In a second consecutive day of growing protests, the Cal Poly community held a rally Thursday that drew about 1,000 students, faculty and staff to oppose intolerance on campus after a student activist received a death threat Tuesday night via Facebook.
Matt Klepfer, president of the Queer Student Union and co-coordinator of SLO Solidarity, a group promoting tolerance and inclusion on campus, received a message on his Facebook account Tuesday that read, in part, “The day of the rope is coming soon, and you people will be the first to go.” The message was sent by someone who created a fake identity on a Facebook account.
The University Police Department is investigating the incident, but no new information was available Thursday afternoon about the case, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said.
There are a lot of people who are ready for change.
Matt Klepfer, SLO Solidarity
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Klepfer said Thursday that he was heartened by the protest turnout.
“When you look at the history of things that have happened at Cal Poly, everyone might not agree with all of our demands, but they see a need for something to happen,” Klepfer said. “There are a lot of people who are ready for change.”
The Facebook threat against Klepfer came a day after SLO Solidarity sent Cal Poly’s administration a list of 41 demands seeking widespread change in how the campus encourages diversity and inclusion.
Their demands include creating new tolerance programs in curriculum and orientation, increasing minority faculty hirings, naming a diversity leader in every department, providing gender-neutral first-year residence halls and restroom facilities, and requiring that students in every major take women’s and gender studies or ethnic studies courses.
Cal Poly is expected by release its action plan to address how it will handle programs related to diversity and inclusion by the end of the fall quarter; finals finish Dec. 11.
On Thursday, Klepfer walked alongside Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong in leading protesters on a march from Kennedy Library to the University Union, where Armstrong and student activists spoke out, saying there’s no place for hate at Cal Poly.
“Our campus climate survey showed us that we have work to do,” in creating a more welcoming campus for minorities, Armstrong said. “We’ve done some work, but there’s a lot in front of us.”
San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx, Vice Mayor John Ashbaugh and San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Debbie Arnold also attended the march.
Mario Espinoza, another SLO Solidarity leader, said the number of people who have joined SLO Solidarity has grown from about 200 to 320 on Facebook since the incident, and the group has tallied more than 39,000 interactions on the social media site.
320 Number of people who have joined SLO Solidarity’s Facebook group
Espinoza said that despite differences in views on how people on campus may consider SLO Solidarity’s demands, protesters came together Thursday to stand in unison against bigotry.
“We had this demonstration to show that it’s not OK to make death threats, even if you’re trolling on the Internet,” Espinoza said. “It’s not protected free speech in any way, shape or form.”
Espinoza said word of the protest spread on Facebook and by word of mouth throughout the campus. Armstrong also sent out a letter to the campus community Wednesday urging people to “stand beside us to declare that Cal Poly is no place for hate.”
“This is the time for action,” Klepfer said. “We want to see change. Do not let go of that. Keep hanging on to this power, and next quarter, we’re going to get a lot of things done.”