Education

Hateful acts may be crimes and 'will not be tolerated,' Cal Poly president says

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, shown here speaking at an event in 2016, said in a letter Thursday that hateful acts on campus such as slurs or vandalism could result in discipline up to and including expulsion for students and termination for employees.
Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, shown here speaking at an event in 2016, said in a letter Thursday that hateful acts on campus such as slurs or vandalism could result in discipline up to and including expulsion for students and termination for employees. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

In response to racist fliers, graffiti and vandalism found at Cal Poly this week, President Jeffrey Armstrong issued a forceful letter to the campus community Thursday condemning those acts as "the desperate work of a few who would seek to spread hate and divide us at a vulnerable time."

Armstrong said he was disgusted to report on the variety of inappropriate and hateful actions on campus, from slurs being directed at students, to offensive graffiti and postings in campus facilities, the letter said.

He said that while free speech is protected by the First Amendment, actions that violate the law and extend beyond First Amendment rights will not be tolerated.

"This includes threats of physical violence or harm, promoting actual physical violence or harm, fighting words, expression that constitutes criminal or severe harassment, or defamation, or actions that violate the university's Time, Place and Manner Policy," Armstrong said. "The actions are punishable by discipline from the university, up to and including expulsion for students and termination for employees."

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He also added, "All reports of activities that violate the law have been and will continue to be reported and reviewed by law enforcement and may also result in criminal charges."

Armstrong's letter was a response to the latest round of racist displays to hit Cal Poly in the last two weeks.

On Tuesday afternoon, Cal Poly professor Neal MacDougall posted a collection of seven photos of racist displays from around campus including slashed posters and signs, as well as multiple fliers that claim black people are a different species than Caucasian people.

Vandalized poster
One of several photos posted on Facebook depicting racist vandalism, graffiti and flyers at Cal Poly. Neal MacDougall Facebook page

One photo depicts the slur "n-----" written on a bathroom stall.

MacDougall told The Tribune on Wednesday that he learned of the bathroom graffiti when he noticed a university police officer standing outside the restroom in his building. He said another professor later provided him with a photo of the graffiti, which university staff removed.

Armstrong also called for the campus community to come together as one to eradicate hatred.

He encouraged any campus community members who witness these activities to immediately report them to the University Police Department. Armstrong said all reports of activities that violate the law have been and will continue to be reported to and reviewed by law enforcement, and may also result in criminal charges.

Cal Poly is a microcosm of general society, Armstrong said, and the issues of freedom of speech and hate speech are surfacing at many other institutions across the country.

"We have representative diversity, which means that every perspective, political persuasion, and philosophical and world view is represented," Armstrong said. "This includes individuals who engage in microaggressions, macroaggressions and, unfortunately, even racist rhetoric and behavior."

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