Cal Poly students angered by racially insensitive photos that emerged from a recent Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity party have organized multiple protests during the school's annual Open House event this weekend — when thousands of prospective students, family and community members are expected to be on campus.
Six student organizations, including the Cal Poly Democrats, Cal Poly Queer Student Union and the Comparative Ethnic Studies Student Association, are co-sponsoring a protest from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. Friday.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Tribune
According to a news release from the Cal Poly Students for Quality Education on Thursday, the organization hopes to demonstrate to prospective students and their families that the current student body "will not accept (Cal Poly President) Jeffrey Armstrong's administration's continued inaction on crises afflicting our campus."
Admitted Students Discovery Day is scheduled for Friday, allowing prospective students and their families to become more familiar with future academic careers and experience Cal Poly's "Learn by Doing" philosophies, according to the school.
A second protest is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at the Mustang Statue next to the University Union.
More than 20 student-run organizations committed to not hosting a booth at Open House. Instead, they plan to set up their booths and tables in the space allocated to them, but no one will be physically present at the booths to speak to incoming students or community members, according to a Cultural Club Open House Boycott document signed by 24 student groups that was obtained by The Tribune.
Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong told The Tribune on Thursday he supports students being activists for change, but hopes they will reconsider boycotting Open House and encouraged them to think of other ways to have their voices heard.
"Don't penalize people who had nothing to do with this," Armstrong said. "If you want to make statements to Cal Poly administrations and you want to make statements otherwise, we'll help you come up with other ways. This isn't about suppressing your right to protest, this is about cultural humility."
In the wake of the the photos emerging, all of the officers of the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter at Cal Poly have resigned their posts and two other members have left the fraternity altogether. Lambda Chi Alpha national representative Tad Lichtenauer confirmed one of the two students to resign their memberships was the member photographed in blackface.
The national fraternity also announced Wednesday that it will form an "alumni control board" to conduct a membership review and discipline members.
The fraternity has been placed on temporary suspension by the national headquarters, Cal Poly and the Interfraternity Council, which governs Cal Poly Greek fraternities.
Armstrong told The Tribune on Thursday that the student pictured in blackface would likely not face sanctions by the university, citing his right to free speech.
Current students who plan to protest are expected to gather at 8 a.m. Friday at the Slack Street parking lot by the Student Recreation Center. According to a Facebook event post, more than 330 students are interested in going and 286 have confirmed they will attend, as of 3 p.m. Thursday.
"With (alt-right provocateur) Milo Yiannopoulos coming to campus, students doing blackface, serial rapists walking free on campus, tuition and fees rising endlessly, and 1 in 4 students hungry — enough is enough," the post said.
The Cultural Club Open House Boycott document said that Cal Poly has historically ignored demands and needs of black and Latino students on campus.
"If Cal Poly does not respect its students of color, it does not get to use us as examples of diversity and inclusion," the document said. "We know that Cal Poly does not treat its students of color with respect and therefore convincing Open House attendees, especially those that are students of color, to come to Cal Poly is doing them a disservice."
Armstrong said he thinks boycotting Open House "is an example of making rash, emotional decisions that have unintended consequences" on prospective students considering coming to Cal Poly. He said he plans to greet protestors Friday morning.
"My job is to be the leader," Armstrong said. "I can agree with them on a lot of things, but some things I'm not going to agree with."