During the final meeting of the semester, Associated Student Government (ASG) Vice President Gabby Gile announced a decision to pursue an investigation of Sen. Richard Nguyen in respect to the grievance he filed against The Criterion and Editor in Chief Alec Williams.

Gile’s decision followed an in-depth presentation by Senator Shelby Cerise, who spoke to all relevant parties before calling for an investigation of Nguyen. KMSA radio host Miguel Lofland also petitioned senators for an investigation of Nguyen during public input, citing similar issues that Williams and other editors pointed out in the grievance they filed against Nguyen.

Alec Williams | The Criterion

According to Gile, the investigation will entail her meeting with all involved parties to compile information for the justices, who will examine the case again. When Gile asked for a straw poll vote of which senators would be in favor of an investigation, 15 raised their hands, including Nguyen himself. In the current wording of the ASG Constitution, submitting an investigation report does lead the justices to look to impeachment proceedings, but these proceedings do not necessarily mean Nguyen would lose his position.

Chief Justice Pua Utu explained that the judiciary branch dismissed The Criterion’s grievance due to a lack of hard evidence supporting their claim that Nguyen wished to reduce or take away their funding as a punitive measure. The Criterion cited the following sentence from Nguyen’s grievance as evidence of this desire, which reads: “Other reasons that have led to this grievance just boils down to our student fee’s [sic] being wasted on hearing opinions in our newspaper.”

While Utu argued this sentence marked Nguyen’s personal opinion about his student fees, not a call to remove funding from The Criterion, Cerise disagreed, arguing that Nguyen’s use of the word “our” suggested he was speaking about student fees in general.

Though Nguyen was willing to submit himself to an investigation, he still defended his original grievance and questioned Lofland’s reasoning. Lofland cited the Society of Professional Journalist’s (SPJ) Code of Ethics in support of The Criterion’s publishing decision, arguing that the document states to identify sources clearly and provide accurate information, which the article did by including the quote. Nguyen also cited the SPJ Code of Ethics, arguing now that the problem is that the article did not include an appropriate trigger warning or flag at the top.

Cerise and Lofland also argued that Nguyen’s grievance constituted an example of “arbitrary evaluation,” from which the ASG Constitution is supposed to protect Colorado Mesa University students. Cerise stated that by not speaking first with Williams or the editorial board to fully understand their publication, Nguyen made an arbitrary judgment and possibly libelous statements against Williams.

Though Lofland believed an investigation was necessary to protect The Criterion, and Cerise believed the investigation would protect the integrity and reputation of ASG, Gile seemed to take both perspectives into account when she announced she would pursue the investigation. In addition, she cited the thoroughness of Cerise’s presentation and her effort to speak with all involved parties as reasoning to continue to look into the matter.

The proceedings may continue into the spring semester, as the fall semester is almost at its end.

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Lauren Lipski
Lauren Lipski is a senior at Colorado Mesa University serving as The Criterion's managing editor for the 2017/2018 school year. She is also majoring in English literature, English writing and Hispanic studies. She also served as the managing editor of Pinyon, CMU's poetry magazine. Upon graduation in May 2018, she plans to pursue graduate studies in writing and publishing.

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