Letter from the Editor: Why we haven’t reported on student discrimination posts yet

Haley Candelario

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. Haley Candelario is the Editor-in-Chief of The Collegian.

Dear readers,

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As some of you may have seen while scrolling through your Facebook feed, two students at Colorado State University posted about their experiences with discrimination on campus within the last week. Jessica Balasuriya, a senior animal sciences major, posted about her experience with discrimination as a Ram Handler on her Facebook page. Anarely Marquez-Carranco, a senior ethnic studies major, wrote about her experience with discrimination as an employee with CSU’s Office of Admissions.

Like many of you, I saw these posts while scrolling through my Facebook feed. I heard students in my classes and around campus ask each other if they saw Balasuriya and Marquez-Carranco’s posts. Students who work in The Collegian newsroom discussed the posts too.

We want to let our readers know that we are looking into both stories. We have not reported or shared either story because we don’t want to rush our reporting. If we rush our process, we wouldn’t publish a well-written story, and we could face larger consequences if our reporting is wrong.

We care about sharing the experiences of both students and about telling a complete, accurate story.

Balasuriya and Marquez-Carranco bravely shared their experiences as employees of two major organizations on campus: the CSU Ram Handling Team and the Office of Admissions. We admire that these students had the courage to speak out about discrimination claims at the University, and we look forward to reporting on their experiences in the coming weeks.

As journalists, we must take the proper time to verify the statements made by Balasuriya and Marquez-Carranco, and we must ask the Ram Handling Team and the Office of Admissions to comment on their statements. We could face legal consequences for any inaccuracy we publish that could result in severe harm to the Ram Handling Team or the Office of Admissions.

While our personal feelings at The Collegian and your feelings toward both organizations may have changed after reading Balasuriya and Marquez-Carranco’s posts, we as a publication cannot ignore that the Ram Handling Team and the Office of Admissions need a chance to respond to the accusations made by Balasuriya and Marquez-Carranco. 

I’ve received emails and messages from many people inside and outside of the campus community, urging that we publish Balasuriya and Marquez-Carranco’s posts in full. As journalists, we cannot do that. It would not tell the full story, and we could face legal consequences for defamation or libel.

Libel, in the state of Colorado, is defined as a written statement that is false and causes harm to someone or has the potential to cause harm to someone. If The Collegian were to publish Balasuriya and Marquez-Carranco’s posts in full, we could be sued for libel by the Ram Handling Team and the Office of Admissions for neglecting to get a statement from them about Balasuriya and Marquez-Carranco’s experiences.

Failing to make an effort to get in contact with the Ram Handling Team and the Office of Admissions not only sets The Collegian up for serious repercussions, but it also falls below journalistic expectations for the content we want to provide to our readers.

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The Collegian exists to serve as an educational opportunity for all students who come to work for us, so it is our duty to teach everyone who walks into our office how to properly report on issues that concern our campus community. If we fail to teach students how to report — and report fairly and accurately — we fail you, as readers, and we fail journalism. 

We hope you understand that we are actively working in our offices to report on Balasuriya and Marquez-Carranco’s experiences, and we hope you understand our hesitation with running the posts without giving the Ram Handling Team and the Office of Admissions a chance to respond.

If you have further concerns, I am happy to discuss further with you.

Respectfully,

Haley Candelario

Haley Candelario can be reached at editor@collegian.com or on Twitter @H_Candelario98.