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State Attorney General's Office determines that racially charged incidents at Cal Poly were legal 

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong released a campus-wide email on Oct. 2 stating that the First Amendment protects students involved in recent racially charged incidents.

A state Attorney General's Office report determined that students did not break any CSU executive orders or state laws, according to the email. The report itself is confidential as it names students whose identities are protected by FERPA—a federal law protecting the confidentiality of student records.

click to enlarge FREEDOM OF SPEECH After multiple racially charged incidents on the Cal Poly campus, a state attorney general report determined that no laws were broken. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • FREEDOM OF SPEECH After multiple racially charged incidents on the Cal Poly campus, a state attorney general report determined that no laws were broken.

"The Attorney General's Office also noted that the acts that occurred at Cal Poly, while profoundly offensive and insensitive—and demonstrating an appalling lack of judgment—were protected as free speech by the First Amendment," the email stated.

The investigation did yield additional information that will be reviewed by the Dean of Students Office, which will address any individual or organizational violations of the student code of conduct.

Last January, flyers with racial statements about African-Americans regarding domestic violence, homicides, and assault were posted on campus. Then, in April, a Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity member wore blackface at a brotherhood event, which sparked on- and off-campus protests and national news coverage. As a result of that and other incidents involving fraternities—including sexual assaults, hazings, an alcohol related death, and violations of the university's code of conduct regarding hosting events—the university placed Greek life on interim suspension.

The university pushed the incidents over to the Attorney General's Office for investigation on May 4.

According to the email, the report confirmed that Cal Poly, as a state institution, is required to uphold the free speech rights of everyone on campus.

"We may not be able to change the acts and attitudes of a few, but hear me when I say that those voices do not reflect our values and what we stand for as a university community," Armstrong said.

Armstrong vowed to improve campus climate by enhancing educational programming and fostering an environment to learn and appreciate the community's differences.

University spokesperson Matt Lazier said a Diversity Action Initiative document released last spring looks at the diversity and inclusion efforts underway or planned for the campus.

Those include designing a 10-week diversity and inclusion seminar for students, increasing staff, and expanding the Black Academic Excellence Center, the creation of an American Indian and Indigenous Research and Cultural Center, and implementation of a new pre-enrollment diversity training for incoming freshmen and transfer students.

"I wish I could tell you that change will happen overnight and our campus will never experience another act of hate. Sadly, we all know that isn't realistic. What I can give you is my personal commitment to do everything in my power to improve our campus environment and make a difference for all members of our Cal Poly community," Armstrong said in the email.

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