Cal Poly to use independent investigators in 'St. Fratty's Day' probe

These photos show the scene before and after a roof collapsed Saturday, March 7, on Hathway Street near Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.
These photos show the scene before and after a roof collapsed Saturday, March 7, on Hathway Street near Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Courtesy of SLO Police Department

Saying they want to avoid any perception of unfair scrutiny, Cal Poly officials are opting to use outside investigators to look into who organized the “St. Fratty’s Day” party that led to a roof collapse and injuries on March 7.

In a statement released Friday, university officials say they expect to use student conduct officers and experts from other college campuses to conduct the rest of the investigation to “ensure impartiality.”

Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier said the university is taking that step to make sure individuals and groups believe the process will yield nothing “more or less than fair consideration.”

Since the incident, which made national news, Cal Poly administrators have pored over social media posts and online photos to collect information about the party. The university has also worked with local police to gather information.

Cal Poly officials questioned about 30 students, including participants, student leaders and others who may have information about the gathering “with the aim of focusing the scope of the full and thorough investigation moving forward,” Lazier said.

The “St. Fratty’s Day” festivities drew about 3,000 people to the Hathway Avenue neighborhood near campus early Saturday morning, and resulted in injuries to at least eight people who were on the roof when it gave way at 6:21 a.m.

The university’s goal is to determine who is responsible for planning the event and hold them accountable “for creating a safety threat to the participants and the community,” said Jean DeCosta, the university’s dean of students.

Sanctions against student organizers could range from a warning to a suspension or expulsion, although Lazier said it was premature to talk about specifics.

“It would be inappropriate to offer conjecture about how individual cases might resolve,” Lazier said.

Cal Poly hasn’t yet determined which outside university experts may take part in the rest of the investigation or how much it could cost.

“This is an important investigation, and the university will ensure that it is done thoroughly and correctly,” Lazier said. “. …This will be a careful and deliberate investigation and will take as long as needed to determine all the facts.”

Cal Poly officials say they will continue to work with the city of San Luis Obispo to prevent similar incidents in the future. President Jeffrey Armstrong challenged students to encourage a positive coexistence with residents.

“What happened the morning of March 7 is clearly not indicative of Cal Poly’s expectations of its students or the relationship we work to foster with the surrounding community,” Armstrong said.

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