After several days in the media spotlight during the university’s “dead week,” leaders and organizers with the student activist organization SLO Solidarity hope to keep their message of a more representative and tolerant Cal Poly alive as winter break approaches.
“This is the time for action,” Matt Klepfer, one of the group’s organizers, told a large crowd of students and staff at a Dec. 2 rally on campus. “Right now, when we are fired up and we want to see change. Do not let go of that.”
The large gathering of students, and the march that preceded it, were organized in the wake of an online death threat against Klepfer. The message, posted to Facebook, made a direct threat on Klepfer’s life and included an anti-Semitic slur, despite the fact that Klepfer isn’t Jewish.
On Dec. 4, Cal Poly police arrested a student, 20-year-old Charles Raymond Bird, in connection with the threat against Klepfer. Officials said investigators had to obtain multiple search warrants and the alleged sender, Bird, went to “great lengths,” to shield his identity. Bird was arrested on felony charges of making threats as well as a hate crime, according to UPD officials.
The threat further rocketed SLO Solidarity, and the issues it supports, into the local media spotlight. The Dec. 2 rally following the threat was the group’s largest yet and included an appearance from university President Jeff Armstrong, who told attendees that the university was “no place for hate.”
SLO Solidarity has been a hot topic at Cal Poly ever since the group began demonstrating on campus, calling attention to what they believe is a lack of diversity and a lack of tolerance at the school. Shortly before the threat against Klepfer was made, the group released a list of 41 demands to the campus administration. The demands called for increasing minority hiring, providing gender-neutral first-year residence housing and restrooms, and implementing new tolerance curriculum, among other measures. The university is expected to release an action plan in the near future.
Meanwhile, Klepfer urged those at the rally to continue pushing for change, through finals exams and into the next quarter.
“Hang onto this, and next quarter we’re going to get a whole lot of things done,” he told the attendees.
Speaking to New Times, Klepfer said that action included trying to bring SLO Solidarity supporters into the fold to help with that work.
“So many people want to be a part of this,” he said. “So, how do we find various things that people can do [to help]?”