Cal Poly looks to mandate cultural awareness training

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has taken another step toward implementing student diversity demands, releasing an updated plan that includes mandatory cultural sensitivity training and new diversity-related curriculum requirements.

The new “Diversity and Inclusivity Action Plan” comes amid intensifying criticism from SLO Solidarity, a student activist group that issued a 41-point ultimatum in November demanding action on a wide variety of diversity initiatives.

In March, SLO Solidarity wrote an open letter to Mustang News criticizing the university for moving too slowly on its demands.

“SLO Solidarity remains committed to envisioning and working towards a more diverse, inclusive and equitable Cal Poly,” they wrote. “Sadly, without an action plan ingrained with substance and accountability, the Cal Poly administration may not share our vision.”

The newly-released plan is an updated version of a draft that was released two months ago, and goes into greater detail regarding how the school expects to accomplish the goals outlined in the earlier plan, though Interim Executive Director of the Office of University Diversity and Inclusivity Jean DeCosta noted in an email to the campus community that it is still subject to further revision.

[RELATED: Cal Poly announces diversity initiatives, excludes ‘Queer Studies’]

“This is a working document, reflecting the many large and small efforts being done across the Cal Poly campus to bring about meaningful and systemic change,” DeCosta wrote. “We must all own the diversity and inclusivity imperative and work together to address systemic bias, and create the kind of campus reflecting our values of respect and inclusion across the spectrum of differences.”

DeCosta also outlined the process by which the plan was devised, saying a “senior university leader” was assigned to each “theme” or “unit of action,” but that the university is still seeking additional input from other groups.

One of the major changes envisioned in the action plan involves mandatory “cultural sensitivity training” for all students (in addition to the alcohol and sexual assault education courses they are already required to take), along with supplemental trainings for Student Government and Greek life leaders.

Other initiatives include increasing “recruitment efforts of faculty and staff of color”, continuing to “engage in strategic recruitment of underrepresented students and strengthen outreach to both community colleges and high schools,” and improving diversity and inclusion training for housing staff, faculty, and other university employees.

In addition, the plan outlines a goal to “hire additional tenure track faculty to increase expertise in diversity” and to hire a “program director to provide diversity and inclusivity training and program support to faculty, staff, departments, and campus programs.”

Perhaps the most ambitious proposal, though, calls for the inclusion of “new diversity related curriculum/requirements” in the school’s General Education curriculum. The plan does not include specific details about the potential new courses apart from noting that a “Queer Studies Minor” is currently being considered, but says that faculty will undergo a “training/education course” to learn strategies for devising diversity-related content.

The next update to the plan is scheduled for release in the summer of 2016.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @elias_atienza