Not a Sanctuary From Lies

in Culture/Politics by

Colleges have become notorious for being the “thought police” when it comes to different (usually conservative) opinions on their campuses. Safe spaces, post-election accommodations like getting to pet puppies and play with Play-Doh, and even organized walkouts and protests are just some examples of how schools are enabling this behavior. Additionally, many students (a majority of which most likely participated in those previously mentioned activities) on these campuses have called for their university to become a “sanctuary campus.”

What students mean when they say they want a “sanctuary campus” is that they want their institution to operate similarly to that of a “sanctuary city.” This means that students do not want to allow the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) onto campus without a warrant or allow the school to share immigration status information with them, along with not allowing police to enforce immigration law. On top of this, there are even demands for providing special financial aid to students with DACA status.

Washington State University in Pullman has been no different than any other post-election college campus. On December 1, 2016 a protest took place where students showed up to voice their concerns about the school becoming a “sanctuary campus.” At this rally, students walked out of their classes to meet at a set location, Todd Steps. Once there, they began loudly telling stories about their experience with illegal immigration and chanting while walking around campus protesting to let everyone who could hear them know of their demands.

Obviously, many students do not agree with the sentiment of doing this to their campus, and some decided to voice their opinions. Mario J. Vega (MJ), a member of the WSU College Republicans, went to the rally with a few other members of the club with the intent on asking protesters questions, along with trying to understand their line of reasoning. While there, MJ began talking to the group of students he was with, having a casual conversation about the protest and everyone there. Nothing in particular went wrong at the event, and the angry liberals at the event remained peaceful, unlike at most Trump related events held at WSU.

However, later that evening, the WSU school paper, The Daily Evergreen, published an article about the rally. In this article, Vega’s quotes were published without him being asked to check or confirm them, out of context, and completely distorted from their original form. The quote in the article is as follows:

“As students and community members spoke, three students not involved came in front of the group making jokes. Another student, identified as Mario J. Vega, said obscenities while he observed the protest.

“Why the hell would you want a sanctuary campus,” Vega said. “We’ll lose all our federal funding because of you illegal immigrants.”

There are many issues and implications with The Daily Evergreen both publishing this online and in their printed newspaper. First of all, the author of the article, Rick Flores, never confronted MJ to see if these quotes were accurate, or if they were even said by him. No interview was conducted, and no contact was ever made between Flores and MJ before this article was published. It did not matter that both this event and alleged quote were in a public space since there is zero proof to back anything up. No written interview with consent, no video footage, and no audio recording exists of this “interaction.”

Now, this isn’t the first time the WSU College Republicans have had issues with The Daily Evergreen. There are multiple instances of this paper stretching the truth, “misquoting” people during interviews, and flat out lying about their observations during College Republican events. This, of course, is to do one thing: push their own agenda. It’s no surprise that the reporters for The Daily Evergreen do not like the College Republicans, as evidenced by their biased interview questions, uncomfortable body language and tone during interviews, along with them being average college students, which, let’s face it, are mostly very liberal. For what has been most of election season, the WSU College Republicans have continued to battle The Daily Evergreen to do their job and report the truth.

After this article was published, Vega immediately left a comment on the bottom of the page demanding for the quote to be removed and for a formal apology to be issued. Instead of the paper acknowledging that a complaint was ever issued in the first place, they sneakily updated the article. The most surprising part of this change was that they changed some words, but didn’t even remove the quote. The “revised” version of the quote is as follows:

‘As students and community members spoke, three students not involved with the demonstration voiced disagreement with the idea of WSU becoming a sanctuary campus.

“Why the hell would you want a sanctuary campus,” WSU student Mario J. Vega said. “We’ll lose all our federal funding because of you illegal immigrants.”’

The only change made by the paper was the removal of the claim that the three students were making jokes. The actual falsified quotes – the entire issue at hand – remained unchanged. Since the paper did not comply to fix the quotes and would have rather still been committing libel, a formal response was drafted up by MJ requesting the removal again and threatening possible legal action. A few hours later, a response was received that stated:

“Our reporter remains confident in the accuracy of his reporting and we stand by his account. We are printing the article with the quote included.”

This official statement from the Editor in Chief, Cody Cottier, shows that The Daily Evergreen has zero journalistic integrity. Since when has the “account” of a reporter been evidence? If there is zero proof that these words were said, why would a random reporter’s word weigh more than the victim’s in this case? Does the possibility of a reporter having a personal bias, agenda, and/or a dislike for a person not exist? What is being shown here is extreme bias and malicious intent, with an editor in chief and journalist not abiding by basic journalistic practices or ethics in order to spread misinformation to defame someone. Speaking of which, there is a high possibility this scenario constitutes libel and defamation under Washington state law.

After this, an additional response was made by Mario J. Vega saying that he has witnesses available who are able to testify on his behalf and that he demands for the quote to be removed, an apology to be made, or there would be the threat of a lawsuit. This request wasn’t anything complicated, just a request for a paper to obey by the rules and use basic ethical journalistic practice. What sort of response does he receive from this? Why The Daily Evergreen doubles down of course!

“Dear Mario,

Thank you for making us aware of your concerns regarding the coverage. We will take them under advisement, but at this time we don’t feel it is necessary to issue any retraction or apology. Please feel free to contact us with any feedback on future coverage.”

A simple request for a paper to not lie and not commit a crime is overlooked because of a student’s well known conservative viewpoints and opinions. The Daily Evergreen has proven time and time again to be a corrupt and biased source of news for WSU’s campus, and this is just one example. This, in turn creates an echo chamber at WSU. If students only hear about what is going on on their campus from this one source, then they could get the wrong idea about both sides. For example, without hearing about issues of violence and racism against Trump supporters during event protests, students are to believe that all protests are peaceful and civil. On the other hand, when false quotes like this are published and words from College Republicans members are twisted, it supports any false ideas a student may have about conservatives and reinforce the echo chamber. This crooked method of reporting information isn’t just at WSU, it pertains to most college and mainstream media outlets, and needs to be brought to the public’s attention.

Political Science major and freshman at Washington State University in Pullman. A conservative and avid Trump supporter from day one.

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