More than 40 clubs boycotted the Open House club showcase April 14 and silently marched off campus in protest of Cal Poly administration’s response to a Lambda Chi Alpha member pictured in blackface at a gangster-themed brotherhood event. As it was a silent protest, some participants had tape over their mouths.
Participating clubs set up their booths for Open House, leaving a statement of solidarity with Black, Latinx and Indigenous students. The booths were left unmanned, with only the letter and information about race issues at Cal Poly remaining.
All Interfraternity fraternities and Panhellenic sororities did not have booths at club showcase. United Sorority & Fraternity Council set up booths, but did not have any members present.
Protesters began by marching from Centennial Lawn by the Warren J. Baker Center for Science and Mathematics (building 180 ) to Dexter Lawn, where President Jeffrey Armstrong welcomed prospective students and their families to Open House.
Business administration freshman Amber Lin boycotted the club showcase with the Chinese Student Association.
“I decided that I wanted to come out because I feel like I should stand with other people of color,” Lin said. “I felt like it was very important for me as an Asian to come out and stand with everybody today.”
Lin added that she thought it was important that prospective students see this side of Cal Poly before deciding to come to the university.
“This issue is part of Cal Poly, so they should know about it before they come here and they face it themselves,” Lin said.
Political science sophomore at Cuesta College Mikayla Regier will be transferring to Cal Poly. She said the string of protests following the blackface incident are encouraging her to come more.
“If anything, it is encouraging me to be a part of this community because it fights against oppression,” Regier said. “This is why we can keep pride for Cal Poly, protests like this. It shows we don’t stand for the evils of racism.”
Other students were protesting Armstrong’s response and lack of action following the blackface incident. History senior Vanaaisha Pamnani said she was upset when Armstrong told a San Luis Obispo Tribune reporter that students should think of “other ways to get their voices heard” rather than boycotting club showcase.
“I find that kind of appalling because for the last few years, at least when I’ve been here, we have tried sitting down and found alternative ways to speak,” Pamnani said. “Really by saying that he’s trying to shut down us voicing our opinions or really he’s telling us to be quiet and be voiceless. I just find it super offensive and I just think it’s showing us he doesn’t stand in solidarity with us and he doesn’t care what we think or stand for.”
Pamnani said she isn’t marching with a group.
“I’m just here as a student of color really upset about what’s going on here and just want to stand in solidarity,” Pamnani said.
The silent protest culminated at Santa Rosa Park at 11:30 a.m.
At least 40 clubs have decided to boycott Open House in support of students who have been adversely affected by acts of racism. Their tables are set up, but only hold a declaration of their protest. Follow this thread for live updates. pic.twitter.com/0hJhev4eWz
— Mustang News (@CPMustangNews) April 14, 2018
According to a press release on behalf of the students of color and Cal Poly cultural clubs and organizations who participated in the silent walk, the march was to show incoming students and families that the campus and administration do not create a welcoming place for students of color.
“In doing so, the students showed incoming families that Cal Poly does have problems, that it is a space where students of color face unnecessary struggles surrounding racism, and that these issues must be resolved by administration,” the press release said.
After the group went to Santa Rosa, participants returned to campus to ask campus tour guides questions about the current campus climate.
The final part of the protest culminated in the University Union Plaza where the list of demands signed by the Drylongso Collective was read aloud.
This article will be continuously updated.
Update April 16: This post has been updated with information from a press release on behalf of campus cultural clubs and organizations who participated in the solidarity walk.