CSU athletes angered by administration removing letter supporting sexual misconduct survivors

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Members of the CSU female student-athlete organization Rambition are outraged after a CSU athletic administration official removed a letter of support to sexual misconduct victims at the school from its Instagram site.

The letter was posted Wednesday on the CSU Rambition Instagram account after a Coloradoan story detailed criticisms by former and current female student-athletes of Colorado State University administrators for their handling of Title IX sexual misconduct cases

“I am extremely frustrated and saddened by their ability to completely discredit the leadership team that has put a lot of time and effort into a letter that they removed,” said Jordan Acosta, a softball player and Rambition leadership team member.

According to Rambition’s Instagram, its mission is dedicated to fostering the personal, professional, and leadership development of Colorado State University’s female student-athletes.

CSU acknowledged in an email that Shalini Shanker, senior associate athletic director for compliance and senior woman administrator, archived the letter on Instagram over concerns about the management of the account and until a staff member could verify authorship of the letter.

Once archived, the post is no longer visible unless steps are taken to show it on the profile again.

CSU’s email said the university has not designated a Rambition leadership team, and as a result, the letter raised concern that the post was written by an individual claiming to speak on behalf of a larger, undetermined group.

Rambition Instagram letter supporting sexual assault victims that was removed by the athletic administration.

Rambition leadership said it re-posted the letter after each time Shanker removed it.

Katie Manzione, a CSU swimmer and Rambition leadership team member, said the group posted the letter at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and saw that it was taken down at 3 p.m. They posted the letter again, and it was taken down again at 6:51 p.m. The leadership again posted the letter.

Acosta said the bios of the Rambition leadership team are clearly shown on the Instagram account posts  She also said there was a Rambition application interview process in 2019 and a retreat that occurred, making obvious there was a leadership team. Shanker is the administrator who helped start Rambition, so Acosta said clearly Shanker knew there was a leadership team. 

In addition  Zoom meetings with administration have identified the Rambition leadership team. She also said the leadership team has been posting on the account previously and none of those posts were archived.

She questioned why, if athletic administration had a concern regarding who posted the letter, they didn’t immediately reach out to the Rambition leadership team.

Manzione said the group was contacted by Shanker “way after the fact” in a short email followed by a similar university email sent to the Colordoan at 5:29 p.m. Thursday.

“Rambition leadership is directly a part of this letter and so what we see in that statement is not what happened,” Manzione said. “They aren’t telling the truth and they are just trying to muzzle us.”

CSU said in the email that it “does not take issue with the statement on the Rambition Instagram feed and that it aligns with University values.”

Acosta and Manzione questioned why, if that were the case, the athletic administration removed the letter.

“Reading their statement that the letter aligns with university values makes me feel the only reason they are saying that is because they have to, and not because they want to show support for these victims,” Manzione said. “That is really bothersome.”

CSU investigation: Reactions vary

Acosta said CSU athletics’ actions were especially “insulting” because the organization is trying to make a difference in the important issue of sexual misconduct on campus and that Shanker, as senior woman administrator, was the one to fail to recognize Rambition’s mission.

“To have such a buzz around campus and with so many people posting it and the fact that administration took it down is incredibly heartbreaking,” Acosta said. “The letter was there to let victims know they are not alone. What they did was dishonest and very hurtful.”

CSU student-athletes and athletic staff have widely criticized Athletic Director Joe Parker and CSU President Joyce McConnell over the past several months.

Coloradoan stories have detailed accusations of a COVID-19 cover-up, racial insensitivity and abuse, and mishandling of sexual misconduct cases. The COVID-19 and racial insensitivity accusations prompted McConnell to launch an external investigation into the athletic department in general and football team in particular.

Due to a reporter error, a previous version of this story initially misspelled Katie Manzione’s last name.

Reporter Miles Blumhardt looks for stories that impact your life. Be it news, outdoors, sports — you name it, he wants to report it. Have a story idea? Contact him at milesblumhardt@coloradoan.com or on Twitter @MilesBlumhardt. Support his work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.