— Jeffrey D. Armstrong, President
This spring, Cal Poly spent quite a bit of time in the news for reasons that we are certainly not proud of. As I was engaged in working through this turbulent situation as a Cal Poly Alumnus, a longtime member of this community, and most directly as Cal Poly’s Director of Admissions, I felt the need to reach out to our prospective students and their parents about what I was witnessing.
I shared not just the hurt and outrage I felt at the situation, but also my reasons for optimism. Cal Poly has long been known as a university of action in the classroom. It is a university that prides itself on actively engaging students in their learning. We are a campus filled with students who are intelligent and innovative, and who are future leaders in their industry.
Right now, in the midst of a tumultuous experience, I see a campus community that is ready to take that engagement outside of the classroom. Our students are engaged in a conversation with an impact that goes far beyond the boundaries of this campus. We are determined to not allow intolerance to define who we are or who we will be. We are committed to ensuring this environment is one where any student, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, orientation or socio-economic status can feel safe. This is a community that is determined to cultivate a climate that allows every member of the Mustang family to truly embrace their experience and be proud of the place we call home.
Being the son of two Cal Poly alumni, I have been here for so many of the ups and downs that this campus has faced. What is unique about the difficult situation we are in right now is the response from our current students, faculty and staff.
This difference is the level of activism that is reaching a level of urgency I haven’t seen here before. Students of color and their allies are standing strong and firm, determined to have a place that they feel is their own. Faculty and staff are standing in support, saying “enough is enough.” Administrators are on board, acknowledging that we have to do more than what we’ve ever done before.
And now, we have begun to take the next steps down that path, putting action behind the words in support of a more inclusive campus. Our community is now actively examining and acknowledging both who we are and who we want to be.
For every bit of distress that has been felt in this experience, I believe without a doubt that we will come out of this as a better university. I believe that our alumni will be proud of the work being done here, and the example that Cal Poly sets in cultivating an inclusive environment. As alumni, I hope you will become a part of the conversation and action that will help make Cal Poly an even stronger community.
Terrance Harris (Psychology ’03, M.A. Education, ’06) is director of admissions and operations at Cal Poly.