Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo is trying to improve the way it handles diversity and inclusion.
On Tuesday afternoon, students participating in WOW, or Week of Welcome, attended a new seminar.
Dozens of Cal Poly freshmen packed into the university’s Chumash Auditorium Tuesday, to learn more about ways to make fellow students and staff feel more included on campus.
Students were asked to share within their groups things like how they identify themselves and describing a time they felt excluded from a group.
Jamie Patton, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, says this isn’t the first time these students have been asked to reflect on these topics.
"Beyond Week of Welcome, we started this process even during Open House, we had the conversation during SLO Days, so it’s not just about this one place and time, it’s about the experience they’re going to get across the next four to five years," Patton said.
While many believe these workshops come after the intense backlash the university faced for how they handled an incident involving blackface last school year, Patton says many of these trainings were already in the works.
"It’s not just about this WOW Week and it’s not just the first time, we’ve always touched on diversity and inclusion in different ways through Week of Welcome. We really took a holistic approach last year and well before I was hired to say, ‘How can we intentionally onboard our students and let them know what is our expectation in regards to diversity and inclusion?’" he explained.
Incoming freshmen say they heard about last year’s racial divides before they got to campus.
"Fraternities is something I want to be a part of and it’s something I was very worried that because of one person had messed up, I wouldn’t be able to participate in the super fun activities," said freshman James Bert.
"I had heard of the recent issues concerning Cal Poly before I got here, but I know they were trying to make an effort to make diversity a more prominent aspect of the campus," said freshman Suzanna Ramzi.
Despite this recent push to educate students on inclusion and diversity, Patton says the school still has a long way to go.
"We have a ways to go but every year we get a chance to change the culture and shape the experience of our students," he said.
Patton tells us it’s still too soon to tell how diverse this incoming class of freshmen is. The first day of school for these students is on Thursday.