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A Fraternity at Cal Poly Has Been Suspended After Photos Surfaced Online of Its Members in Blackface

The chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha at California Polytechnic State University has been suspended and sanctioned by its national organization after photos surfaced online of its members standing in front of their fraternity house dressed as gang members and wearing blackface.

As the New York Times reports, one photo, which was posted to Instagram Sunday, shows Lambda Chi Alpha members wearing baggy jeans, gold chains, bandanas and fake tattoos. As if that weren’t questionable enough already, a separate photo shows one member wearing blackface — and both photos were taken the same weekend that Cal Poly hosted its annual multicultural event.

For obvious reasons, it didn’t take long for students and university officials to find the photos, which resulted in immediate outrage across campus. Especially considering the fact that only 1% of the school’s 22,000 students are black, diversity has already historically been an issue on the Cal Poly campus, the Times says. Back in 2015, death threats were made against the leader of an advocacy group on campus, and a “free speech wall” set up by Cal Poly’s college Republicans group featured hateful, anti-Muslim comments.

For its part, Cal Poly has suspended Lambda Chi Alpha while it investigated the matter and released a statement saying it did not condone the fraternity’s actions. “Cal Poly is focused on enhancing the diversity of our campus and providing an environment that is welcoming to all who would study, work or visit here,” Kathleen McMahon, Cal Poly’s dean of students said Monday. “Racism and hate are unwelcome here, in any form.”

The chapter was also sanctioned by Lambda Chi Alpha’s national organization by being placed on “limited operations” through April of next year. The brothers will also reportedly be required to attend diversity and inclusion training sessions.

“We are extremely sorry and embarrassed for failing to recognize the racial impacts this brought forth,” a statement from the chapter reads. “Although it was not our intention to stir up racial tension, we understand the negative impact this picture had on our peers.”

Cal Poly, like many universities in the country, clearly has some work to do when it comes to making sure all students feel safe and welcome on campus — and the way they handle diversity and inclusion in the coming months following this incident will be very telling as to whether they’re serious about improving. 

Caroline is the Evening/Weekend Editor and Style Editor at Her Campus, a senior public relations major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a leather jacket enthusiast.  You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @c_pirozzolo.