Viewpoint

A safe campus for all

December 13, 2013 

As a united voice representing all cultural Cal Poly faculty and staff associations — American Indian and Indigenous Faculty Staff Association, Asian Pacific-Islander Faculty Staff Association, Black Faculty Staff Association, Chicana Latino Faculty Staff Association, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer/Questioning Intersex Ally Faculty Staff Association — we feel it is critical to address and respond to the recent racial incident involving an off-campus student theme party, “Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos.”

This theme reinforces negative stereotypes and creates a hostile climate for those offended by oppression in all its forms, especially American Indian and indigenous communities and all women on campus. While we understand the university has closed the formal inquiry of this event, that does not negate the fact that many of our students, faculty and staff as well as the broader San Luis Obispo community have been, and continue to be, negatively affected. The histories of racism and sexism must be considered when addressing these negative implications.

Namely, we posit it is unacceptable to parody American Indians in a party theme such as this one because they have been subject to the violence and domination of settler colonialism for more than 500 years (http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/11/22/outrageover-nava-hos-frat-party-cal-poly-san-luis-obispo-152384). Moreover, a party like this is even more disturbing given the statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice indicating that Native women are more likely than other groups of women in the U.S. to be sexual assault victims. And, Native women are twice as likely to be victimized by violent crime as women or men of any other ethnic group. Therefore, while the Nov. 16 event has received national media attention, it is not unique nor singular: It is indicative of the ongoing negative stereotyping and microaggressions that far too many members of our campus community experience.

Especially in light of Cal Poly Greek community’s recent retraction of their previous apology (http://mustangnews.net/greek  leaders-muddle-apology), time is of the essence in addressing this event’s ramifications. The dominant, even if unintended message, we are sending our students is that no one — not the students nor the university — has to take responsibility. As we learned in the campus forum, however, our most marginalized students consistently and painfully bear the burden. Additionally, we are concerned that the occurrence and university response to such events can further undermine Cal Poly’s efforts to recruit and retain diverse students, staff and faculty.

The university has plans underway for a variety of events to support our students and address the issues of civility, respect and cultural awareness. The cultural faculty staff associations are pledging to participate in these efforts to reaffirm our promise to create a safe, inclusive campus environment for all.

We believe that our direct experiences with students, as well as our collective expertise (both personal and professional), are critical to both the planning and success of these activities. In addition, the cultural faculty staff associations have requested a face-to-face meeting with campus administrators to discuss our concerns and offer to participate in the development and implementation of current and future initiatives.

In closing, we offer our support to every student, faculty and staff member, as well as to San Luis Obispo community members and our local, state, and national indigenous communities who have felt harmed, oppressed and angered by this incident. The cultural faculty staff associations are calling for robust interventions and for transparency from university officials in order for Cal Poly to move forward and create a more inclusive community.

The Cal Poly cultural faculty staff associations are individual campus organizations open to all Cal Poly faculty and staff with common missions to support a diverse campus and develop cultural competence in all students.

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