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San Marcos Students Protest University Response to ‘Cholas’ Photos

— Students at Cal State San Marcos, joined by a few staff and faculty, staged a sit-in outside the university president’s off Thursday. The protesters are unhappy about the university’s response to sorority members who posed as ‘cholas’ or Latina gang members in photos, then posted those photos on social media during a sorority retreat.

Photo by Kyla Calvert

Students, as well as a few faculty and staff, protesting the California State University San Marcos administration's response to an incident where Sorority members posted photos of themselves posing as 'cholas,' or Latina gang members, on social media. They staged a sit-in outside the university president's office Thursday, May 9, 2013.

The sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, has issued an apology. But the university is not punishing the organization or its members.

That has upset students like Karen Guzman, who helped organize an afternoon sit-in outside the university president’s office.

“To come to school where people don’t understand that there’s real struggles behind these things; that they’re real, we have to go home to them whenever we go home to our families or our communities," Guzman said. "And it’s not funny. It’s not funny to us. In fact, it’s hurtful.”

Guzman said those at the sit-in were also concerned about hateful graffiti and other incidents on campus related to the treatment and inclusion of students of color, women and gay and lesbian students.

The university held an open forum for students, staff and faculty to discuss the sorority's photos and any other concerns. Spokeswoman Margaret Lutz said the university is now planning to start sensitivity training for fraternities, sororities and other student organizations, adding civility and diversity components to student orientation and creating a network for reporting on-campus bias.

“These are just the first steps," Lutz said. "We want students to know this is just the beginning. While our administration has always had a strong commitment to diversity, social justice and educational equity, we know this is ... ongoing. You can’t just do one thing and have it be over.”

She said the university’s efforts to be inclusive will have to evolve along with its constantly changing student population.


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