Some representatives for the Associated Students of Colorado State University were under investigation for harassment throughout the past six months, Senator and Former Recruitment Officer Juan Caro confirmed.
Caro was under investigation in regards to a comment he made in the office during the fall semester of 2015. Information about the other investigations has not been made public at this time.
Caro’s investigation was initiated when another member of ASCSU filed a harassment complaint. The complaint was filed after Caro was overheard saying a joke in the office about making senate “look like a Hooters,” in reference to his recruitment efforts.
Caro was not found responsible for the charge, harassment of an individual, at the end of June. The decision was made after a six-month-long investigation by Student Conflict Resolution Services and the Office of Equal Opportunity.
“They asked me, ‘Did you say an offensive Hooters joke?’ and I said yes,” Caro said. “I immediately admitted to it, I knew I was well within my first amendment right and I thought the investigation would be over and we would stop wasting student fees and taxpayer money. But, it continued. They interrogated half an office.”
The decision comes after a string of questions about office culture and controversial legislation in the student organization. In February, the Collegian reported that three women in leadership positions had resigned as a result of office culture, and the Diversity Bill was introduced to the senate. Though eventually passed, the bill was controversial because it created seats in the senate for student representatives of University diversity offices. Previously, student senators represented their college.
Caro said that though he was found innocent, he does not feel that his speech was protected, and worries that students may not feel free to speak due to the potential of being investigated.
“There’s a chill affect,” Caro said. “(Someone) might (think), ‘Well, I might not be found guilty, but I don’t want to go through a six-month-long investigation or meet with hearing officers over the summer.’… Free speech should not be oppressed because someone was offended. That leaves our first amendment in the hands of the most sensitive individual.”
While Caro was under investigation for the comment, he faced two impeachment threats, though neither were pursued. He verbally resigned from his position as senate recruitment officer at the end of April because he faced a third impeachment threat from his college council.
However, Caro was re-elected to serve as senator for the 2016-2017 academic year. He will not resume his position as senate recruitment officer.
“In my opinion there are two types of impeachments at ASCSU: The first is when an individual gives the body a reason to be removed. The second kind is when the body wants to remove an individual and then tries to find a reason for removal,” Caro said. “Last semester, 10 senators, including myself, were threatened with impeachment because of an opposing opinion (to the Diversity Bill).”
In regards to office culture moving forward, Caro said that he doesn’t want to discourage people from joining ASCSU, but that it is, “a very aggressive environment.”
“It’s not (aggressive) because of demographics or sexism as some claim, but because… there are many different opinions in one room,” Caro said. “So, you need to be prepared for opinions you don’t like.”
ASCSU President, Daniela Pineda Soracá, wrote that she recently learned of the investigation this summer.
“I entrust and support that the University rightfully abided by all legalities and campus policies when deciding the outcome of the investigation,” Pineda Soracá wrote. “We will make sure to hold ourselves accountable as leaders of this organization to make sure we do everything we can to promote the positive environment that I know ASCSU is capable of.”
Newly appointed Director of Diversity, Marco Durazo, said ASCSU is working with University administration to bring workshops and professional development to the office to promote a comfortable workspace.
“Improving the diversity and inclusivity of ASCSU is a great task that we are working hard to accommodate for,” Durazo wrote to the Collegian in an e-mail.
Durazo said he did not want to comment on the investigation of Caro because he was not a member of ASCSU at that time.
“Moving forward into the academic year, I envision fostering an environment within ASCSU that willingly embraces both our right of free speech, as well as the professional and safety standards that must be upheld in the workplace,” Pineda Soracá wrote.
Collegian News Editor Erin Douglas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @erinmdouglas23.