Temperatures soared in San Luis Obispo County on Oct. 27, but Cal Poly's students had a more heated topic they wanted to deal with that day.
- Courtesy Photo By Lauren Toomey (Lauren Hope Photography)
- MAYORAL SUPPORT SLO Mayor and a Cal Poly Campus Health and Wellbeing leader Erica Stewart encouraged students of sexual assault to speak up while assuring their protection on and off campus.
More than 100 students gathered around the open air plaza at Cal Poly's University Union (UU) to attend a survivor support talk in the wake of the two sexual assault cases that took place on campus within a single week in October.
"All students got emails from the clergy office [after assaults happened on Oct. 4 and 10]. That was all we heard from the school. Students weren't feeling safe on campus," said Briana Gallo, a third year Cal Poly student and marketing vice president of the Cal Poly Women In Business Association, which hosted the event with the Women's Network Cal Poly.
Gallo told New Times that the goal of the event was to create a welcoming space for survivors. Resource kiosks bearing affirmations and information on how to access service and even professional counselors dotted the UU.
"As a next step, we hope that administration does more," Gallo said.
One of the speakers in attendance was SLO Mayor Erica Stewart, a former Cal Poly student and the assistant director of personnel and marketing at the university's Campus Health and Wellbeing department.
"I know that sitting here today, it feels a little bit nerve-racking that you don't feel 100 percent safe. I can't promise that everyone's going to feel 100 percent safe, but I know that we're going to work very hard to make you feel safer in this community both on campus and off," Stewart told the crowd.
Other speakers included President and CEO of Planned Parenthood California Central Coast Jenna Tosh, who highlighted the racism and sexism of abortion bans especially when sexual assault is involved. Brianna Michelle, an actress and founder of a nonprofit called Voices Beyond Assault, spoke about her own off-campus sexual trauma when she was studying at Clark Atlanta University.
"When I went back to campus, instead of saying, 'What do you need to feel protected?' they [said], 'Make sure you pass these final tests.' ... But what about my safety? What were my options? But there weren't any, so I moved," Michelle announced.
The survivor event ended with a mass walk to Cal Poly's Architecture Graveyard, where the first of the two assaults took place.
"The intention behind it is to reclaim the space. It makes me feel sad because the Arch Graveyard is a place where I had my favorite memories, and now that's all ruined. That's letting the perpetrator take control of the narrative and we didn't want to do that," Dominique Morales, graduate assistant with the Safer program—a confidential sexual assault mitigation office—told New Times.
Matt Lazier, Cal Poly's media relations director, told New Times about the plans in place for student safety. He said that the certified campus police department does regular patrols and offers walking escorts from Thursday to Saturday nights.
"Mustang Patrol escorts meet a student where they are and provide a walking escort from beginning to end of their route on campus. As well, Mustang Patrol personnel can perform additional public safety duties when not actively escorting. This includes checking locks, closing doors, and keeping eyes out for suspicious or criminal activity," Lazier said.
Students can also access Office of Civil Rights and Compliance (OCRC) about gender and sex-based discrimination, along with resources from Safer.
Lazier added that a new shuttle service is in the pipeline.
"There is discussion about possibly starting a new shuttle van service for the campus (the previous service ceased at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic). However, it must be noted that the previous shuttle service was not specifically a campus safety program," he said. "Because vans run on a set schedule and route, students still need to walk from classrooms/workplaces to the shuttles and then from shuttles to their cars or residences." Δ