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Cal Poly student, staff concerns around COVID safety remain

SLO Days to be held virtually for 2020 summer orientation.
Posted at 7:06 AM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 10:06:37-05

Some Cal Poly students are protesting after what they say was an inadequate response to a petition that circulated earlier this month.

The Poly Protest event was created on a Cal Poly complaints website run by students.

The website, which is not affiliated with the university, states that a petition concerning the lack of COVID-19 safety measures this quarter did not receive an adequate response from the university.

So students planned a walk out or sick out, encouraging students to email their professors and President Jeffrey Armstrong saying they will not be attending class out of respect for other members of the campus community. The website also encourages students to not spend money at university stores.

Cal Poly administrators say they were not aware of the sick out and don’t know how attendance compared to other days because they do not track attendance broadly.

Most of the Cal Poly students we spoke to say they know little to nothing about the walk-out and they feel relatively safe on campus.

"I feel personally pretty safe," said Cal Poly Student, Phillip Way.

"Um yeah I'd say so," said Cal Poly Student, Ashley Homuth.

"Overall, I feel like the campus has done a pretty good job of making sure everyone is getting tested," said Cal Poly Student, Miles McGrath.

"I think they have done a pretty decent job," said Cal Poly Student, Dean Hill.

"I feel like they've been doing a pretty good job," said Cal Poly Student, Samuel Christy. "The facilities to do online learning are there, so I think it's important that we use that and accommodate students that can't be in class, in-person."

On Tuesday the local chapter of the California Faculty Association released the results of a survey that shows many Cal Poly faculty members feel unsafe teaching in-person classes. The results also show faculty members disapprove of President Jeffrey Armstrong's COVID-19 response.

Survey results show more than 84 percent of respondents who chose on their own to hold classes virtually cited concerns about COVID-19 spreading on campus while more than 75 percent said they chose virtual instruction in order to accommodate students who could not attend class in-person.

The survey results also show more than two-thirds of faculty respondents do not approve of Cal Poly administration's response to COVID during this quarter.

The petition signed by more than 3,700 campus community members found that many believe the current COVID-19 outbreak was preventable. Cal Poly is one of the only California state universities to start this term in-person. Cal Poly did not require students to provide a negative COVID test before returning to campus or attending in-person classes at the start of the winter 2022 quarter.

Cal Poly addressed the concerns.

"Virtual classes are not stopping the spread of Omicron at other universities. Being virtual also delays the inevitable testing required to identify and separate those who are infected from those who are not — and delays in confronting that difficult task leads to more spread," said Matt Lazier, Cal Poly State University Media Relations Director.

"Faced with the ever-evolving circumstances of the pandemic, the university has been forced to make a series of difficult decisions, all of which come with risks and potential consequences... The university has comprehensive plans in place to address the pandemic and the Omicron surge. Those plans are being carried out, and they are working," Lazier continued.

President Armstrong sent an email to the campus community last week addressing some of the concerns that have come up during the first month of the winter quarter. He says there is no perfect solution to many of the problems they are facing during the ongoing pandemic, but providing the best education possible remains a top priority.

In that email President Armstrong also addressed the isolation of students at off campus facilities, saying having both on- and off-campus isolation sites has always been a part of their plan and has been endorsed by our county public health officer and infectious disease experts.