection, the plethora of embedded issues become glaringly obvious. Among these unspoken and often diverted topics is the overt classism that fuels our university.
The California State University’s (CSU) official mission statement promises “to encourage and provide access to an excellent education to all who are prepared for and wish to participate in collegiate study.” Cal Poly fails to uphold these statewide values because admittance often hinges on the condition that a student originates from a high-income bracket and the resources that bracket provides.
According to Mustang News, “Cal Poly has limited levels of access for low-income families when compared to other colleges in California.” Additionally, Mustang News found that “with approximately 67 percent of its class of 2013 coming from families within the top 20 percent, Cal Poly has the largest proportion of students within this income bracket among Californian public universities and the third largest among selective public universities nationwide.”
The lack of socioeconomic diversity can be alarming, but it is no surprise given the high cost of living and the limited support for students from low-income backgrounds.
One of the most concerning issues that often goes overlooked at Cal Poly is food insecurity and student homelessness. According to the LA Times, a 2016 study found “about one in 10 of California State University’s 460,000 students is homeless, and one in five doesn’t have steady access to enough food.”
Cal Poly is fortunate to have programs such as the Cal Poly Hunger program, which provides the food pantry and the Cal Poly Cares program run through the Dean of Students Office. However, these programs lack longevity. For example, the Cal Poly Cares program is completely donor-funded, leaving it vulnerable to the status of local, state and federal economies. In the event of a recession, more students will utilize the program and less donors will give due to their own fiscal constraints.
In addition, the Cal Poly Cares program continues to struggle with optimizing the cases it chooses to aid. For instance, I know of a student without health insurance who applied for financial support to help pay for an ultrasound that would determine if she had a breast tumor. Unfortunately, she was denied help even though the amount she requested was far below the typical gift that Cal Poly Cares allocates. This program needs to be re-evaluated and restructured to make it resilient against economic downturn, in addition to redefining its values of why students are “deserving of assistance.”
Housing and the outrageous rental prices are also primary deterrents for prospective students. In recent years, campus administrators have been pushing to expand mandatory on-campus housing for students beyond their first year. While there are some benefits of on-campus living, the execution is troublesome.
As on-campus housing continues to expand, the newly developed buildings will likely cost more for students than the existing dormitories, essentially segregating buildings by socioeconomic status. This practice may first be observed when yakʔityutyu officially opens Fall 2018.
According to an e-mail from Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs and Executive Director of University Housing Jo Campbell, the prices for yakʔityutyu have yet to be determined, but it is likely they will recommend higher costs than existing dorms.
As the cost of rent continues to rise in San Luis Obispo, low-income students will remain unaccommodated and disadvantaged. If Cal Poly seeks to successfully expand on-campus housing without fiscally hurting their low-income students, they should invest in affordable on-campus housing that rivals much of the current San Luis Obispo housing market.
The cost of college education continues to skyrocket each year, a trend that the CSU system has not avoided. Last year alone, students had a tuition increase of $270 and another is potentially looming just around the corner. In addition to the price of living, tuition is a tremendous barrier for many students and with the ever-increasing tuition hikes, Cal Poly continues to edge ever closer to becoming an unaffordable institution. As tuition continues to increase, students, parents and administrators will now, more than ever, need to actively oppose any further propositions to use tuition hikes as a solution to
Classism is strong and thriving at our university. We must hold administrators and other members of the community accountable. Our school should be an affordable institution that is accessible to all students no matter their background. If students and administrators allow classism to persist any longer, I have no doubt Cal Poly will become a college solely for wealthy elites, crippling all potential for an intersectional and holistic community.
Students, regardless of socioeconomic status, must speak up and take a stand. You are not in the wrong for being upper-class. You are in the wrong for being silent in the face of injustices, such as classism, that affect your fellow students.