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Cal Poly fraternity apologizes after insensitive costume photo spreads online

An end-of-year photo depicting culturally and ethnically insensitive costumes garnered Cal Poly fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho some online criticism, prompting the frat to apologize for the photo on Thursday.
An end-of-year photo depicting culturally and ethnically insensitive costumes garnered Cal Poly fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho some online criticism, prompting the frat to apologize for the photo on Thursday.

A spokesman for a suspended Cal Poly fraternity apologized Wednesday morning for an end-of-year photo they acknowledged depicted “appropriated cultural and ethnic identities of our peers.”

The photo of Alpha Gamma Rho-Chi Chapter members gained public attention after it was posted on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.

In it, the students are wearing a variety of costumes, including several in overalls, one in what looks to be powder blue pimp suit and another in a sombrero. Many commenters thought one of the students was wearing a Native American headdress, but it’s actually a colorful dreadlock-style cap from Disneyland. Several of the men in the photo also are holding firearms. The group is posing behind a banner that reads “TRUMP — MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.”

“The brothers of Alpha Gamma Rho-Chi Chapter would like to apologize for any discomfort caused by our end-of-the-year costume photograph. We as a fraternity take full responsibility for the lack of regard taken when dressing up for this photograph,” the statement said.

“The tradition of our end-of-year photo will not appropriate cultures in the future,” it continued. “We respect the diversity that exists in our chapter and at Cal Poly and will be more thoughtful in all that we do moving forward and how that can impact others.”

The apology comes a day after a Cal Poly spokesman said the university was aware of the photo and that the university’s Greek Life and Dean of Students offices intended to speak with the chapter leaders about the picture.

Alpha Gamma Rho is suspended through Cal Poly’s 2017 spring semester due to violations of the university’s alcohol and drug policy. It previously was suspended after an alleged sexual assault was reported in the fraternity house in December 2014.

Correction: This story was updated to include more descriptions of the costumes and note that it doesn’t include a Native American headdress.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7929, @andrewsheeler

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