The Cal Poly University Police Department is pursuing unspecified criminal charges after a student on Wednesday found his Poly Canyon Village apartment door defaced with swastikas and racial and homophobic slurs.
The police department forwarded its findings to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office. A spokesman there said Monday that the office had received the report but had not yet filed any charges in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
In a statement to the media, Cal Poly said it learned Thursday morning of an incident involving “hateful and racially charged vandalism.” The university did not provide any other details.
The University Police Department began a criminal investigation and a separate student conduct investigation was initiated through the campus’ judicial affairs office.
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Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said Monday the university police have finished their investigation and are recommending charges to the District Attorney’s Office. The university is not identifying anyone suspected of committing a crime, nor the alleged victim.
The Dean of Students’ Office also reached out to the affected students to offer counsel and support, the university said.
Lazier said Cal Poly is not releasing any further information about the incident. But photos circulated on social media over the weekend reportedly show the student’s door with a racial epithet for African-Americans and a homophobic slur.
In an email sent to students Thursday, university President Jeffrey Armstrong condemned the “criminal behavior and hate-filled rhetoric,” which he said are at odds with the university’s efforts to create a diverse and inclusive environment for all members of the campus community.
“As I’ve said before, I don’t understand why anyone would write something knowing that it would be hurtful and offensive to others,” Armstrong wrote. “Incidents like this challenge all of us who want a more accepting and inclusive campus.”
Wednesday’s incident is at least the third alleged incident of hate speech at the university in four months.
In November, students protested anti-Islamic and anti-gender fluidity statements written on a “Free Speech Wall” erected annually by the Cal Poly College Republicans on the Dexter Lawn to commemorate the toppling of the Berlin Wall. Club president Paul Sullivan said at the time that he did not agree with the statements but supported students’ rights to free speech.
In early December, Matt Klepfer, a Cal Poly political science student and a leader of SLO Solidarity, a group pushing for the university to better promote tolerance and inclusion, received an email containing an alleged death threat and anti-Semitic slur.
The District Attorney’s Office has since filed one felony count of making criminal threats with a special hate crime enhancement against Charles Raymond Bird, 20. Bird is due in San Luis Obispo Superior Court for a pre-trial hearing on March 24. According to the District Attorney’s Office, Bird faces a maximum of up to six years in state prison if convicted.
In his letter to students, Armstrong touted the university’s efforts to curb such incidents and improve the campus environment for all students, such as the creation of its Office of University Diversity and Inclusivity. He wrote that the university has conducted a campuswide climate survey, developed a Diversity Strategic Framework and a draft Diversity Action Plan, and implemented a list of specific department-level changes.
“Change will not happen overnight, but Cal Poly is committed to improving the campus climate and leading the discussion about how the university can provide an open and welcoming environment for the entire campus community,” Armstrong wrote.