The party that led to a mass gathering and roof collapse on Hathway Avenue near the Cal Poly campus in March grew unruly largely because news of the event spread rapidly on social media, according to a final report released by the university Tuesday.
But despite the party’s name, “St. Fratty’s Day,” in advance of St. Patrick’s Day, the report says there is no evidence that any Greek organizations “officially promoted or marketed the event.”
However, many Greek members attended, and first-year Greek-life members used word-of-mouth and social media to promote it, despite Cal Poly’s ban on Greek community parties at the time because of previous misconduct, the report said.
An estimated 3,000 people gathered along Hathway Avenue to celebrate in the early morning of March 7. At least eight people were injured when a garage roof collapsed with more than 50 people on it.
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“Interviewed students reported that many Greek members attended the event, based on Greek letters being worn by individuals, social-media messaging from known Greek members, and the volume of Greeks living in the residence halls who traveled to Hathaway (sic),” the report states.
The university hired an “external investigator,” Ralph Latino, an experienced California State University administrator, to delve into the incident after Cal Poly administrators conducted a preliminary investigation.
The St. Fratty’s Day event was created six years ago by a resident of the “Pink House” at 348 Hathway Ave., a Cal Poly student who was a member of a Greek organization, the report stated.
Multiple San Luis Obispo Police Department sources have told The Tribune they suspect the Pink House was a fraternity satellite house, but the university has not confirmed that information, citing student privacy laws.
The event has been carried on as a tradition at the house by others living there.
During the university’s preliminary interviews with students, Cal Poly Dean of Students Jean DeCosta found that residents of the Pink House invited 20 to 30 people for a “bring-your-own-beer” party intended to begin at 6:30 a.m. March 7, a Saturday.
“The residents stated that they called 911 at 6 a.m., just prior to the roof collapsing, because they realized the gathering had gotten too big and was beyond their control,” the report stated.
Students used social media such as Twitter, Yik Yak, Instagram and Snapchat to spread word of the party, the report showed. About 65 percent of attendees were Cal Poly students, with most of the rest either from Cuesta College or other institutions.
Cal Poly’s report recommended collaborating with the city of San Luis Obispo on controlling events held outside the period of increased fines for city code violations — which is why the St. Fratty’s Day celebration was held 10 days before St. Patrick’s Day this year.
The report also recommended the university employ preemptive measures such as creating a calendar of “traditional” and “common” student social events, with locations, dates and who traditionally participates and disseminating the information to relevant parties for them to prepare accordingly.
Other steps included social-media campaigns discouraging students from large gatherings and considering more on-campus events during key celebrations.
The report noted Cal Poly students who organized and disseminated information of the event agreed to sanctions for violating student conduct. The university refused to say how many students were penalized or what the penalties were, citing student privacy law.
The report added: “To the best of our knowledge, the students who were residing in the Pink House on 348 Hathaway (sic) were not given the opportunity to renew their lease for the 2015-2016 school year.”