This letter reflects the opinions of anthropology and geography freshman Jovi Vella. Letters to the editor do not reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
There are rapists and racists on my campus. They attend the same lectures, eat from the same food trucks on Dexter Lawn and sit at the same tables as me in the library. They receive the same grades as me, probably even better ones sometimes, complain about the same professors, smell the same scent of cow manure when the wind picks up and use the same hallway Britta filters as me. As Cal Poly students, we share many experiences everyday, and yet there is one big difference between us — I feel unsafe on this campus because of their presence.
In my political theory class, we have spent hours analyzing the texts of Plato and Aristotle, learning about what old dead white guys considered to be “justice.” Ancient Greek philosophers spent their lifestyles seeking an acceptable explanation for what justice and injustice means to the individual, and to society at large. It is amazing to me how far we have come since 450 B.C., and yet we still fail to see injustice when it’s right in front of us. Worse yet, we are able to see it but neglect to enforce the sanctions necessary to achieve justice. What brilliant minds like Plato essentially concluded is that justice is a “human virtue” that makes a person self-consistent and good. Yet, although we have a definition, one that is agreeable for most, and obvious to some, we still struggle to identify injustice everyday, even on our own college campuses.
In light of recent events, I have learned many things about the school I attend — perhaps more in the last couple of weeks than my entire time at Cal Poly thus far. The main conclusion I have come to is that malfeasance is only acknowledged when a reputation is on the line. I suggest with no hesitation that this incident would have been given little to no attention by the administration had the media not caught whiff of the situation and portrayed this institution as less than the prestigious, well-rounded place we claim to be. While the issues of cultural appropriation and racial profiling are portrayed as being the root of these recent incidents, I find that hard to believe. We are a society of prejudice, discrimination, profiling and other deviant behaviors occurring from individuals and groups everyday, and they will continue to have a place in our society when those that engage in the behaviors are not adequately sanctioned for their actions. Ignorant people do ignorant things all the time, both on this campus and off, and it is only when the pride of an overseeing group, such as the administration, is impacted that action is taken.
This ignorance goes beyond cultural and racial barriers, but is present every weekend in the themes of parties thrown, both within the greek community and outside of it. “CEO’s and Office Hoes,” “Golf Pros and Tennis Hoes,” “Pimps and Hoes,” and “GI Joes and Army Hoes,” are just a few of the abundance of party themes that ensures women wear the littlest of clothing and men are portrayed as masculine and powerful as possible. These themes are demeaning and degrading towards women, a population that makes up half of our student body, and yet the school has never batted an eye to change this commonality of sexist, degrading party themes. To blame this issue on greek life is absurd. A group of people living in a house are just as capable of throwing a party with whatever theme they see fit as fraternities and sororities are. The same goes for parties themed with cultural appropriation. This is not a greek life problem, this is a societal problem. I am the first to admit, I have attended parties with such themes, dressed accordingly and have not thought twice about it; and to me, that is the worst part. I am so used to the culture of portraying women sexually, not as intelligent, brave, compassionate, substantial individuals, but rather objects dressed in the most “attractive” fashion to make us feel good about ourselves. Again I’ll emphasize it, these issues goes beyond the greek organizations, but are deeply engrained in the culture we have manifested.
To the administration, I have many questions. Where was the school’s attention when eight girls were raped by one individual? Why was action only taken when a media outlet picked up on the story, and yet was still brushed under the rug and did not receive a quarter of the attention that the blackface incident has? Why does this individual still walk free on this campus? Why do I, or any other woman on this campus, have to feel unsafe walking to class or attending any kind of social event, because sexual assault is not taken seriously by my school? Why is an entire organization of individuals, a massive majority of which were not remotely involved in the blackface incident or other instances of cultural appropriation, being punished for a few ignorant individuals actions? If this individual had not been affiliated with a fraternity and the social event not been on a fraternity property, how would his punishment have changed? Would I, a member of a Cal Poly sorority, still be punished myself if I engage with my fellow community members in a social setting, regardless if there is a controversial theme, or even alcohol involved? Why do I have the very same punishment as the racially prejudiced individual who sparked this entire incident, or an individual whose disgusting actions label him a serial rapist? This does not sound like justice to me.
As I walk to class, I walk past many faces of students, many of them good kind souls, but some with bitter intentions and a disregard for morality and the well-being of others. I can peer over my shoulder onto another student’s quiz, jot down an answer to a question I did not formulate on my own. I would very well be penalized and most likely expelled for that. These last few weeks, I have learned that my school prioritizes academic honesty over letting its students have safety, security and peace of mind on this campus. The very fact that I can cheat on a 10-point quiz and my collegiate future would be ruined in an instant, but I could be a rapist or racist and still eat at the same food trucks, sip from the same water fountains and attend the same lectures as my peers, does not sit well with me. This makes me far from Cal Poly Proud.
*This letter has been edited for clarity.