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California university looking into photo that 'appears to demean undocumented students'

Posted at 2:47 PM, Oct 16, 2019

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — The president of California Polytechnic State University says the college is looking into a photo circulating online that “appears to demean undocumented students,” putting the issue of diversity and inclusion on campus into the spotlight once again.

Cal Poly has not said what was depicted in the photo or confirmed whether the people shown are Cal Poly students, but the photo appears to show two boys and two girls with red bandannas on their neck, faces or head with the caption “Cowboys vs (illegal) Aliens.”

In a note sent out to those on campus Tuesday night by Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, he says they were made aware of the photo that afternoon and while he says not a lot about the photo at this time is known, he says they do know it “has a negative impact on members of our community, particularly members of our undocumented student, faculty and staff community, their allies and others who work to promote an environment of inclusion at Cal Poly.”

In the letter, Armstrong says, “For those who are hurt by this photo, know that we empathize and we stand with you.” He calls the incident “disappointing” and says it “has added to the urgency of addressing our campus climate and creating an environment where every individual feels valued, safe and important for who they are and the additive talent they bring to Cal Poly.”

Cal Poly says they are looking into the circumstances of the image in order to determine all the facts.

Armstrong calls the incident “a reminder that each of us must subscribe to a higher standard of conduct. We must step in and be responsible community members and be active bystanders who stop behavior that seeks to divide us before it happens.”

This is not the first time a photo has been brought into question at Cal Poly.

More than a year ago, minority students demanded change after a fraternity member was photographed with his face painted black.

Racial images and fliers circled the campus in April 2018. It made the university and its students criticize the lack of diversity on campus.

This past spring, Cal Poly launched its CPX (Cal Poly Experience) survey after hiring a new social scientist to research the matter.

The survey, which was open to all current Cal Poly students, staff and faculty, is part of the university’s “12-month call to action” launched in January. It includes a series of initiatives developed to achieve diversity and inclusion goals on campus, according to university officials.

The results of the CPX survey are being released Thursday.

Armstrong calls the work ahead for the university through the CPX process “critically important.”

Cal Poly has also been working to enroll more minority students.

The Cal Poly Opportunity Grant is a fee assessed to incoming out-of-state students. Phased in over four years, this fee aims to financially support qualified low-income and first-generation students who otherwise couldn’t afford to be a Mustang.

This story was originally published on KSBY.