California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) is investigating a photo showcasing an apparent “cowboys and (illegal) aliens” costume party held by students. Campus free speech advocate FIRE says the investigation should be dropped on First Amendment grounds.
Cal Poly has confirmed that it is investigating a photo posted to Instagram, which shows students at an apparent themed party based on the film “Cowboys and Aliens,” with the “aliens” component altered in order to make reference to illegal aliens, according to a report by Mustang News.
“We were disappointed to learn of a photo that has begun to circulate on social media that appears to demean undocumented students,” wrote Cal Poly president Jeffrey Armstrong to students, according to an email obtained by Campus Reform.
“We know that this photo has a negative impact on members of our community,” he added, “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. For those who are hurt by this photo, know that we empathize and we stand with you.”
The university president added that the school will be looking further into the Instagram posting.
“This reported incident 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,” said Armstrong.
The school’s student government also chimed in by issuing a statement on the matter, claiming that “no human is ‘illegal.'”
“We are deeply concerned with the social media post that is circulating the campus targeting our undocumented community,” said Cal Poly’s student government, adding that it “stands in solidarity” with illegal aliens.
“We are deeply saddened that our underrepresented community continuously experiences these instances of overt prejudice,” the statement added. “No human is ‘illegal.’ This language is dehumanizing and inaccurate.”
Will Creeley, the senior vice president of Legal and Public Advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), told Campus Reform that Cal Poly should end its investigation, as the university must uphold its students’ First Amendment rights.
“California Polytechnic State University is a public university bound by the First Amendment,” said Creely. “The Instagram post is protected by the First Amendment. FIRE is learning more about the situation, but absent more, Cal Poly should end its investigation into protected expression.”
Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier told Breitbart News that “the university continues to meet with students involved in the photo and the gathering where it was taken, in order to learn the full facts surrounding the image and determine whether it involved any violations of university policies.”
“As of now, the university has determined that the gathering itself — which took place at a private residence off campus — did not involve any university-sanctioned organizations and did not violate any university policies,” added Lazier. “Privacy laws preclude the university from discussing or acknowledging any specific individual student conduct investigations or sanctions.”
The spokesperson also responded to Breitbart News’ inquiry regarding an example of a similar party, suggesting that the university would, in fact, investigate a report of misconduct over a themed party involving students dressed as FBI agents and Italian mafia members with fedoras.
“Speaking generally, we investigate all reports of possible student misconduct,” said Lazier. “Where misconduct has occurred, the university applies appropriate sanctions aimed at educating students; holding them accountable; and helping them to stay safe and healthy and to avoid future policy violations.”