Lilly Leif is an English sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Winter Rush 2019 for IFC included Lambda Chi Alpha, who during Spring 2018 was suspended due to their blackface incident. The fraternity was initially placed on indefinite suspension, which proved to be very short-lived, seeing as they participated in Winter Rush last quarter. The inclusion of Lambda Chi grossly indicates Cal Poly’s values as a university. Allowing Lambda Chi to participate in Winter Rush, rather than being fully suspended, denotes that Cal Poly offers little to no sympathy to the students who were genuinely hurt by the abhorrent actions that occurred last spring. While plenty of apologetic emails were sent out to the student body, Cal Poly has proven yet again that reparations are not on the agenda.
On the contrary, the Sigma Pi fraternity was recently placed on suspension for conspiracy to haze and providing alcohol to minors for five quarters. While their actions were deserving of discipline, I find it suggestive of what Cal Poly truly values as an establishment. The fact that Lambda Chi received barely two months of full suspension for a racially charged incident while Sigma Pi received five for something that was, while still inexcusable, something I view to be considerably less disgraceful. This reflects poorly on both Cal Poly as a school and President Jeffrey Armstrong himself. By reinstating Lambda Chi, this perhaps demonstrates Cal Poly’s valuing of financial gain rather than their students. Obviously the Interfraternity Council (IFC) is responsible for much of the money Cal Poly is granted and Lambda Chi had been a prominent and well respected fraternity on campus up until the incident last spring. Their reinstatement leads me to believe that the administration never fully comprehended the extent of the fraternity’s actions.
Furthermore, there have been little to no reparations in the wake of the blackface incident. While at the time there was talk of how to promote a safer and more inclusive campus, there have been no tangible results. I understand that on a grander scale, little time has passed since the incident, as it was less than a year ago. However, because of the lack of response and implementation of anything resembling a step in the right direction, I find it difficult to believe the administration genuinely cares about the students who were hurt and offended at the hands of Lambda Chi Alpha. Discussions of how we can improve campus have long since died down and students who were unaffected remain ambivalently so, while others who were affected remain frustrated at the lack of response.
I do not write this with intent to criticize the members of Lambda Chi, but rather to point out Cal Poly’s failure to recognize that lifting the suspension only reaffirms that the administration is not looking out for the students; instead, it affirms they are only acting in their own self-interest. As an overwhelmingly white campus, the slap-on-the-wrist social suspension of Lambda Chi is indicative of the privilege the vast majority of the students here possess. By facing little to no punishment, this only aids in reaffirming that privilege. This privilege has been made even more clear with the varying punishments and probations placed upon Sigma Pi and Lambda Phi Epsilon. Both fraternities were placed on probation for the same offenses — “Violation of Registered Student Organization Code of Conduct, Violation of health and safety, Violation of alcohol use, Violations of law, Violation of hazing & conspiracy to haze.” However, while Sigma Pi was placed on suspension for the remainder of the school year and social probation until Spring 2020, Lambda Phi Epsilon had their recognition fully revoked for a minimum of two years with the earliest time of reorganization being Fall 2020. Sigma Pi is part of IFC, a predominately white organization, while Lambda Phi is a cultural fraternity and part of the United Sorority and Fraternity Council. The discrepancy between these two punishments lies in the fact that Cal Poly places more value in white campus organizations. There is no reason these two fraternities should have different punishments. This is undeniably suggestive of the privilege white organizations and students themselves receive.
It is extremely evident as to what Cal Poly places value upon as a university. While it is difficult to come up with a long-term solution to the passiveness of Cal Poly’s administration and failure to act on behalf of the students, reinstating Lambda Chi is certainly not a start.