Cal Poly president responds to student calls for action following blackface incident

Posted at 7:41 PM, Apr 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-13 22:41:37-04

Demonstrators claim Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong hasn’t done enough to punish the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brothers involved in a blackface photo scandal nearly a week after the photo surfaced online.

The photo has caused outrage on the Cal Poly campus, with students alleging that President Armstrong is not truly committed to fostering a diverse campus. They called on Friday for Armstrong to resign. He has not said whether he will or won’t.

"I certainly respect our students’ right to protest, to call for my resignation, to do whatever they deem is best for what they believe best for the future of our university," President Armstrong said Friday during a sit-down interview.

Meanwhile, incoming freshmen are at Cal Poly, touring the campus for Open House weekend. It’s not the first impression the university had intended to give new students but it’s one the school president says he’s facing head-on.

"As leader of Cal Poly, to make sure that this one event does not define us," Armstrong said.

Students have called on Armstrong to expel the student who wore blackface. Armstrong says he fully understands but doing so is a slippery slope.

"We have a process and we don’t take action lightly. We have professionals involved and our review has deemed that those actions — while I hate those actions — they’re protected by free speech, so the students won’t be expelled."

Less than one percent of the student body is black. Many Mustangs say Armstrong isn’t doing enough to promote a diverse and inclusive campus culture.

"When I started we were 63 percent white and now we’re 55 percent," he said.

According to university statistics, 41 percent of students identify as something other than white.

The Greek Life program is also under fire.

"The entire Greek community has suspended themselves over these past few days to really take the time to think about it, I suppose," said Armstrong.

On a weekend when Cal Poly aimed to put its best foot forward, an apologetic school president is now doing damage control and focusing on change.

"We’re not going to have a bubble here at Cal Poly," he said. "What I can tell prospective students is we care about your success, we care about your safety and this is a safe campus."

President Armstrong says he plans to participate in Open House activities and welcomes questions from concerned parents and incoming students.