Students of Color are Still Uncomfortable at Cal Poly – No One is Surprised

This is no surprise to Ariana Afshar and other underrepresented students alike. With the university’s track record regarding racism and a lack of action by administration, the question is, does Cal Poly want to stay this way?

Over a year has gone by since Cal Poly’s most infamous racist episode: the “blackface incident” involving Lambda Chi Alpha. Although the school has made some attempts to right its wrongs with a diversity focused CPX survey and other fraternity and sorority trainings, diversity and inclusion are still lacking at Cal Poly.

“I think that Cal Poly wants to stay this way, I really do” said fourth year journalism major Ariana Afshar. “They’ve built a disadvantaged institution for minority students, and then they just expect us to somehow thrive.”

Quinn Fish, fourth year Ethnic Studies and Journalism double major, as well as a managing print editor for Mustang News, points to the town of San Luis Obispo as a major obstacle in retention of students and faculty of color. “The town is super white, so even if you recruit staff, faculty, and students of color, they don’t want to live here,” said Fish.

The passing of Proposition 209 in California, which prohibitions public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity is another factor that may have done more harm than intended good. “Because we no longer can do affirmative action as a public university in California, it’s hard for the university to put money specifically towards that. It’s kind of like donors have to do that,” said Fish.

With the fraternity being let back on campus after just one year of probation – a sentence shorter than other fraternities have received for alcohol violation – the school’s priorities became very clear. The university’s track record regarding racism and a lack of action by administration begs the question, will Cal Poly ever change?

Amir Afshar, Ariana Afshar’s father, explained how the onus has been placed on students of color to make change happen, “I am a parent of two young children whom are attending universities. My advice to them is whenever you see an unjust behavior… and you strongly feel that the issue is a potential obstacle to make you feel as not being a part of the society, then you should participate in progressive movement within the framework of the law”

Thankfully it’s not completely up to the underrepresented students to make themselves heard. Mustang News is one of the organizations on campus that has been picking up some of the university’s slack. The widespread media coverage of the “blackface incident” put massive pressure on the administration to take some visible action against racism on campus. “Because we’re a public university, the university can’t control any of our media. So we can do things like that – we can be hyper-critical of administration,” said Fish.

Social media is a means for action that everyone can take part in, not just the newsroom staff, and it has served as a critical starting point for the movement for diversity and inclusion on campus. “Social movements now come from social media… A lot of things are happening now because we have social media that wouldn’t have happened ten years ago, like we see pictures of kids dressed like ‘Gangsters’ or ‘Nava-hoes’ or whatever it is,” said Fish.

According to a recent article by Mustang News, next year’s incoming class will be the most diverse class ever with 45% minority students. There may be hope for Cal Poly yet, but the work is not anywhere close to complete.

Poor Connection – the Paradox of Social Media in Real Life

Social media is like the manipulative relationship that both builds you up and breaks you down – you love it and you hate it all at once. Users enjoy having their time to unwind in front of a screen, yet fear wasting their time in a fake reality. It can connect friends from across the world, or it can make two people standing in front of each other feel miles apart.

“I find myself self constantly checking Twitter when there’s a lull in the conversation. It’s weird, but I mindlessly just check it instead of trying to interact with the person in front of me,” said Elise Monroe, a first year Graphic Communications major at Cal Poly.

So, social media can act as a social crutch. And it’s not much help in creating new relationships either, “Because of interactions I’ve had with people online before I’ve met them, it makes meeting them in real life weirder, like there’s already an expectation there,” said Monroe.

But, the same people also make a conscious effort to wean themselves off of the social support. “I don’t feel addicted to my phone because I’m aware of it. But if I wasn’t reminded by my mom and didn’t care so much about taking breaks… yeah, I would be addicted,” said Monroe.

On the day she was interviewed, Monroe had spent one hour and 37 minutes on social media (an hour and four minutes of which were using Twitter), 19 minutes on education (watching a TED Talk), and eight minutes on what Apple calls “productivity,” meaning she was checking her email. These stats are courtesy of her iPhone settings, which now measure screen time.

According to Media in Society, by Richard Campbell and Joli Jenson*, “This love-hate relationship with technology marks one key paradox of contemporary society. We are nostalgic for the pace of the past at the same time we drive headlong into the future, overloaded by our gadgets.

*Campbell, Richard; Jensen, Joli; Gomery, Douglas; Fabos, Bettina G.; Frechette, Julie. Media in Society (Page 252). Bedford/St. Martin’s. Kindle Edition.

Sugar Babies – Bittersweet

“Sugar Baby” could be an endearing nickname, or the perfect job title for a college student pressed for both time and money. But that’s only if you have the guts to actually get into the game, and once your in, it’s bitter-sweet.

Students may joke about selling feet pics on Twitter, but what is it really like to get paid by someone twice your age for ego-fluffing and looking pretty? Listen to Kaitlyn Shields break down being a sugar baby in the social media age.

For more information on student sugar babies, an article from Fox 5 gets into the specifics of their presence in universities around the nation, or check out my infographic in the link below the following preview.

Editing Apps Make Every Moment Instagram-able

Perfection is #trending, and getting the perfect shot takes more than just lighting and angles these days. Although the power of the of the two original selfie tools should not be underestimated, the new players in the social media game are editing apps like VSCO and Facetune.

“I’ll use VSCO for the color, and then I’ll use an app to smooth my face – take out blemishes,” said first year, computer science major Hannah Tobiason.

VSCO is the artsy Instagrammer’s best friend. The app offers tons of original filters for free, and hundreds more if you feel like dropping some dollars. It also contains its own social media aspect, with the options to follow other users and post to a feed, which can be linked into your Instagram bio.

Screenshot via my phone

Facetune, on the other hand, is like a guilty little secret. It allows users to transform their appearance with blemish-erasing, teeth-whitening, and body-modifying tools along with a myriad of others. “Facetune helps you look your Hollywood best, even in photos taken on mobile phones,” said Roy Furchgott in an article for the New York Times.

Screenshot via my phone

So, when scrolling through Instagram, what you see is really not what you get. “Sometimes it goes through my mind that these photos are edited. A lot of the times, though, I don’t think about it,” said Tobaison. “I think it’s definitely custom to keep it a secret. Everyone wants everyone to think they’re perfect.”

Facetuners should do their work carefully, because others are learning to sniff out the signs of a fabricated photo.“Sometimes you can really tell when someone edited a photo – it will look really janky. It makes me feel awkward and sad because I know that they feel pressure to do it,” said Tobiason.

Five years ago, only celebrities had photoshop and makeup artists to keep them picture perfect while commoners struggled with the iPhone 5. Today, free apps have leveled the playing field.

“I think the effect is really negative on the average user. Because they’ll believe this person looks flawless naturally, and think ‘why don’t I look like that?’” said Tobiason.

Chasing a standard that simply does not exist is nothing new. But while it used to be just the higher powers of TV and advertisements that reinforced these unattainable beauty goals, the pressure now comes from your best friend, your classmates, and everyone else you follow.

Hannah Tobiason gets the “perfect” shot

Students Tweet the Tea

Twitter allows students to speak freely about their school environment. Whether they realize their accounts are public or not, here are some of the ways Cal Poly Students keep it real.

Some thoughts are academic.

Some are not.

There are descriptions of the atmosphere…

Some more critical than others.

And shameless self promotions. Go check out Kiana’s Blog !

Students even share their candid concerns about racial tensions on campus.

But most of the time, the purpose is really just to meme out.

Keep up with my Twitter feed for more honest student opinions (mostly mine).

Tinder – the new social media

Cal Poly students are using Tinder – but not for hookups. Okay, that’s not entirely true. But a trend among the social media savvy students is using Tinder for entertainment more than the pursuit of love. “Honestly, Tinder is like instant gratification” said Cristina, an occasional swiper who has never gone on an actual meet up, “You get to look at people and feel good about yourself because people match with you. You don’t ever have to act on it. There’s no repercussions”

Tinder, for anyone unfamiliar, is basically the most simplified possible form of online dating. At one glance, the user decides to swipe right or left, yes or no. You’re lucky if they even read you’re bio.

It fits well with the social media mentality, snap judgments based on a tiny glimpse of a whole person. Many college students today understand this and use it to their advantage. The moments that they share tell a carefully curated story. The point of Tinder has become relatively similar to that of Instagram, users put out the pictures that they think their followers want to see, and the followers affirm with likes or swipes.

Image result for tinder

Photo from Pexels

There’s a downside to this formula, though. The swipes don’t always go your way. First year Sidra Knox said, “I have a love/hate relationship with Tinder. On a good day, you can get a huge confidence boost. On a bad day, you can feel really shitty… I will use it three days in a row for hours at a time and then stop using the app for three weeks.”

When asked if her Tinder is an accurate representation of herself, first year Mallory said, “Most definitely not. Most of the pictures on my Tinder are the same as Instagram. They’re just the ones I feel like I look the best in”

But there are obviously differences in the two medias. “On Instagram, I’m trying to create more of a personality. On Tinder, though, it’s just four photos. I’m just trying to get a confidence boost from someone I’m never gonna talk to again,” said Mallory. The format of Tinder is so basic that there’s no use in even faking a personality, it’s completely based on appearance.

In fact, the two apps have recently banded together to allow Tinder users to see the 34 most recent posts on a person’s Instagram. This link can be clicked on to open the Instagram app and go full-stalker-mode if four photos wasn’t enough.

“Especially in college, it’s fun to go on there and see people you know. You screenshot it and send it to your friends like ‘oh, that’s the guy from down the hall’” said Mallory. So it gets added to the growing cache of knowledge about college acquaintances, a real-life profile that we build of others: John, goes to Cal Poly, plays baseball, has a Tinder. It’s up to the individual to decide what this means about the person behind the profile.