Naba Ahmed is a journalism senior and the Mustang News editor-in-chief. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
As a Muslim woman of color, I want to share my feelings on the Lambda Chi Alpha blackface incident.
I am the leader of Cal Poly’s news source and I pride myself on leading a staff that works to report unbiased, accurate stories. Our staff understands that there are always two sides to every story. However, this is not the case with Lambda Chi.
Racism is never right. I am horrified by this apparent act of prejudice.
That’s why I’m addressing you, President Armstrong. Because you are the face and voice of this administration.
This is absolutely unacceptable. I wish I could say I don’t understand how Lambda Chi ever thought this type of behavior would be condoned, but under an administration that has excused this behavior, it is evident how such a blatantly racist act happened.
The university has allowed Milo Yiannopoulos to come to campus and a wall full of hate speech to be erected under the guise of free speech. Every time there has been hate speech on campus, you have said your hands are tied and you can’t do anything.
On top of that, Cal Poly has the highest percentage of white students of any California higher learning public institution and has been named one of the seven worst institutions for Latinx student success.
Instead of implementing real change, Armstrong, you would rather pile on more student fees to put on a facade to increase diversity.
Lambda Chi Alpha wrote in their press release, “Although it was not our intention to stir up racial tension, we understand the negative impact this picture had on our peers.”
Lambda Chi should take responsibility for their actions. If they understood the negative impact this picture had on their peers, Lambda Chi Alpha national headquarters, the university and the Interfraternity Council should not have been the groups to condemn the fraternity. Lambda Chi should have done more than simply apologize, or apologize half-heartedly, at that.
Lambda Chi, you are not sorry that your brother was wearing blackface. You are sorry that you got caught. Your intention may not have been to disparage a marginalized community. But that’s what you did.
The damage is done.
Armstrong, do something to prevent further acts of racism instead of sending an ineffective email. What do you think yet another email about discrimination and inclusivity is going to accomplish?
These emails have done nothing.
The Emergency Town Hall was absolutely necessary, but it should not have had to be.
We can share our voice, but it should not be our responsibility to do so. Furthermore, it is not the job of people of color to educate white people on the oppression we face. We are students who have classes and jobs, yet we have to take time out of our day to explain why blackface is bad.
You need to do more than suspend the fraternity. While it was the responsibility of all the members of Lambda Chi to say something, it is Kyler Watkins who holds the most responsibility.
How can you allow a student who has blatantly worn blackface at a party to walk around this campus?
It is unfair and disrespectful to our marginalized communities. As seen in the Emergency Town Hall, we are hurt by this. We still have to go to school with the person and fraternity members who caused this hurt. All because the university will not take action.
When a student repeatedly said the n-word in a video at the University of Alabama, she was immediately expelled.
You say you’re ashamed on behalf of the entire Cal Poly family. But you’re not ashamed enough to take immediate action. It is not enough to simply tell students to support one another and to treat everyone with respect. You need to acknowledge the severity of this incident and impose the appropriate consequences.
So, this is what you can do. Expel Kyler Watkins. Dissolve Lambda Chi Alpha. Provide more resources for students of color. Make people of color want to attend this university without raising student fees.
This is just to start.
Listen to students of color. We have told you what we need and what will make us safe.
You wrote in your April 9 email, “If our student body is not diverse and does not reflect the demographics of the state and communities in which our students will ultimately live and work, we have failed.”
There is no “if” about whether the student body is not diverse. It is not. Therefore, the administration has failed. I am not the only one who thinks so.
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is one of six regional organizations that the federal government has authorized to accredit institutions of higher learning. Cal Poly is accredited every 10 years and their last accreditation was in 2012. According to the WASC Educational Effectiveness Review Report in April 2012, Cal Poly needs to make severe changes or risks losing their accreditation.
“Although the campus is committed to improving the campus climate for minority students, there is concern that the issue of diversity as related to the campus climate has been allowed to exist for a long time. The institution needs to quickly and aggressively address these negative effects and actively increase the diversity of student, staff, and faculty as part of its responsibility to serve the citizens of California,” the report said.
Without university accreditation, our degrees are useless. Employers will not hire students from unaccredited schools because it is not guaranteed that those graduates have adequate preparation, making them a liability for the company.
Moreover, this blatant act of racism is a stain on our degrees. If you Google “Cal Poly,” the search reflects one word: racism.
Armstrong, what are you going to do about that?