A photo of a Cal Poly fraternity member is sparking controversy.
The Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity is responding to a picture of one of its members in blackface.
The photo, reportedly posted to Facebook by a local resident, shows two fraternity members during the university's PolyCultural Weekend.
One of the members has a black-painted face.
The Facebook user says the photo was originally posted by a professor.
The fraternity has apologized for the photo, saying it was from a competition April 7 between teams and each team was represented by a color, one of those being black.
Lambda Chi Alpha sent a letter to Cal Poly's student newspaper, "Mustang News," saying in part: "We would like to sincerely apologize for any harm caused by the photograph taken at a brotherhood event April 7th ... We are extremely sorry and embarrassed for failing to recognize the racial impacts this brought forth. The representation depicted in the photograph was absolutely unacceptable."
Cal Poly released the following statement to KSBY, "The university finds deplorable any acts that would seek to hurt, offend, intimidate, or frighten any member of our campus community. The university is aware of the posting and is investigating the matter at this time."
KSBY has also reached out to the fraternity but has not yet heard back. However, the organization posted a message online directed to all of its members nationwide, saying in part, "As Lambda Chi Alpha men, it is our duty to uphold our Core Values, which means respecting others and celebrating diversity."
Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong shared the following statement Monday afternoon:
Dear Campus Community:
This weekend the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity held an event that appears to have included racially insensitive behavior. While the fraternity claims the incident was not intended to be racially motivated, the university continues to review the event to fully understand what occurred. What we do know is the pictures from the event have caused pain to many members of our community. For those who have been hurt and offended, please know that I stand with you.
Like many of you, I have seen the images that circulated on social media and find them to be painful and embarrassing. As president of Cal Poly, and on behalf of the entire Cal Poly family, I am ashamed. Hurtful actions, be they intentional or otherwise, have no place at our university and yet, regrettably, we experience them. They are senseless acts of ignorance that injure and alienate valued members of our community. They must stop. We may come from differing backgrounds, but every one of us at Cal Poly is a human being who deserves respect. In the most important ways, we are one family.
In fact, it is our different backgrounds, experiences and cultures that strengthen and unite us. These differing perspectives and attributes make our campus community special - and they are precisely what we should cultivate and celebrate.
If our student body is not diverse and does not reflect the demographics of the state and communities in which our students will ultimately live and work, we have failed. We have failed diverse students who would benefit from a Cal Poly degree and we have failed to prepare our student body for success after Cal Poly. A critical part of Learn by Doing is experiencing a diverse and enriching environment where every student benefits from living and learning with others who are different from them. We cannot accomplish this important goal if some members of our community are made to feel unwelcome or unwanted.
The responsibility for change lies with every one of us at this university. I ask you to join me in committing yourself to creating a more kind, supportive and inclusive campus community. It is simple and it starts with being mindful and considerate of others and treating everyone with the respect, dignity and humanity they deserve.
Jeffrey D. Armstrong
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