Police break up massive student block party in San Luis Obispo

A Cal Poly San Luis Obispo sign on campus.
Police cited a few people at a rowdy St. Patrick’s Day-themed party that many Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students attended.
(Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg)

A rowdy block party among hundreds of students from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is under investigation after police were called to break up the gathering.

Despite state, county and university health guidelines to limit gatherings during the pandemic, a slew of students celebrated at a “St. Fratty’s Day” party early Saturday.

Images from social media show hordes of students — many clad in green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and most not wearing masks — congregating and drinking in a San Luis Obispo residential neighborhood, the San Luis Obispo Tribune first reported.

Calls about the party lighted up the switchboard at the San Luis Obispo Police Department shortly after 7 a.m., Sgt. Bryan Treanor said.

Officers responding to the party gave out “a handful of citations,” he said, and the crowd dispersed soon after. Two people were later arrested near Cal Poly’s campus on suspicion of driving under the influence, he added.

The university is looking into students or organizations that were involved in the event, according to a statement from Cal Poly media relations director Matt Lazier. He pledged that the university would hold accountable any students who received citations or violated health and safety guidelines.


“We are not out of the woods yet in regard to the ongoing pandemic, and we need each member of our community to recommit to practicing safe and healthy behaviors and abiding by all university, county and state guidelines,” Lazier wrote.

Bella Che, a third-year student in Cal Poly’s architecture program, said she saw an Instagram post advertising a fraternity student’s message about the event: “Hey, we’re having a rager in SLO, come.”

As a resident advisor living on campus, Che said that “it is very, very frustrating” to see other students flout pandemic restrictions because the repercussions affect the broader community. Her dormitory floor was quarantined for eight out of 10 weeks last quarter, she said. Another friend hasn’t escaped quarantine for more than four days at a time.

“They don’t care, and they can have the privilege to get away without facing any of the consequences,” Che said. “When you’re living on campus, you have a community of people you’re putting at risk because of the decisions you make.”

The Cal Poly community has recorded 1,601 coronavirus cases, according to a university tracker updated Friday. San Luis Obispo County moved into the less restrictive red tier of the state’s four-tier, color-coded reopening map at the beginning of March.

A campus-wide update sent last week about spring break guidelines advised students “to remain vigilant during St. Patrick’s Day.”


“In the past, occasions that promote gatherings often lead to an increase in positive COVID case counts soon after,” Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Tina Hadaway-Mellis and interim Dean of Students Joy Pedersen wrote. “If you choose to be social on this occasion, please consider your safety and those around you. Continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing and avoid large gatherings.”

Treanor said St. Fratty’s Day is an annual event that typically takes place in the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. Incidents stemming from the party have occasioned police response in previous years, but Treanor didn’t remember any from 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.