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Of racism and off-roaders 

Let's address the elephant in the room first. Does Cal Poly's motto, "Learn by Doing," apply to racism? I mean, after all its talk of addressing racism and fostering diversity and cultural sensitivity, it looks like Cal Poly is as racist as ever. I haven't seen this much unmitigated policy futility since the wars on drugs and poverty. We know how those are going, right?

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Sometime between the night of Friday, Feb. 5, and Saturday, Feb. 6, someone or ones "decorated" the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house—a Jewish-student-affiliated organization—with swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti. Sigh.

It happened on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, so the house's occupants were probably observing the day by, you know, resting and not patrolling the perimeter of their residence for anti-Semites with spray paint cans.

Right on cue, President Jeffrey Armstrong trotted out platitudes designed to assure the campus community that he takes this stuff seriously: "Let us be perfectly clear: behavior that promotes any form of hate and seeks to make members of our community feel unsafe and unwelcome—especially in their own home—has absolutely no place in our community."

And yet, here we are. Again.

All the "We're not going to tolerate this in our community" announcements won't change a thing. In truth, we are going to tolerate it but condemn it because haters gonna hate. That's life.

Despite our anger, bigotry still exists, so perhaps it's expected that it still exists at Cal Poly despite the university's efforts to make clear it's very disappointed in you little rascals with your blackface shenanigans, cultural-appropriation frat parties, cutesy Confederate flags, and surreptitiously hung racist posters.

Free speech can certainly suck at times, but what happened to Alpha Epsilon Pi was straight-up vandalism, intimidation, and a hate crime! Is the Cal Poly Police Department doing anything to investigate? Will the perpetrators be held accountable? Or is Cal Poly and its diversity-is-essential posturing a toothless tiger? Meow.

SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon wrote in a newsletter, not on her social media pages (Poof! Those are gone!), that "the San Luis Obispo Police Department is investigating this as a hate crime and will have every resource at their disposal to help bring these hate criminals to justice."

Oh, great! Let's throw in the SLO County Sheriff's Office too, eh? While this trio of Keystone Cop agencies are looking for anti-Semites, maybe they'll accidentaly find out what happened to Kristin Smart, who's been missing from Cal Poly for nearly 25 years. Aw. Low blow, coppers? Suck it! Make an arrest for something other than drunk driving, why don't you!

And speaking of drunk driving, sweet sand-rails, quads, ATVs, monster trucks, and dirt bikes are all over the Oceano Dunes like goddamn sauced Evel Knievals from the Central Valley. Did you hear that competing studies have painted very different pictures of whether or not off-roading on the dunes has any major effect on the local economy?

In one corner we have Tahoe-based SMG Consulting's economic report concluding that between July 2016 and September 2017, tourists to the Oceano Dunes District of California State Parks generated roughly $243 million in revenue for San Luis Obispo County. Hey, that's pretty sweet!

In the other corner we have Cal Poly Associate Professor of Finance Pratish Patel's new study that says, nah, SMG's study is super flawed. His own seven-month study conducted during the pandemic to see if the off-roading closure actually hurt our area economically concluded that the suspension didn't result in any significant economic impact. In fact, Patel's study claims SLO County small businesses fared better than those in other neighboring counties. What the what?

The anti-vehicles-on-the-dunes contingent was like, "See? See?" They claim that the dunes and its surrounding businesses were instead patronized by people who wanted to visit a beach where they didn't have to look over their shoulders for oncoming traffic.

Jeeze, what to believe? The study commissioned by State Parks, which supports the off-road recreational area, or the study by a professor conducted during a pandemic? Anybody ask Dr. Patel his stance on off-roading on public beaches? Or how he controlled variables in his study to account for conducting it during a pandemic? Color me curious!

Maybe, just maybe, both studies are flawed and nobody knows jack-all about what the real economic impacts would be to eliminating recreational off-road vehicles. Stands to reason that people who like off-roading won't visit Oceano if they can't kick up dust and burn gas in their bitchin' machines. Also stands to reason a different clientele who avoids Oceano would fill the place if given the opportunity.

One thing seems clear, the ongoing problem of dust and pollution caused by off-roaders would certainly be lessened, right? I'm actually on the fence about this one. Most of California's beaches are protected from off-roaders, and all of SLO County's beaches, save the Oceano Dunes, prohibit off-roading. Of course, there are also the annual maimings and deaths that seem to accompany traffic on the dunes. Maybe we should leave the Thunderdome Dunes to the Mad Maxian road warriors? Δ

The Shredder prefers long walks on beaches and candlelight cosmetic surgery with no anesthetic. Send tips and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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