Last Word

Free Speech in an Inclusive Community

Photo by Jay Thompson

Like many universities across our nation these past few months, Cal Poly has been engaged in conversations about diversity and free speech, and about creating a campus climate where everyone feels welcome and included, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, orientation or opinions.

I couldn’t be more proud of Cal Poly students. They understand they have a right to express themselves. But when confronted with speech that is hateful, intolerant and offensive, we also have the right and the responsibility to stand up and declare that Cal Poly is no place for hate. We should be engaging in respectful and inclusive conversation and debate every day — the very essence of free speech.

It is our collective responsibility to prepare our students for the world of the future through exposure to a diverse array of cultures, people, ideas and viewpoints. Our top three priorities laid out in Vision 2022 are to enhance student, faculty and staff success; to improve and enhance diversity, climate and inclusivity on campus; and to ensure the institution’s financial future. Each one of these imperatives depends on the other, and Cal Poly will only be successful if we make significant progress on all three.

For me, a diverse and welcoming campus climate is not about being tolerant — it’s about celebrating our differences. Every different voice, face, religion, view and culture on our campus makes us that much richer, and that much more like California and the world in which we live.

When it comes to improving our campus climate and increasing diversity, we’ve made progress in recent years. In 2013 we created the Office of University Diversity and Inclusivity to address these issues, and today the executive director of that office reports directly to me. We’ve re-established relationships with the Native American community, particularly Chumash tribal leaders. We’ve created the Cal Poly Scholars program providing scholarships and academic support for primarily underrepresented, low-income and first-generation students.

These are just a few of the improvements we have made, but there is always more to do. We will continue to focus on our Vision 2022 priorities. We will continue to work to increase the diversity of faculty, staff and our student body. We will strive to make Cal Poly a place where everyone feels welcome and supported. And we will continue to examine our curriculum to ensure that our students are being prepared for the increasingly complex, global and diverse world beyond Cal Poly.

We look forward to the engagement of every member of the Cal Poly community — including you — as we seek continuous improvement on this critical issue.


Jeffrey D. Armstrong

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