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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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Editorial: With pride, The Collegian stands with students

Serena Bettis, Katrina Leibee and Devin Cornelius (left to right) sit on the steps of the Colorado State University Administration Building May 31. Leibee is the editor in chief at The Rocky Mountain Collegian, Bettis the content managing editor and Cornelius the digital and design managing editor. (Cat Blouch | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: This is an editorial. Editorials do not reflect the view of all employees of The Collegian but instead represent a stance taken by The Collegian’s editorial board, which consists of the editor in chief, the content managing editor and the digital and design managing editor.

To the Colorado State University community:

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The editorial board of The Rocky Mountain Collegian stands with you. 

Last week, only one month into being fully back on campus, our community saw what we could, at the time, only describe as a ruckus; some type of major commotion that we have not seen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Of course, like many other CSU students, we were inclined to roll our eyes and go along with our days after seeing social media posts about people gathered around preachers on The Plaza. It’s nothing new to see students and preachers shouting at each other in small circles while heading to class. 

Yet what happened last week felt entirely different. Although hearing biblical speak about the so-called immorality of identifying and living as LGBTQ+ is nothing unique, what we later learned last Wednesday afternoon was it was much more vindictive and hateful than that. But the truly novel thing about it was that students stopped arguing. They stopped trying to prove a point that would never register, and they stopped attacking one another.

CSU students united against hate last week, and we at The Collegian think that is a beautiful thing. 

The sight of students with so many different Pride flags made my heart weep; the sheer number of people who stood out in the heat to tell someone spouting hate to just leave gave me a greater feeling of acceptance than any generic statement from the University ever could.”

Newer students may not understand how rare this feels, but for those of you who have been around to see the shouting matches between political groups or the intense debates between the Associated Students of CSU and students demanding change, you can speak to the divisions in the CSU student body. Being on The Plaza last week was not one of those times.

Our coverage was indicative of the teamwork The Collegian thrives on. After coming out of classes and seeing the commotion, we had multiple photographers and reporters immediately take action and begin investigating what was going on. 

Katrina Leibee, our editor in chief, completed interviews on the spot between phone calls to plan how we would approach the topic. Once Serena Bettis, our content managing editor, sat down to write the story, we quickly realized this story needed to be on the cover of our print paper the next day. Within just a few hours, our photographer, Tri Duong, had his photos edited; our print editor, Falyn Sebastian, created a new cover; and our copy editors were checking the story. 

The point is, CSU students, you rallied around your peers, and you inspired us to rally, too.

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As a queer journalist, last week stood out to me, Serena, significantly. The sight of students with so many different Pride flags made my heart weep; the sheer number of people who stood out in the heat to tell someone spouting hate to just leave gave me a greater feeling of acceptance than any generic statement from the University ever could. 

Despite that, I was anxious about the story the entire night before we went to print. Even days later, I had nightmares about losing my journalistic credibility because I did not remove myself from this story when it so closely impacted me personally. 

There’s this old trend in journalism about how in order to do the job properly, you have to completely separate yourself from your work. Don’t register for a political party lest someone accuse you of bias; don’t speak out on the atrocities in the world because that could sway your reporting; don’t cover something that is close to your identity — even if there is not an ethical conflict of interest — because you can’t be impartial. 

Does the fact that I identify as queer make me biased in my reporting on the story? Because I support these students, as a queer student myself, is it possible I’ve been unfair to the preachers who came to campus? I don’t think so. 

Even as a queer journalist, I recognize and respect the right to free speech these preachers have on our campus. After all, without that freedom, our protections as a news organization would be in danger. 

In law, government land is seen as a public forum — a physical, government-subsidized space for expression — thus, because CSU is a government-funded public institution, the entirety of our campus — especially outside and especially on The Plaza — functions as a public forum in some capacity. 

What this means is that CSU and the CSU Police Department are not allowed to remove someone just for the words they say, hateful as they may be. The University would need specific, thorough reasons to do so, and in a court of law those restrictions will only be upheld if they have to do with the time, place and manner of the speech. Viewpoint-based restrictions on speech are rarely accepted.

Additionally, multiple United States Supreme Court cases have set precedents for situations similar to ours. In the 1945-46 case of Marsh v. Alabama and the 1968 case of Amalgamated Food Employees Union Local 590 v. Logan Valley Plaza, Inc., the Supreme Court ruled that speech could not be restricted, even on private property, because the companies had no prior history of regulating speech on their property.

Moreover, the law has found it extremely difficult to define hate speech and take action when hate speech has been identified. For that to happen, a clear criminal act has to occur alongside the speech.

Unless the University creates community requirements for speech on campus and actively enforces those regulations, they have no legal power in these situations.

So yes, those preachers have a right to be here as much as you, the community, has a right to protest them. 

That being said, the University needs to do more for its students, and we stand with you on that. An email that vaguely explains the First Amendment — an email that no one at our institution could even personally sign — coupled with a link to student support services is not supporting the students. Hateful speech does more than hurt; it kills. 

CSU community members, we are with you. We see you, we hear you and we stand with you because we are you. Our mission is to diligently report on the issues that matter most to you and keep you informed on the actions this University takes. 

So please, keep coming together as a community. Keep standing together, and we will be right there alongside you. 

With pride, 

The Collegian Editorial Board

Katrina Leibee, editor in chief

Serena Bettis, content managing editor

Devin Cornelius, digital and design managing editor

The Collegian Editorial Board can be reached at editor@collegian.com and @CSUCollegian.

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About the Contributors
Devin Cornelius
Devin Cornelius, Digital Managing Editor
Devin Cornelius is the digital managing editor for The Collegian. He is a fifth-year computer science major from Austin, Texas. He moved to Colorado State University and started working for The Collegian in 2017 as a photographer. His passion for photography began in high school, so finding a photography job in college was one of his top priorities. He primarily takes sports photos, volleyball being his favorite to shoot. Having been on The Collegian staff for 4 1/2 years, he's watched the paper evolve from a daily to a weekly paper, and being involved in this transition is interesting and exciting. Although Cornelius is a computer science major, his time at The Collegian has been the most fulfilling experience in his college career — he has loved every second. From working 12-hour days to taking photos in Las Vegas for the Mountain West Conference, he cannot think of a better place to work. Working as a photographer for The Collegian pushed him outside of his comfort zone, taking him places that he never expected and making him the photographer he is today. As the digital managing editor, Cornelius oversees the photos, graphics and social media of The Collegian along with other small tech things. Working on the editorial staff with Katrina Leibee and Serena Bettis has been super fun and extremely rewarding, and together they have been pushing The Collegian toward being an alt-weekly. Outside of The Collegian, he enjoys playing volleyball, rugby, tumbling and a variety of video games. When in Austin, you can find him out on the lake, wake surfing, wake boarding and tubing. You can expect that Cornelius and the rest of The Collegian staff will do their best to provide you with interesting and exciting content.
Katrina Leibee
Katrina Leibee, Editor-in-Chief
Katrina Leibee is serving as The Rocky Mountain Collegian's editor in chief for the 2021-22 academic year. Leibee started at The Collegian during the fall of her freshman year writing for the opinion desk. She then moved up to assistant opinion editor and served as the opinion director for the 2020-21 academic year. Leibee is a journalism and political science double major, but her heart lies in journalism. She enjoys writing, editing and working with a team of people to create the paper more than anything. Ask anyone, Leibee loves her job at The Collegian and believes in the great privilege and opportunity that comes with holding a job like this. The biggest privilege is getting to work with a team of such smart, talented editors, writers, photographers and designers. The most important goal Leibee has for her time as editor in chief is to create change, and she hopes her and her staff will break the status quo for how The Collegian has previously done things and for what a college newspaper can be. From creating a desk dedicated entirely to cannabis coverage to transitioning the paper into an alt-weekly, Leibee hopes she can push the boundaries of The Collegian and make it a better paper for its readers and its staff. Leibee is not one to accept a broken system, sit comfortably inside the limits or repeat the words, "That's the way we've always done things." She is a forward thinker with a knack for leadership, and she has put together the best staff imaginable to bring The Collegian to new heights.
Serena Bettis
Serena Bettis, Editor in Chief
Serena Bettis is your 2022-23 editor in chief and is in her final year studying journalism and political science. In her three years at The Collegian, Bettis has also been a news reporter, copy editor, news editor and content managing editor, and she occasionally takes photos, too. When Bettis was 5, her family moved from Iowa to a tiny town northwest of Fort Collins called Livermore, Colorado, before eventually moving to Fort Collins proper. When she was 8 years old, her dad enrolled at Colorado State University as a nontraditional student veteran, where he found his life's passion in photojournalism. Although Bettis' own passion for journalism did not stem directly from her dad, his time at CSU and with The Collegian gave her the motivation to bite down on her fear of talking to strangers and find The Collegian newsroom on the second day of classes in 2019. She's never looked back since. Considering that aforementioned fear, Bettis is constantly surprised to be where she is today. However, thanks to the supportive learning environment at The Collegian and inspiring peers, Bettis has not stopped chasing her teenage dream of being a professional journalist. Between working with her section editors, coordinating news stories between Rocky Mountain Student Media departments and coaching new reporters, Bettis gets to live that dream every day. When she's not in the newsroom or almost falling asleep in class, you can find Bettis working in the Durrell Marketplace and Café or outside gazing at the beauty that is our campus (and running inside when bees are nearby). This year, Bettis' goals for The Collegian include continuing its trajectory as a unique alt-weekly newspaper, documenting the institutional memory of the paper to benefit students in years to come and fostering a sense of community and growth both inside the newsroom and through The Collegian's published work. Bettis would like to encourage anyone with story ideas, suggestions, questions, concerns or comments to reach out to her at editor@collegian.com.

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