Months of student work and planning were thwarted when an event put on by the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was cancelled Monday by Ken Barclay, Director of Student Life and Leadership at Cal Poly.
The Fraternity Fight Night event was to be held Saturday, March 11 in Mott Gym. The event was to feature 30 men, representing many Cal Poly fraternities, in a series of boxing matches.
Because of the cancellation, it will now be held on Saturday at 7 p.m. at SLO Kickboxing. The fighters will meet in “smoker matches,” matches arranged for people who have not boxed in a ring before.
Fraternity Fight Night was planned primarily by Tommy Van Gelder, a biomedical engineering graduate student and member of Pi Kappa Alpha. Van Gelder began planning the event in September 2005. The event was approved, with a few stipulations, by the athletic department on Dec. 6, 2005.
However, Van Gelder received an e-mail on Monday from Barclay notifying him the event was cancelled.
“This type of activity, in my opinion, does not relate to the student development mission and purpose of the University, the student affairs division, nor your fraternity. Although the cause might be very well-intended, the risks to the individual participants far outweighs the value of this event,” Barclay said in the e-mail. “Therefore, this event is cancelled effective immediately. I am very, very sorry for this late notice and all the effort that you and others have given to it.”
Van Gelder had spent months planning the event that was cancelled only four days before it was to take place.
“Yeah, time spent planning the event went down the drain … money spent on the event went down the drain, but the hardest thing for me was telling 30 guys from separate fraternities that there wasn’t going to be an event,” Van Gelder said.
The fighters had been training since January for the event.
“One of the things I feel badly about is that (the event) got under my radar,” Barclay said. “I wasn’t aware of it until Friday (March 3).”
Barclay is also concerned that the event is centered around students beating each other up.
Profits generated by Fraternity Fight Night were to be given to the San Luis Obispo Special Olympics and Cal Poly Athletics. Van Gelder anticipated earning up to $26,000, and planned for the majority of the money to go to SLO Special Olympics.
A number of community sponsors were involved with the event, including SLO Kickboxing, Wild 106 FM, KKFX, Left Coast T-Shirt Company, FedEx Kinko’s, Tahoe Joe’s, Meathead Movers, MG Sports Supplements and Downtown Brewing Company. Radio commercials had been running to advertise the event until Tuesday, and television commercials that were set to run were cancelled.
Insurance policies were also taken to cover the event. Van Gelder paid for an accident policy for the fighters and a general liability policy for those anticipated to attend the event.
According to a confirmation e-mail approving the event that Van Gelder received on Dec. 6, the athletic department required the group to rent tiles to cover the floor of Mott Gym, hire or provide adequate security for the event and contact Sgt. Lori Hashim of the University Police Department to discuss the event. Van Gelder met the stipulations and paid to rent the tiles, met with Hashim and deposited money for the security.
Nevertheless, the event was still cancelled.
“The high risk involved far outweighed the purpose of the event, enough to warrant cancellation even this last minute. But I really feel badly for the lateness of it,” Barclay said.
He added that office procedures were being modified so that this does not happen again.
Upon receiving the e-mail, Van Gelder forwarded to all those involved in the event.
“I found the e-mail disrespectful,” said Mike Steele, a civil engineering sophomore, member of Theta Chi and fighter-in-training for the event. “The wording describing the event undermined the effort that goes into (boxing). It lowered the sport to frat guys punching each other. The short notice of the cancellation was disrespectful as well.”
Though Van Gelder and his fraternity are no longer allowed to be associated with the event, it, though slightly modified, will still be held.

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