California Polytechnic State University Greek Life Suspended

A California university has suspended all fraternities and sororities following racially insensitive incidents and become the latest school to crack down on campus fraternal organizations.

of The Washington Post reports:

The trouble at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo began April 8, when photos of a Lambda Chi Alpha party surfaced that showed white attendees — one in blackface — flashing gang signs. The university’s administration suspended the fraternity for at least a year.

Another party photo surfaced April 17, prompting administrators at the majority-white campus to broaden the suspension to include all fraternities and sororities. The image showed white members of Sigma Nu sporting saggy pants, tank tops and bandannas while drinking Coronas. “When you get he [sic] holmes to take a photo of la familia,” read the caption.

“Words cannot begin to explain how gut-wrenching it has been for me to witness the hurt so many have felt and continue to feel regarding the Lambda Chi Alpha incident,” said Jeffrey Armstrong, president of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, in a lengthy statement issued last week. “I know the discomfort I sit with cannot compare with what so many of our students, faculty and staff of color feel.”

Last week, tensions ratcheted up on the campus. Professor Neal MacDougall discovered multiple racist messages over a few hours. A racial epithet was scrawled in a men’s bathroom. Fliers were posted on the professor’s bulletin board stating that African people have lower IQs and a higher propensity for rape and murder. And a poster attached to the professor’s office door declaring his willingness to help undocumented students was defiled, apparently with a sharp object.

“If you’re physically posting something — even horrible stuff — there’s kind of a passive element to it,” MacDougall, an instructor in Cal Poly’s agribusiness department, said. “But when someone kind of saw that sign and decided to take out whatever sharp object that they had and slashed that sign, that was a bit disturbing. I see that as a fundamentally violent act, and that made me uncomfortable.”

In the coming days, the administration is expected to delineate terms of the fraternity and sorority suspension, which the school’s president described as “indefinite,” and the conditions by which those organizations can return to active status, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said.

“Various Greek organizations have been the sources of numerous problems over the past few years,” Lazier said last week in a statement. “These problems have 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.”

“This is not an attempt to get rid of Greek life at Cal Poly,” he said. “Rather, it is a pause and a reset.”

Miguel Preciado, a junior majoring in agriculture business, said he could not imagine joining Lambda Chi Alpha, the fraternity linked to photos showing members flashing gang signs at a party.

“As a Mexican person, I completely would not feel comfortable at all trying to rush for the Lambdas or any fraternity that was ag-related because of how white it is,” he said.

Nikki Petkopoulos, a graduating senior who is Asian, said she has felt out of place at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Petkopoulos, who came from a predominantly Asian school in a San Francisco suburb, said she was taken aback by interactions with white students at the university.

Petkopoulos said she was assigned to live in the engineering dorm, even though she was a journalism major.

“Everybody was white, I was the only person who wasn’t,” she said. “And that’s fine.”

It became uncomfortable, she said, when she and other women would chat with men in the dorm, and the men would discuss women they find attractive.

“It started off kind of benign, like a little racist, but like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m only into blonde girls with blue eyes,’ ” she said. “But then they kind of have to take it a step further.”

One man made a habit of telling her he didn’t find Asian women attractive.

“Even a guy I dated would say some pretty racist stuff . . . like only Beyoncé could be an attractive black girl,” she said.

Petkopoulos said she believes the student wearing blackface should be expelled.

“There has been a new reckoning on campus,” she said. “And I think people making such a fuss in opposition to the movement are the type of people who don’t realize how much they think the world revolves around them.”

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