Campaign supporter’s social media posts lead to sanctions by ASCSU Election Committee


(Graphic illustration by Abby Flitton | The Collegian)

Dylan Tusinski, Staff Reporter

Editor’s Note: The original headline to this article has been updated to better reflect the overall nature of the story.

Editor’s Note: Ro Contreras is the vice chair and administrative officer of the Rocky Mountain Student Media Corporation Board of Directors. Contreras and the RMSMC Board have no input or influence in editorial decisions made by The Collegian.


Editor’s Note: The Collegian is aware there are accusations of other elections code violations from other ASCSU campaigns; however, The Collegian has not found evidence of these violations nor other guilty verdicts presented by the Elections Committee other than those listed in this story.

The Associated Students of Colorado State University Elections Committee found presidential candidate Mia Ritter and her vice presidential running mate Sammy Trout guilty of violating ASCSU Elections Code section 10.22 Monday evening for a series of disparaging allegations made by a supporter of their campaign.

On March 31 CSU senior Ro Contreras made a series of Instagram story posts that made sweeping allegations of racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and sexual assault against ASCSU presidential candidates Nick DeSalvo and Rithik Correa and their respective running mates Alex Silverhart and Jessica Laffey. Not all of these allegations applied to each candidate.

The posts were then shared by CallOutCSU, an Instagram account created in 2021 to coordinate protests after a contingency of bigoted preachers arrived on campus.

Current ASCSU President Rob Long and Correa filed a series of complaints against Ritter and Trout to the ASCSU Elections Committee April 2. Both Long and Correa’s complaints said the claims in Contreras’ posts amounted to defamation against DeSalvo, Silverhart, Correa and Laffey and that Ritter and Trout were aware of Contreras’ allegations.

The Elections Committee did not find Ritter or Trout guilty of defamation, but they did find the Ritter-Trout campaign guilty of violating a segment of the Elections Code specifying that “campaigns are liable for the actions of their supporters on the candidate’s behalf and as such must take appropriate actions to prevent code violations by supporters.”

The committee ruled the violation as a category 2, meaning the Ritter-Trout campaign was fined $200, according to the Elections Code.

“We have reposted every post that has tagged our account,” Ritter said in a statement written in response to the verdict. “One of the accounts’ stories that was reposted was from a student that has different opinions of the other candidates. Some viewed the students’ opinions as defamation, and hence, a violation hearing took place.”

Contreras has been an active supporter of the Ritter-Trout campaign, according to the complaints made by Long and Correa. The submitted Elections Code violation complaints show images of Contreras tabling and chalking on The Plaza in support of the Ritter-Trout campaign and include screenshots of Instagram posts Contreras made supporting Ritter and Trout that were then reposted by the campaign’s official account.


Contreras told The Collegian they are not involved with the Ritter-Trout campaign and wrote in a statement that they recently met Ritter and Trout when a friend recommended Contreras take their campaign photos.

“I think this context is important since people continue to claim I was involved with their campaign,” Contreras said. “I have always been a fierce advocate for others and am always willing to lend a helping hand, which is why I have been so willing to help (Ritter) and (Trout) chalk.”

In order to promote transparency, The Collegian has linked the Elections Code violations records here. The violation forms feature the complaints submitted by Long and Correa, screenshots of Contreras’ posts and documentation of their connection to the Ritter-Trout campaign.

“This was a complicated violation hearing, and details are important,” said ASCSU Elections Manager Grace Neumann in an email to The Collegian. “The committee decided that they cannot rule on defamation because the comments made were potentially protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.”

Contreras’ first post claimed that Correa “was fired from his position as an RA because of sexual assault allegations.” The post also said Correa “has been extremely racist, homophobic and transphobic in the ASCSU space,” and that running mate Laffey’s father “is running for U.S. president as a far-right candidate.”

The post did not provide any evidence behind the claims against Correa, though Steve Laffey is a Republican candidate running for U.S. president on a platform of stopping trade with China and is the former host of a right-wing political podcast called “Steve Laffey’s Fixing America.”

Contreras’ next post accused DeSalvo of threatening ASCSU senators from marginalized communities, performing “micro aggressions towards students” and having “active bias reports against him.” They also claimed DeSalvo “attended (a) Turning Point USA conference with the current student body president.”

In a separate post, Contreras shared an anonymous text saying that Silverhart “has a past of saying and acting in a racist and misogynistic way,” and that “he has also made many queer folks feel uncomfortable because he leads queer conversations in a (very) sexualized (manner).”

Again, the post did not provide any evidence to support the allegations.

Contreras said the posts were shared on their personal page because they wanted to provide people with a place to anonymously share their experiences that had a public name behind it, unlike accounts like CallOutCSU.

“I have and continue to be a fierce advocate not only for myself but also for others,” Contreras said in a statement. “Transparency is a strong value I hold, as is accountability.”

“We believe each student has their First Amendment right to be able to express themselves, and that right should not be infringed,” Ritter said in a statement written in response to the verdict. “Any claim that we were found guilty of defamation is a blatant falsehood of the facts and findings, and we are disappointed a misrepresentation of those facts is being utilized so close to the end of a tense election.”

The Elections Committee also heard complaints of code violations from other campaigns at its April 3 meeting related to postering rules but found the campaigns not guilty.

On March 20 the Elections Committee found the DeSalvo-Silverhart campaign guilty of “passive campaigning,” a category 1 violation, through the creation of their campaign Instagram account before the campaign period began, the meeting minutes available on the ASCSU website said. The DeSalvo-Silverhart campaign was fined $100 for the violation.

The recorded minutes from the Elections Committee’s April 3 meeting show that while the Ritter-Trout campaign did violate the Elections Code, elections officials were reluctant to officially call their actions defamation due to the university administration’s historically pro-free speech stance.

When you hear defamation, this is a big deal,” the minutes said. “ASCSU as a whole has not fought defamation because of the legality of the university’s position.”

Reach Dylan Tusinski at or on Twitter @dylantusinski.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 6 p.m. April 5 to include statements from Contreras.