A white trash-themed party is scheduled for tonight at Buffalo Pub & Grill, prompting criticism from a Cal Poly administrator. A poster for the event includes two Confederate flags and a disheveled man raising a beer while smoking a cigarette. "My concern is that many people may not understand some of the symbols like the Confederate flag and just what that may entail," Annie Holmes, Cal Poly's executive director for campus diversity and inclusivity, said.
A white trash-themed party is scheduled for tonight at Buffalo Pub & Grill. A poster for the event includes two Confederate flags and a disheveled man raising a beer while smoking a cigarette. “My concern is that many people may not understand some of the symbols like the Confederate flag and just what that may entail,” Annie Holmes, Cal Poly’s executive director for campus diversity and inclusivity, said.

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A white trash-themed party scheduled for tonight at Buffalo Pub & Grill is prompting criticism from a Cal Poly administrator, but the downtown restaurant’s owner said she did not anticipate the theme causing controversy.

The bar, which is located on Higuera Street in downtown San Luis Obispo, advertised the event on Facebook and with posters on Cal Poly’s campus. The Facebook event page encourages attendees to “Bust out those wife-beaters and jean shorts, because (it’s) time for our WHITE TRASH PARTY!!!”

Annie Holmes, Cal Poly’s executive director for campus diversity and inclusivity, said she did a “double-take” after first seeing a sign for the event on campus. The poster includes two Confederate flags and a disheveled man raising a beer while smoking a cigarette.

“My concern is that many people may not understand some of the symbols like the Confederate flag and just what that may entail,” Holmes said. “And it may exclude people who are in that socioeconomic situation in their life and don’t really make fun of living in a trailer park.”

Biological sciences junior Michelle Tyson, who walked by the poster on campus Wednesday evening, said the Confederate flags seemed “pretty bad and racially insensitive.”

“I don’t know if black students would be offended by it or not,” Tyson said.

Buffalo Pub & Grill owner Myriam Olaizola said she didn’t expect the event to offend locals. Olaizola, who comes from a French background, said she didn’t initially understand the white trash theme when an employee proposed it to her.

“It sounds like I should have looked at that poster a little more in detail — I certainly didn’t intend any harm with it,” Olaizola said. “We’re open to everybody, and I don’t believe in stereotypes. It was all positive and fun on our part, and I don’t want people to look at it and think we’re not welcoming to all sorts of people.”

The feedback regarding the party has been positive so far though, Olaizola said. She noted no one younger than the age of 21 will be allowed to attend, and she expects attendees to wear “old, worn” attire and “couch-potato” clothing.

Though Holmes, who was hired in March to lead Cal Poly’s administrative efforts on diversity, expressed concerns about the theme, she said she does not want to regulate which off-campus events students attend. She did note, however, that Cal Poly is working with the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association to improve cultural diversity and inclusivity in the community.

It is appropriate, Holmes said, for local businesses to consider how they might exclude parts of the community with events such as tonight’s.

“I’m really not sure who they’re spinning this kind of party to,” she said.

Racial- or stereotypical-themed parties have been criticized in college towns in the past. A Duke University fraternity was suspended from national affiliation two months ago after complaints regarding an Asian-stereotype themed party, according to Time Magazine. The party, originally named “Asia Prime” and then changed to “International Relations,” sparked a 200-student protest against the use of Asian stereotypes.

The party will be at 10 p.m. at Buffalo Pub and Grill.

Sean McMinn and Aryn Sanderson contributed to this staff report.