Two student-organized protests took place last week during U-hour on Tuesday and Thursday as a direct response to administration inaction regarding multiple alleged discrimination and racial incidents at Cal Poly Pomona.
The first protest, an Awareness March, occurred Tuesday, Nov. 19, and was hosted by the Gender, Ethnics and Multicultural Studies (GEMS) club.
The second protest, the Red Shoe Protest, occurred Thursday, Nov. 21, and was organized by Usiomo Ujadughele, a third-year chemical engineering student and Jayla Littlejohn, a second-year psychology major. Both are student leaders who alleged they have personally faced discrimination on campus.
“The purpose of the march is to bring awareness for these issues that have long been ignored and to make the school and everyone in it accountable for their actions,” said Adalilian Franco, a third-year gender, ethnics and multicultural studies (GEMS) student.
The march began in front of Building 6, the College of Education and Integrative Studies, and ended in front of Building 121, the Student Services Building (SSB).
“I think that social movements are a great way to demonstrate civil rights and that racial profiling is a problem in our society,” said Jessica Safari, a fourth-year sociology student.
Oscar Marin, a fourth-year GEMS student, led the march through the school that ended on the grassy area in front of the SSB.
Protester energy was at an all-time high when Marin opened the floor to students so that they could talk about their experiences.
“Cal Poly has always said ‘This school is a diverse school.’ You see it on slogans, you see it on the logo, you see it all over Cal Poly. But what happens is that they don’t want to see any of this diversity going on,” Marin said.
The protest drew crowds of students and some Associated Students Inc. (ASI) board members as well.
“The sad part is that with situations like the dean’s (who allegedly racially profiled a student) is that it’s easy for him to keep his head down and wait it out two years,” ASI President Pasindu Senaratne said.
“In his position, it’s pretty easy to do that, same with a lot of the foundation staff or supervisors that have called out students during work. It’s easy for them to keep their head down and move forward. But you have first-years now in this protest, you have second-years in this protest. You have students (who) are graduating and students (who) aren’t. So, they’ll continue this towards next year, which is the nice part of that.”
Red Shoe Protest
The second protest, the Red Shoe Protest, was organized to increase awareness of these racial discrimination and harassment issues on campus and to show university administration that students will no longer stay silent and will continue to speak up against social injustices.
Before and after the protest, students were selling shirts and pins in front of the African American Student Center.
Many students were also wearing shirts with “The 911” on the back and quotes in the front. These quotes are from stories of discrimination that are posted on an anonymous Instagram account @the9hundred11.
An email sent to faculty and students on Nov. 18 by Littlejohn invited the campus community to attend the protest. In the email, Ujadughele’s story was used as only one of the examples of racial profiling happening on campus and is one of the reasons why the protest was held.
“On July 26, 2019, an African American student by the name of Usiomo Ujadughele was racially profiled by the Dean of the College of Education and Integrative Studies,” the email said.
The Poly Post contacted Jeff Passe, the dean of the College of Education and Integrative Studies for a comment; however, he was unable to be reached. Instead, Hend Gilli-Elewy, the associate dean of the College of Education and Integrative Studies made a comment.
“The College of Education and Integrative Studies is deeply committed to the principles of diversity, equity and social justice,” Gilli-Elewy said. “These principles stand at the heart of what we do in our classrooms, research and engagement with communities. We acknowledge and express genuine support for the students’ efforts to raise awareness of these values and to voice their concerns.”
While walking through the campus, the chants and protests could be heard echoing through the school. The level of emotion that these students put into the protest could be felt. Their voices were in sync as they chanted “no justice, no peace,” “Our stories have been told, your oppression’s getting old” and “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.”
“This is an opportunity for students to use their voice, to speak out on the different things that are going on this campus,” Littlejohn said.
“Speak out on the different instances of racial profiling, of discrimination, of hate speech, of violence taken against black students on this campus.”
At the protest, Ujadughele requested the university to come out with a direct statement to acknowledge that it is listening to the students and to respond to the alleged incidents regarding racial harassment, discrimination and profiling.
A university-wide email sent by the Office of the President Nov. 18 states, “As campus leaders, we are committed to working with all of you towards the goal of making our inclusive values more evident in our words and actions…. We respect and support our students as they actively demonstrate their collective commitment to civic engagement and social responsibility.”
Students have conflicing opinions regarding President Soroya M. Coley’s statement.
“I’m no longer going to peel the scab off my wound to let you know exactly what it is I’m feeling,” Ujadughele said. “I’m no longer going to allow you to open up these fake spaces to ask what I need, when you know what I need, you’ve heard what I need. I’m no longer going to allow you to make me teach you how to treat me. You should know how to do that.”
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