Members of the Mustang News Editorial Board sat down with President Jeffrey Armstrong along with Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey and Chief Communications Officer Chris Murphy for an interview regarding campus climate, diversity and inclusivity.
In light of the blackface incident by a member of Lambda Chi Alpha, the national Lambda Chi Alpha headquarters have placed the Cal Poly chapter on probationary suspension until April 2019. Cal Poly also suspended the fraternity following nationals’ suit.
“We suspended all activity of Lambda Chi. And we normally, what we like is for the national fraternity to take the lead. Because they sometimes will be even tougher than what we have been in the past. And so nationals has taken that forward and we’re moving forward [with that]. And Lambda Chi has been shut down for all activity, for a minimum of a year. And we will continue to address that over the coming weeks and see what happens, especially as we learn more,” Armstrong said.
According to Armstrong, it is not his decision whether or not he would like Lambda Chi to stay on campus.
“What I like — or not like — is really not the point. That’s not a decision that I normally make. We have people who are professionals that deal with this,” Armstrong said. “They’re [Lambda Chi] not going to be able to do anything associated with campus now. What I’m not saying today is how long that should be because I’m not making that decision. And I don’t know if they should be off campus permanently. That’s not a decision I’m making today and it’s not a decision that I do make as part of our process.”
According to Armstrong, there are limitations to the decisions he can make. In the case of Lambda Chi, he cannot expel a student, but he will hold Cal Poly greek life accountable.
“We will hold fraternities and sororities accountable. We will hold Cal Poly organizations accountable. We may not be able to do it as fast as you want, but we will hold them accountable, or they will not exist on the campus, because that is a privilege. And that is over time. But I can’t — I’m not going to — and I, you’ll just have to criticize me — I can’t keep a Milo away. I can’t expel a student because he’s expressed himself. That’s not the law by which public university operates … We came out as soon as we could and said, ‘This was awful, it has no place on this campus,’ and a lot of people weren’t satisfied with that because they wanted me to say, ‘That student, you’re out of here.’ That’s not the world we live in. That’s non-constitutional. I am charged with student success and I cannot help move student success forward if I’m breaking the law.”
Given the incident, Armstrong said the university is working to impart change regarding diversity by working through Proposition 209 “to get more African American students on this campus” and pushing for the Cal Poly Opportunity Grant to “get more Hispanic, Latino and Asian students on this campus.”
Proposition 209, a California bill passed in 1996, prohibits “the granting of preferences in public employment, public education and public contracting to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin,” according to the proposition handbook.
“If I did get involved with admissions of the university I’d probably get arrested for breaking Prop 209 because I would want to admit more students of color and more low-income students,” Armstrong said.
With the Opportunity Grant and Fee, Armstrong said Cal Poly will become a more welcoming place for people of color with additional resources provided to them.
“And when the cost of attendance for Cal Poly out-of-state [students] is lower than the cost of attendance for another state, and we have low-income students that we know — not speculating — will come here if we provide more financial aid,” Armstrong said. “So it’s not just as simple as charging a fee. It’s charging a market rate for out-of-state students to support low-income California students.”
Under Jozi De Leon, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, the university has implemented what they call a Collective Impact initiative. Under this model, De Leon has three committees: campus climate, curriculum and recruitment and retention.
According to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s website, “The approach calls for multiple organizations or entities from different sectors to abandon their own agenda in favor of a common agenda, shared measurement and alignment of effort.”
In regards to Cal Poly’s zero tolerance policy on discrimination, Armstrong said discriminatory acts may happen again, but students must understand it will not be tolerated.
“When I say ‘zero tolerance’ in this is that it’s just like sexual assault. I don’t want it to happen at all but it will happen and it’s going to continue to happen but we have to have the policies and procedures in place. From a greek perspective the zero tolerance comes in, they need to understand as an organization, if they’re going to exist in the future this is not gonna be tolerated,” Armstrong said.
Full interview below: