Education

Cal Poly students involved in racist incidents didn’t break laws, attorney general says

Cal Poly forum tackles racist incidents on campus

Cal Poly's 2018 Baker Forum featured a dialogue panelists from Cal Poly faculty, management, student body and Mayor Heidi Harmon of San Luis Obispo.
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Cal Poly's 2018 Baker Forum featured a dialogue panelists from Cal Poly faculty, management, student body and Mayor Heidi Harmon of San Luis Obispo.

The state Attorney General’s Office has found that no state laws or CSU executive orders were broken by Cal Poly students who participated in the April 7 blackface incident and other racist episodes near the end of the last school year.

The results of the investigation were released Tuesday morning in a campus-wide email from Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong.

“The Attorney General’s Office also noted that the acts that occurred at Cal Poly, while profoundly offensive and insensitive — and demonstrating an appalling lack of judgment — were protected as free speech by the First Amendment,” Armstrong wrote in the email. “The report further confirmed that Cal Poly, as a state institution, is required to uphold the free speech rights of everyone on campus —even those who use their rights to express ugly and hurtful opinions.”

However, Armstrong went on to say that “we find reprehensible any and all acts aimed at denigrating and hurting any member of our campus community.”

Armstrong asked the attorney general to investigate the incidents — which included a member of a fraternity posing in blackface and the posting of hateful fliers and graffiti in university buildings — in May. University spokesman Matt Lazier said at the time that the university reviewed the incidents “through the lens of California State University Executive Order 1097,” a CSU-wide policy that prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation against students.

The call for investigation came at a time when waves of outrage rippled through campus in response to the blackface photo and reports of other racist behavior from fraternities.

Armstrong said in the email that the investigation “yielded additional information that the university will consider as part of its standard process of review,” and the university’s Dean of Students Office will review that information as they “address any individual or organizational violations of student conduct.”

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Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong released a video about a 2nd incident of blackface from a fraternity member in May 2018. He asked the California Attorney General to investigate racist incidents on campus.

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