A new blackface incident at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo has led to campus officials asking for a state investigation into several such happenings.
This second such incident in as many months “was intended to imitate” an earlier episode; last month, outrage ensued after a student in the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity was photographed in black makeup.
The Los Angeles Times reports officials are identifying neither the student nor the fraternity involved in the latest occurrence– which was discovered on “a fraternity group’s” private Snapchat account.
In a video address to campus on Friday, Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong said “I am outraged. These vile and absolutely unacceptable acts cannot continue. We must not allow these acts to define us as an institution.”
He added, “To all students, faculty and staff, regardless of your race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, I want you to know that we care about you. To those who are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, other beliefs or no belief, please know that our campus is for you. It is for all Cal Poly students.”
Iliana Salas, president of the Hispanic Business Student Assn., said Armstrong’s message struck her as little more than an empty apology.
“It’s like, ‘We’re sorry, but we’re not going to do anything about it,’ ” she said, adding that she thinks students involved in the earlier racially charged photos should have been expelled.
Cal Poly officials said at the time that the students were protected by their constitutional right to free speech and could not be expelled.
Salas said she was not surprised that another blackface incident had occurred. Many on campus still refuse to think there was anything wrong about it, she said.
“Even after that first blackface incident, I heard remarks from people who just didn’t see the problem with it,” she said. …
Cal Poly officials did not identify the student in the latest photograph or his fraternity affiliation, citing the attorney general’s probe. It will determine whether the incidents violate Cal State policy on discrimination and harassment.
“This incident, the entire Lambda Chi incident, as well as reports from several other fraternities and sororities, has [sic] been turned over to the California attorney general for investigation,” [President] Armstrong said. “We will report the results as permissible by law once the investigation is complete.”
Armstrong, his colleagues, and the AG’s office may find that difficult. The 4th Circuit Court’s ruling in Iota Xi Chapter v. George Mason University (1993) and Berger v. Battaglia (1985) held that blackface displays are constitutionally protected despite any outrage which might result.