The changing face of Cal Poly

According to the Cal Poly Fall 2012 Fact Book, 61.8 percent of undergraduates are white — although that is a decrease from 2008, when the same report said 65.2 percent were white.

According to the Cal Poly Fall 2012 Fact Book, 61.8 percent of undergraduates are white, a decrease from 2008, when the same report said 65.2 percent were white.

Amanda Margozzi
amandamargozzi.md@gmail.com

The total number of applications submitted to Cal Poly reached an all-time high in Fall 2012. There were 45,796 transfer and first-time freshman applications, which was an increase of 10.9 percent from the previous year, according to the Cal Poly Fall 2012 Fact Book.

With the number of enrolled freshmen reaching an all-time high of 4,316 and the number of new transfer students reaching 808 in Fall 2011, University Housing needed to accommodate the largest incoming class of students in Cal Poly’s history.

Associate Director of Housing Carole Schaffer said 210 rooms in the Sierra Madre and Yosemite communities were converted into triple occupancy rooms in Fall 2011. The total number of triple rooms in the red brick dorms outnumbers the amount of double rooms.

“In the red bricks, we currently have 368 triple rooms and 262 double rooms,” Schaffer said.

First Year Housing Assignment Coordinator Tracy Kashima said 50 percent of Cal Poly’s freshman housing is now triple rooms spread through all the residence halls. However, there is no current plan to increase the amount of triples as the number of students continues to grow each year.

Schaffer said a housing market study was completed in the fall and the results supporting additional housing were promising. On-campus housing, including Poly Canyon Village and the Cerro Vista apartments, are at high capacity and there were 940 more underclassmen than the campus could hold in 2011.

“University Housing is always committed to provide on-campus housing for as many students as possible,” Schaffer said.

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong is one of the proponents for additional housing. However, increasing the diversity of admitted students is an equally high priority for Armstrong currently.

In the past year, Armstrong has hired two new people into admissions to pull in diversity as well as an executive director of diversity and inclusivity. The position is supported by the Student Success Fee that was implemented in January.

According to the Cal Poly Fall 2012 Fact Book, 61.8 percent of undergraduates are white. Although there has been a gradual decrease since Fall 2008 when more than 65.2 percent of undergraduate students were white, it is clear that diversity is an issue at Cal Poly.

“Cal Poly was more diverse in the 1960s than it is now,” coordinator of multicultural programs and services Erin Echols said. “A lot of this had to do with the implementation of Proposition 209.”

In 1996, Prop 209 amended the state constitution to prohibit state government institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity specifically in the area of public education. It was implemented in hopes of increasing diversity, however, diversity at Cal Poly decreased.

“We see diversity in the applications we receive, but we do not in the acceptances,” Echols said. “This is because Cal Poly has a reputation for being white and has historically been one of the least diverse universities.”

Echols said non-white prospective students experience culture shock when they come to visit the campus for events such as Open House. More than 70 percent of the faculty and staff are white and more than 60 percent of the students are white.

“Even white people from places like the Bay Area and Los Angeles feel a culture shock when they come here because of how white it is,” Echols said.

Cal Poly continues to implement studies to figure out what is going wrong with diversity on campus. The MultiCultural Center is also dedicated to providing cultural programs to address the needs of potential incoming students.

Cal Poly hosted PolyCultural Weekend on April 5 to 7 for admitted students to experience what it would be like if they were to attend. Twenty-three cultural clubs were represented and it was a chance for the prospective students to learn about the organizations available to them.

In the past, 80 percent of students who attended the weekend accepted Cal Poly afterwards, according to Echols.

  • Dana

    If Cal Poly has a diversity problem being 61.8% white, do examples such as UC Berkeley and UC Irvine also have a problem because their student body profile is 55% and 57% Asian respectively? If so, what’s being done at those campuses to correct this.

    The ethnic profile of Cal Poly’s student body roughly mirrors the state of California. UCLA, Cal, Davis, UCI, UCSD and most others in the State can’t make this claim. Therefore, where does the problem exist if indeed there is a problem?

    Also, what does diversity mean? Using Cal and UCI as examples, it would appear diversity is defined as any campus where the majority is anything but white.

    How interesting.

  • Carol

    Dana, at Cal, the Asian population is 43% Asian and 33% White respectively. White students count for a big percentage of the student population, so I think your notion that these campuses are PREDOMINATELY Asian is wrong. http://opa.berkeley.edu/statistics/UndergraduateProfile.pdf

    I grant that the majority of these campuses are anything but white but that is because there is a more diverse student profile — at Cal, African Americans account for 4%, however when compared to Poly where it is less than 1%, there is a huge difference. Likewise, the student population at UCI is 50% Asian and ~30% White. (At Poly it is ~11% Asian, and ~62% White)

    When we’re talking about diversity, we’re talking about not only race, but culture and socio-economic status. At Cal, 25% of the student population are first generation college students. How much do you think it is at Cal Poly?

  • Melissa

    What I don’t understand is this. They say they want everyone to be equal. Well then admit people based on their merits and leave race out of the application process entirely. Then people will literally be blind to the race of the person on paper. Wouldn’t that fix things more than just bringing someone in due to their race instead of their merits?

  • Sean

    I agree with Melissa. A few philosophy professors and students have written research papers exactly on this topic of “diversity”. Cal Poly policies seems to lack a specific definition for diversity, and a Cal Poly philosophy professor’s recent paper points out this flaw. He gives a possible option of defining diversity to mean intellectual diversity, an ability to produce fruitful engagement and discussion among students in the class room and on campus. But since when did these discussions need to hinge so deeply upon race? For example, selection of new department professors. If we should say that an African American applicant can relate in fruitful discussion to African American students and provide a “comforting environment” for these students, then why couldn’t a short, white female professor provide enlightening discussions to short students and provide a welcoming environment to other short people on campus. Also, since when has Cal Poly academia been blocked or infringed by lack of diversity? As far as I can see, Cal Poly still provides one of the best educations in the nation for engineering and agriculture. Amanda, please try to research this specific definition of “diversity” along with “inclusivity” in your next article. It’s also nice to know that our student success fee is going toward making the campus diverse and not wholely toward providing more class availability for students, and keeping current department professors employed (which I believe is what most of us wanted from it).

  • Amanda

    Sean,
    As a reporter, I am to refrain from incorporating my own personal opinion on the matter of diversity on Cal Poly’s campus into the article. In regards to the student success fee, I am merely communicating the facts that I was given from the MultiCultural center on campus. I completely respect your opinions and response and I would encourage you to talk to Erin Echols, the coordinator of multicultural programs and services, if you would like more information. Diversity does refer to Cal Poly’s predominantly white campus and how there are low percentages of other races. Whether or not this is racist is up for the reader to decide.
    -Amanda