Student protesters to refuse handshake with Cal Poly president at graduation

Jeffrey Armstrong

Recent protests over racism and other alleged injustice on the Cal Poly campus will spill over to the university graduation this weekend.

Student protesters and social justice activists are calling on graduates to refuse to shake President Jeffrey Armstrong’s hand at Cal Poly’s graduation ceremony. A Facebook page organizing the protest is requesting that graduates show solidarity with marginalized students by politely declining a handshake with Armstrong, and in doing so, demand that the president resign.

“Jeffrey D. Armstrong has lost the moral authority to lead this university,” the Facebook page states.

“Why should you shake his hand? Has Jeffrey ever done anything for you? There is no reason to shake the hand of a man who demonstrates disrespect for students on a daily basis. Maybe he has never disrespected your personally, but…

“A handshake with Jeffrey is a slap in the face to all those harmed by his (in)actions.”

Cal Poly has responded with a statement defending Armstrong’s record on diversity and saying the university is disappointed to learn of the planned protest.

“Of course it is disappointing to hear there may be some students who choose not to shake President Armstrong’s hand during commencement, but we support our students’ right to protest and have their voices heard,” the press release says. “Their call for increased diversity at Cal Poly is shared passionately by President Armstrong and the entire administration — this has been and will continue to be a priority.”

The planned graduation demonstration would be the latest in a series of protests that have swept Cal Poly since an incident in which a fraternity member was photographed in blackface. Additionally, there is currently an online petition calling for Armstrong’s resignation.

As of Tuesday morning, the petition has received more than 1,100 signatures. The petition faults Armstrong for allegedly taking insufficient action on combating racism.

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