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Cal Poly Suspends All Greek Life After Second Racist Incident

April 20, 2018
 
 

California Polytechnic State University’s president announced in a letter Tuesday it would suspend all Greek life on campus after two fraternities committed racially insensitive acts in the past two months.

The first incident occurred this month, when Cal Poly’s Lambda Chi Alpha chapter was suspended because a student wore blackface at an event. The second surfaced Monday, when President Jeffery Armstrong learned Cal Poly Sigma Nu chapter members had dressed in stereotypical "Latino" gang apparel about six weeks ago.

The university attributed the Greek life suspension to previous issues as well. Matt Lazier, college spokesperson, told KCBX that problems included “racially charged and insensitive events, sexual assaults, hazing and alcohol-related deaths, and violations of the university’s code of conduct regarding hosting social events.”

Details of the suspension, including its conditions and length, will be publicized in the coming days, Lazier said.

Armstrong announced several steps Cal Poly had taken to address racism on campus. According to Armstrong's letter, the university hired an "independent African-American diversity and inclusion specialist," Kimberly McLaughlin-Smith of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, to advocate for underrepresented students. The university is also requiring hiring committees, staff covered by the management personnel plan and other confidential positions to take implicit bias training. While the university cannot mandate the training for faculty and staff, it is “strongly encouraging it,” Armstrong wrote.

The university's scope to discipline students is somewhat limited, Armstrong wrote, as free speech is protected by the First Amendment.

"I want to address the question of discipline for the students involved. I have to start by saying I abhor and denounce racist speech and actions -- they are inconsistent with my personal values and those of Cal Poly. I wish we could forbid them from our campus and ensure they are never again expressed, but that is not realistic," Armstrong wrote.

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