The California Faculty Association (CFA) suspects University Police racially profiled a faculty member of color during a traffic stop, according to an email obtained by Mustang News sent to all union members Thursday, Nov. 14. But after an initial search, University Police cannot find any incidents matching the description.
After being pulled over earlier this quarter, the faculty member was placed in handcuffs, according to the email. The email alleges the faculty member was searched for weapons and released without a citation or explanation.
“The treatment that this faculty member was subjected to was disturbing and humiliating and the faculty member’s dignity was severely compromised,” the email from the union’s executive board read. “The faculty member continues to fear being randomly stopped again by campus police.”
The faculty member’s name was not disclosed in the email because of privacy and retribution concerns.
According to the email, the faculty member has not reported the incident to the university but went to the CFA instead.
“Given how little progress has been achieved to date at Cal Poly, we must start depending on ourselves as a community of faculty, staff, and students to do the real work of racial justice and social transformation that this campus so sorely needs and demand more progress from ourselves and the administration,” the email also read.
The union email was the first Cal Poly administration had heard of the allegations, University Spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News.. The university responded to the allegations in a campus-wide email from the Office of the President Friday evening.
“CFA SLO’s suggestion that the university does not care about incidents of racism on Cal Poly’s campus is inaccurate, inflammatory and destructive at a sensitive time on our campus,” President Jeffrey Armstrong wrote in the email.
An initial search through Fall quarter University Police incidents was conducted, and no traffic stop or other interaction matching the description detailed in the email was found, according to Lazier.
“If any member of our campus is harmed, we want and need to know about it,” Armstrong’s email read. “We will do all that we can to support them, bring about justice, and ensure their ongoing safety, wellbeing and comfort. We can only do this if incidents are reported, which allows us to launch an investigation.”
The campus-wide email stated Cal Poly administration has requested additional information from the CFA regarding the alleged incident, but that the CFA is unwilling to provide further details.
“The university will continue to investigate this matter but has no other information beyond what is in the CFA email,” Lazier wrote. “We are seeking additional details that would help pinpoint the date and time of the alleged interaction, so that we can reference saved body camera and dash camera footage, which [University Police] uses to record and log officer stops and interactions throughout their shifts.”
The university intends to hire a third-party investigator to review the allegations, according to the campus-wide email addressing CFA’s allegations. The university said allegations of racial profiling are grounds to request that the California Deputy Attorney General conduct the investigation. However, the email also read that the university is willing to work CFA to choose an investigator they both agree on.
“If the allegations are substantiated, those responsible will be held accountable and there will be serious consequences as warranted,” Armstrong wrote.
California State University System policies prohibit discrimination against faculty unit employees on the basis of race, color and more, according to the CFA Collective Bargaining Agreement. The agreement also read that faculty members should feel safe in their working environment. The Cal Poly CFA wrote that the incident violated Article 16 (Non-discrimination) and Article 37 (Safety) of the agreement.
The CFA is the collective bargaining representative for California State University faculty, including tenure-track faculty, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches. Members of the Cal Poly administration are not part of the CFA.
Incidents of racism on campus
Last month, a post was circulated showing two students mocking undocumented immigrants at a party. The party was not affiliated with the university in any way.
In April 2018, a student wore blackface at a party at a “gangster” themed party hosted by fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha, sparking multiple protests on campus. These incidents, in addition to Cal Poly’s prior race-related issues and lack of diversity, led to many diversity initiatives in recent years.
Cal Poly partnered with Diversity Specialist Damon Williams to conduct a survey of campus and form an action plan last spring. The results of the survey were shared with campus at the Strategic Diversity Leadership Institute Oct. 17.
The data showed minority individuals across many backgrounds and identities — including women, LGBTQIA+ folks, persons with disabilities, financially challenged persons and members of underrepresented ethnic and racial backgrounds — have negative experiences on campus and do not feel a strong sense of belonging and a sense of community. The data showed it is most difficult for Black students to feel positively about their sense of belonging and community.
This article was updated with information from The Office of the President at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15.