Is Cal Poly guilty of segregating students of color into substandard dorms? If so, that would belie the university's claims toward inclusivity and fairness and certainly open Cal Poly up to civil rights violations. The truth, however, may be more complicated than the accusations.
Maybe Cal Poly—a public university designed to affordably educate the populace—has a capitalism problem. You've got to admit, they seem very eager to get students back on campus in expensive dorms with expensive meal plans.
Last month, first-year journalism student Cassandra Garcia penned an op-ed for Cal Poly's Mustang News titled "Cal Poly's modern-day segregation," which asked readers to "imagine living in a dorm where maintenance problems are a constant norm and there is no community center to meet other students. But hey, you're also sharing a bathroom with 11 other people despite it only having two showers, two toilet stalls, and two sinks. On top of it all, you didn't choose which dorm you were placed in since your academic program is what designated you to live there. This is the current problem faced by residents in the North Mountain Residence Halls at Cal Poly."
Ugh. Dorm life sounds like a living hell. I guess if you're trying to strengthen your immune system or overcome your sense of modesty it might be OK, but sharing a bathroom with 11 others? That's a lot of campus dining food poop for two commodes to handle, amirite? I mean, is this college or an episode of The Waltons?
"You don't have to yell. I'm in the bunk above you."
According to Garcia, Poly has placed mostly students of color from the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) in these dorms. EOP is for historically and economically disadvantaged scholars with financial aid, so as far as Cal Poly's concerned, it's doing students like Garcia a favor, but that's not how Garcia and a cadre of other students see it. They claim they're being given separate and unequal facilities while wealthier white students are living in comfort.
Didn't Brown v. Board of Education end this separate but equal jazz? Well, let's break this down. The North Mountain dorms were built in 1952 and look like a cluster of dumpy two-story roadside motels. Compared to the university's newer LEED-certified dorms with "serenity rooms" for relaxation and easy access to campus dining facilities, North Mountain is a real dump. They're also cheaper, for instance, than yakʔitʸutʸu, Cal Poly's new dorm facility that means "our community" in the Chumash language and is pretty, shiny, and modern. It's also the most expensive.
Look, Poly's dorm prices vary. Both the red bricks (aka South Mountain Halls) and those hideous brutalism concrete bunkers (Sierra Madre and Yosemite Residence Halls) suck compared to yakʔitʸutʸu, but you get what you pay for. Are Garcia and other students in the EOP being discriminated against or living in dorms they and their financial aid can afford? Sucky dorms, for sure, but more affordable, right? Can't we all agree capitalism is vicious, ugly, and unfair? But hey, it's what we've got. Study hard, graduate, get a good job, make a bunch of money, donate the money to Cal Poly's EOP program, and create better EOP dorms for future participants. Problem solved, capitalism style!
Of course, not everybody likes capitalism style. Hence, problem created for one Mr. Kody Cava, former Community Programs Coordinator of the SLO Food Bank, whose mission is to provide those in need with nutritious food. Cava used his work email to send out an "open letter" to the SLO Food Bank and others outside the organization that amounted to an anti-capitalist manifesto and excoriation of his (now former) employer and the idea of food banks in general.
Four hours after his bloated and earnest letter's release, Cava was fired for making political statements. Oops!
"No soup for you!"
Cava wrote, "It is tempting to view food banks as some of the most laudable and altruistic nonprofit organizations, if not at least the most benign and unoffending. Who could take issue with giving free food to people who need it? But this simple mission, free food with no questions asked, when unattended by a broader critique of the ills that necessitate a food bank's existence in the first place, comes with a steep price."
What price you ask? Charity and philanthropy are simply ways for the rich to "launder their dirty money," Cava claimed. Food banks rely on donations, so out of fear of "alienating" donors, they are part of the "status quo" that perpetuates a system of poverty instead of endeavoring to overcome it.
Cava's not wrong, just naïve.
He's also called for food banks to refuse donations from "corporate bad actors" who are "known to engage in anti-labor or anti-consumer practices such as union busting, price-fixing, monopolization, [and] labor trafficking," but aren't those donations a small step toward mitigating bad practices?
The goal should be to eliminate the need for food banks, but attacking your employer for trying to raise money to feed more people? I dunno, bro, maybe rethink your message, the venue to disseminate that message, and perhaps consider your audience. Capitalism isn't fair or sustainable, but nonprofits that feed people shouldn't be your target. People are greedy. Fix them and you'll fix the world. Δ
The Shredder is anti-capitalist ... until pay day. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.