Students and administration discuss campus climate

Cal Poly Pomona hosted a second town hall meeting surrounding the topic of diversity and inclusivity on Nov. 21 in the Bronco Student Center, Ursa Minor, as a follow-up to the Oct. 23 town hall meeting. 

Nicole Butts, recently appointed interim presidential associate for diversity, inclusion and campus climate, facilitated the meeting in conjunction with Reginald Blaylock, interim presidential associate for student affairs partnerships and senior strategist. 

Butts acknowledged that the panel speakers for the last town hall meeting were not prepared to answer all of students’ questions “because we didn’t have all of the right people in the room to answer some of those questions.” 

This time, the room was packed with roughly 40 faculty, staff and administration members who were there to field questions as it related to their areas of expertise. 

Among those present were Eileen Sullivan, interim vice president for student affairs and Sylvia Alva, provost and vice president for academic affairs, who both hosted the last town hall, as well as Police Chief Dario Robinson and Susan Hua, interim assistant vice president for the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC). President Soraya M. Coley was notably absent from the meeting because her husband had surgery that day and she could not attend. 

Hua spoke first to give insight to the processes the OIEC procedure for investigations, which are governed by the California State University Executive Order. “It’s mandated by the chancellor’s office that applies to all 23 campuses in the CSU,” she said.

Reginald Blaylock leads the discussion among students, faculty and administrators regarding inclusivity issues on campus.
Georgia Valdes | The Poly Post

Jayla Littlejohn, whom The Poly Post interviewed for the second “My Story Matters” series, asked Hua what the process is if a student feels their safety is being endangered. 

“Any student who comes in and says that they feel that their life is being endangered, or their physical safety or even emotional safety, we unpack that, so that I can get them immediate help to any of our other campus partners,” Hua said.

The topics of discussion ranged from issues of racial discrimination and accessibility resources for disabled students, to the hierarchy among administration and students not feeling welcome in various spaces around campus. 

Another topic that recurred throughout the conversation was the Student Services Building (SSB) and how its setup is not conducive to the core value of diversity of inclusivity. Because student employees do not have key card access to the building, they are often questioned by staff and administration about their presence. Butts confirmed that over the summer, all of the employees in the SSB took training on “implicit bias” and understanding what offices are in that building so they can “understand the different people utilizing the space.”

Students questioned why staff and faculty members who they have complained about have not experienced consequences for their actions. “There’s always an immediate need to quickly resolve and address an issue, and then to assist, coach, help people find a different way, change what it is that they’re doing that needs to change,” Alva said.

Butts added that the majority of faculty and staff on campus are unionized, which adds to the complexities of the disciplinary process, giving them a level of protection. According to Alva, this means employees enter into a “collective bargaining agreement which lays out a set of steps for review and consideration of the faculty’s performance.” The contract also touches on disciplinary action protocol, with the main goal of resolving issues and coming up with a solution. 

Alva did not mention what type of acts are grounds for termination of an employee. 

Third-year chemical engineering student Usiomo Ujadughele, who also contributed to The Poly Post’s “My Story Matters” series, asked whether any of the faculty in the room could name CPP’s six core values. Not one person raised their hand. “I definitely think that’s something we should look into and kind of internalize as a community … I do not believe that anyone can lead the academic vision without knowing those things,” Ujadughele said.

Several minutes after Ujadughele asked the question, Associate Provost Sep Eskandari named the values. It was unclear why he did not answer when the question was first posed. He said he knew them by heart, as he was involved in the “three-year planning process” of the six core values. Notably, when reciting the values, he repeated one of them twice, thus only naming five of the six core values. 

Several students have called for President Coley to directly and publicly denounce racism and  discrimination on campus to make it clear that it will not be tolerated, as many felt she has been silent on the issue. 

“The president hasn’t been silent, I just don’t know that the president has said it the way you want to hear it, and I respect that. So we’re working through that,” Butts said. 

Toward the end of the meeting, Butts asked students whether this town hall was any more helpful than the previous meeting. The majority of students said no, stating that the answers they were being given were confusing and not concise. A few students felt that their questions were better answered compared to the last town hall meeting. 

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