Hundreds voice outrage over blackface at Cal Poly town hall

Hundreds of Cal Poly students packed a room on campus Monday evening for an emergency town hall meeting following the circulation of a photo showing a fraternity member appearing in blackface at a brotherhood event over the weekend.

On Saturday, amid Cal Poly’s Poly Cultural Weekend, the local chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha held a brotherhood event at its fraternity house. Following the event, a photo circulated on Facebook showing Lambda Chi Alpha member and agricultural business senior, Kyler Watkins, in blackface.

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong responded with a statement condemning the blackface incident, and the university placed Lambda Chi Alpha on interim suspension. As a result, the fraternity must halt all of its activities and events while university officials conduct an investigation into the blackface incident.

On Monday evening, an overflow crowd filled a room on campus for a town hall meeting in which students were standing, sitting on the floor and listening from out the door. A statement issued by the Black Student Union was read that characterized the Cal Poly campus as a hostile environment for marginalized students.

“As a predominantly white institution with an overwhelming representation of those in the top 10 percent of the income bracket, Cal Poly has shown time and time again that it does not hold itself, its Greek organizations or its students accountable for their actions. With the lack of support for survivors of sexual assault, the continually low numbers of students, faculty and staff of color and the continual excusing of the behavior of Greek organizations, the Cal Poly Black Student Union and its allies incite the university to take a hard stance against these acts that go against the diversity and inclusivity statement the university is meant to hold itself and its constituents to,” the statement reads.

During the gathering, various students took turns speaking and voicing anger at Lambda Chi Alpha, as well as the Cal Poly Greek community, President Armstrong and white people on campus. Several speakers accused the university administration of doing too little to eliminate racism at Cal Poly.

Armstrong was not present at the town hall gathering.

Lambda Chi Alpha has issued a statement apologizing for the blackface incident, and saying it was part of a fraternity competition in which teams were represented by different colors, one of which was black. The Black Student Union responded in its statement saying, “the images that have surfaced from the weekend have told a very different story.”