Students were brought in for questioning on Thursday, March 12, to aid a Dean of Students-run investigation about “St. Fratty’s Day,” when a roof collapsed at an off-campus party on March 7.
According to a statement from the university, “in an effort to identify specific participants, the dean’s office has combed photos and social media posts about the event and worked with local public safety agencies to gather information.”
The statement proceeded to say that the office questioned about 30 students. These students were identified participants, student leaders and others with potential information about “the gathering.”
“Our ultimate intent is to determine who is directly responsible for planning this gathering and hold them accountable for creating a safety threat to the participants and the community,” Dean of Students Jean DeCosta said.
University spokesperson Matt Lazier said the administration’s aim is to identify the specific person or organization that might have been involved in planning the event, who “therefore would be responsible for having put it on and ultimately for having it gotten out of control, as it did,” he said.
Journalism sophomore and Mustang News reporter Leah Horner was one of the students called in. She described the majority of the experience as “uncomfortable.”
According to Horner, they asked her questions along the lines of: “What was your involvement?,” “How did you hear about it?,” “Who do you think is to blame?,” “Did you feel safe?” and “What actions should be taken?”
When asked if the students were required to attend these meetings, Lazier said he was unable to get into “those kinds of details.”
On March 11, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities sent out an email to multiple students with the subject “Required Informational Meeting Notice (URGENT).”
The email began by addressing the student. It read: “We need your help. We are trying to understand the events that led up to a ‘St. Fratty’s Day’ Party.”
According to the email, the meetings were held in Chumash Auditorium and provided food and beverages for the students.
“The goal of this meeting is to collect as much information as we can regarding the March 7, 2015 event. Please come prepared to be open and helpful. You are REQUIRED to attend this meeting, but the meeting is not punitive; it is focused on gathering information and learning facts,” the email said.
The email also noted that students had the right to bring an advisor to the meeting.
When asked on what grounds the university required students to attend such meetings, Lazier said he would have to report back after gathering further information.
In an email he specified “2. Grounds for Student Discipline,” Article 17 of the Student Code of Conduct, which reads: “Failure to comply with directions of, or interference with, any University official or any public safety officer while acting in the performance of his/her duties.”
“This would be the specific point that gives the university the capability to require students to attend meetings such as the one that took place yesterday,” Lazier said in the email.
The statement from the university also mentioned that Cal Poly’s judicial process allows for flexibility in determining the sanction that best matches the action, DeCosta said. These sanctions may range from a warning up to suspension or expulsion.
DeCosta also said in the statement that Cal Poly will be bringing in independent investigators to conduct the remainder of the investigation and ensure “impartiality.” These investigators will most likely be student conduct officers and experts from other universities.
“The idea is to find colleagues of the folks who do the student conduct work on our campus but are at other campuses,” Lazier said.
Lazier does not have any details as to how these independent investigators will be moving forward with the investigation.
The university stated it will “continue to work closely with the city government officials in discussing broader issues of student-community relations and neighborhood wellness.”
It is also discussing measures to help prevent future incidents, the statement said.
Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong made it clear in the statement that the events of March 7, St. Fratty’s Day, were not indicative of Cal Poly’s expectations for students, nor the relationship “we work to foster” with the surrounding community.
“We expect our students to enjoy their time at Cal Poly and in this beautiful community. We do not, however, expect that they will endanger themselves and those around them or disregard and disrupt the tranquility of our residential neighborhoods,” Armstrong said. “These are unacceptable behaviors unbefitting the privilege of being a member of the Cal Poly family and the San Luis Obispo community.”