Cal Poly is reacting after an Instagram photo started circulating online showing two students mocking undocumented immigrants at a party.
The post read “Cowboys vs (Illegal) Aliens” and showed four people dressed in bandanas making apparent hand signs. The two men in the photo are both Cal Poly students, one of them on the wrestling team.
The university is investigating the circumstances of the photo in order to determine if it violates any campus policies, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier.
— mel ? (@melmrtnzz) October 15, 2019
Business administration sophomore Kiana Quintana hosted the party where the photo was taken, along with political science sophomore Danielle Anderson, for their birthdays. They said the party’s theme was “Cowboys and Aliens,” based on the 2011 movie.
Neither Quintana or Anderson know any of the people in the photo and said they were invited at the last minute by a friend. The guests in the post were at the party for approximately 30 minutes.
“[Quintana] and I are both Hispanic, so seeing the post and knowing we were tied to it was sad,” Anderson said. “We didn’t come to think the party theme could be twisted.”
The party was not affiliated with Cal Poly in any way. The two females in the post do not go to Cal Poly, according to Quintana.
Anderson said they were not aware the photo was posted until she saw it on Twitter Tuesday.
“At first, I was really shocked,” Quintana said. “I was at a loss for words. You don’t really think much when you see people take a photo.”
Both Quintana and Anderson spoke to Dean of Students Kathleen McMahon about the incident today. They said they want to be transparent about the incident and work to build an inclusive community on campus.
Mustang News reached out to both students pictured in the photo for comment but has not received a response.
Cal Poly response
Just two days before the results of the Cal Poly Experience (CPX) diversity survey were set to be unveiled, President Jeffrey Armstrong sent out an email addressing the post.
“For those who are hurt by this photo, know that we empathize and we stand with you,” Armstrong wrote. “We must step in and be responsible community members and be active bystanders who stop behavior that seeks to divide us before it happens.”
The Dream Center hosted events meant to help students debrief throughout the day, including an open forum and dinner.
Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) also publicly addressed the post, saying they are “saddened that our underrepresented community continuously experiences these instances of overt prejudice.”
“No human is ‘illegal,’” the statement read. “This language is dehumanizing and inaccurate. We must hold each other to a higher standard if we are to create an inclusive environment at Cal Poly.”
Diversity specialist Damon Williams shared the results of last spring’s CPX survey and next steps for turning data into action during the Strategic Diversity Leadership Institute Oct. 17.