Like many in the Cal Poly community, we faculty and staff members of the Psychology and Child Development Department were saddened and alarmed by the recent incident at the Crops House involving the display of racist and homophobic symbols and signage.
We hope that those involved are sincere in their claims of ignorance. However, these actions, regardless of intent, create harm. Members of targeted communities typically experience depressed feelings and a loss of safety. Being targeted because of a central identity (such as race or sexual orientation) is a profound and painful rejection of who one is. Such actions also harm the reputation of departments, majors, and our university.
The strong reaction of many faculty, administrators, and fellow students demonstrates the large support for diversity on this campus. This is some of the power that we have as a community: shaping and solidifying norms of equality and appreciation of diversity on campus. To those harmed by this incident, additional support may be found at the Pride Center, Multicultural Center, and through collective action to educate.
The actions of the Crops House residents demonstrate that we must continue advocating for the multicultural community we have been working so hard to build. We must increase appreciation and understanding of diversity through education and action. We must intervene when we hear others say or do things that promote stereotypes and discrimination. When such incidents occur, we must not minimize them or invalidate their impact. If someone tells us that what we have said or done is considered to be evidence of prejudice against another group, we shouldn’t say “it’s just a joke” or “they shouldn’t be so sensitive,” instead we should take responsibility, apologize, and change.
Research indicates that perspective taking, contact with other groups, and highlighting common group identities can reduce prejudice. We call upon Cal Poly students to seek formal diversity education and training at Poly, especially those who had difficulty seeing why this incident was such a big deal to so many people. Attend Pride Center training. Get to know individuals from other racial and ethnic groups and sexual orientations and learn about the histories and cultures of groups beside your own. Take courses from Ethnic Studies and Women and Gender Studies or such GEB courses as Multicultural Psychology.
Finally, knowing the harm they caused, we call upon the individuals involved to do more to promote healing. We ask that they agree to take courses and training that would help them further understand and appreciate diversity. To help prevent further incidents, we call upon Cal Poly’s administration to create and enforce a strong campus policy against racism and sexual orientation and to provide more funding to increase general education courses about diversity.