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A little chaos 

Is doubling down on statements that lead to bad publicity some sort of secret Cal Poly motto that I don't know about? Or does university President Jeffrey Armstrong just keep practicing "learn by doing" because he can't quite grasp the "learn" part of his school's motto.

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He and the university are in hot water—again—for their handling of a touchy situation. Only, this time, it's not about rape or race. Phew!

It's about COVID-19. Remember when Armstrong sent out a campuswide email about in-person classes and on-campus housing to reassure everyone about the school's plans for winter quarter 2022?

"We have every expectation that the in-person educational experience at Cal Poly will remain one of the safest places and activities you can be a part of throughout next week and all of winter quarter," he said in the email.

It was Jan. 1, when every medical expert in the country was predicting a gigantic post-holiday surge that was already starting.

Between Jan. 1 and 11, the university's COVID-19 dashboard recorded more than 1,500 positive student tests—607 for on-campus students and 896 for off-campus. The university administered more than 19,000 tests and states that "there are more positive tests than positive cases."

OK. So how many students are positive for COVID-19 right now? The dashboard doesn't specify. Well, then, I guess we'll just go ahead and assume that 1,500 students are positive for the virus.

That's, like, a lot. And it's only one week into the winter quarter.

It sounds like chaos unleashed over there, with students who have been tested attending in-person classes only to find out too late that they actually tested positive for the virus. Students waiting in testing lines for hours. Mask and sanitizer stations that run out of masks and sanitizers. The school put 132 students in isolation, with 105 out of 199 of the school's isolation beds occupied, and some students are staying in on-campus apartments with non-COVID-19 positive students while others are locked away by themselves in local hotel rooms.

Test positive? Want to go home but still pay Cal Poly for your dorm room? You get a gift card: $400 at the University Store! Take that, really expensive books! The perks of positivity, amirite?

At least one parent complained that their child who is living on campus (across the country from his family), tested positive for the virus, and waited to hear from the university as to what his next steps should be. According to his mother, he waited in his car for hours for a phone call or text, hearing nothing, until his family finally put him up in a local hotel. And then, he was forced to repeat that the next day.

See, chaos!

Many students on campus still haven't been tested yet, according to a 3,500 signature-strong petition begging Armstrong to move Cal Poly to virtual classes until this surge starts to peter out.

But nope. That's not the plan!

"Virtual courses are not stopping the spread of omicron at other universities," Armstrong told the Cal Poly faculty senate on Jan. 11. "We have really minimized the risk. We're unique in that amount of surveillance. We weren't required to do the surveillance. We've sampled over 20,000 students. The average prevalence of COVID is at 5 percent. ... We're sticking with our plan."

I think Armstrong just really wants Cal Poly to stand out among universities. It's the whitest, most expensive school in the California State University system. And, now, it can also have the highest COVID-19 positivity rates! It's "the safest" place to get COVID-19 in SLO County.

With so many schools to choose from, Cal Poly needs to get its name out there, you know?

But faculty members and students aren't impressed. Students are missing their classes, unable to make up their work, and worried they are already falling behind. Teachers who taught virtually during the first week of the quarter were only allowed one more week of virtual teaching.

"Every faculty member here can attest that this past week has been a mess," a faculty member stated at the Jan. 11 meeting.

Don't worry, though, the Cayucos Elementary School District is also a mess. Just ask Superintendent Scott Smith. You should ask him, because he won't talk to us about it!

Parents over there have been upset ever since the school board passed a Let Them Breathe resolution in August 2021—an ideological snub to state COVID-19 regulations regarding a return to in-person schooling. The board rescinded the resolution in September.

But it got some parents asking: Why weren't board meetings recorded and posted somewhere accessible? Apparently board members and Smith felt that things could be taken out of context and used against them, according to district parent Roberta Held.

Wait, that isn't why we record public meetings? Just kidding! It's so that public officials can be held accountable by the public because they are paid by and spending our tax dollars. Duh!

Parents petitioned for recorded meetings and finally got them, just like they got the board to rescind its resolution. Next up: a giant raise for Smith, which was discussed largely behind closed doors. And some parents don't like it one bit.

If I was him, I'd be worried. Those Cayucos parents don't mess around. Δ

The Shredder lives for chaos. Send comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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