Cal Poly protests erupt during welcoming weekend for future students

Posted at 4:06 PM, Apr 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-14 19:06:01-04

Cal Poly students continued protests Saturday over a racially-insensitive photo shared on social media sparked heated debates within the community. 

Students used Cal Poly’s Open House event as a platform for their anti-racism message. These protests manifested from a fraternity blackface scandal, in which a photo of Lambda Chi Alpha member, Kyler Watkins, with his face painted black.  

The photo sparked outrage, a university investigationfraternity suspensionmember resignationsGreek Life probation, and an explanation from the young man who was pictured.

Protesters silently marched to Dexter Lawn where Cal Poly president Jeffery Armstrong was giving a welcome speech to open house participants. Armstrong didn’t address the protesters, but did acknowledge their presence.

"The protesters do not believe that I have done enough – that we have done enough – and we will continue to work hard," Armstrong said to future students and their families.

Cal Poly’s Open House was an event. meant for prospective students and their families to check out the campus. 

"So, Cal Poly family, your son or daughter, we will take the best care of them. Student success, diversity and inclusion are our priority."

While ralliers had big signs with strong messages, most had their mouths taped shut in an effort to further their silent message. Shirts worn by ralliers had the message "we’ve had enough, silence is violence" while they held signs with similar sentiments.

Prospective students visiting the campus say the protests didn’t scare them away.  

"The protests enhance my idea to go to this school," said Mikayla Regier, a prospective student. "I want to be a part of a movement that says racism is evil and we want to stand against it."

Protests also took form in empty booths; Greek chapters and multicultural student groups left notes in their place. 

Visiting students said the empty booths were a strong statement, and that an apology for the controversial photo isn’t enough. 

"It shows some ignorance that he was still able to do it that he still went through with it," said Andrew, another prospective Cal Poly student.

Not everyone who spoke with KSBY supported the protests. One mother said she didn’t understand why the group chose to disrupt a welcoming weekend for future students. 

Protests are expected to continue as organizers work to plan their next move. 

Greek life as a whole is suspended across campus. Fraternity and sorority houses call it a "self-imposed probation."