Cal Poly Open House marred by protest over campus racism

As Cal Poly welcomed prospective students and their families over the weekend to the university’s annual Open House, hundreds of students boycotted the event, marched and protested on and off campus, creating an uneasy situation for administrators, particularly President Jeffrey Armstrong.

Protesters chanted numerous slogans, including “I am not Cal Poly proud” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho. Armstrong has got to go,” while the university president spoke with prospective students. The various protests stemmed from the fraternity blackface incident that occurred the previous weekend, which angry students say Armstrong and other administrators have not properly addressed.

On Saturday, numerous Cal Poly clubs set up booths, as they traditionally do for Open House. However, they left the booths unmanned with statements expressing support “Black, Latino and indigenous peers.”

The clubs condemned Cal Poly administrators “for doing nothing about” the blackface incident and gangster impersonation that occurred during a Lambda Chi Alpha brotherhood event a week prior.

Student protesters also handed out material to families of prospective students warning them of rampant racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination on campus. Protesters allege Cal Poly administrators are protecting a serial rapist on campus, in addition to racist fraternity members.

Following the blackface incident, the Cal Poly Lambda Chi Alpha chapter was suspended and its leadership resigned. University administrators are continuing to investigate the fraternity, but Armstrong said at a public forum addressing the issue that the student who was photographed in blackface would most likely not be expelled because of his free speech rights.

Kyler Watkins, the student who painted his face black, said he was unaware of the history of blackface, and that he painted his face black because he was on the black team. He has apologized to anyone he made uncomfortable.

Nonetheless, protesters continued on Saturday to call for the Watkins’s expulsion. They also continued to express anger at the fraternity.

“Lambda Chi needs to die,” protesters chanted on Saturday.

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