Breaking news: CUCR President William Prasifka, CC ’12, and David Paszko, CC ’12, have resigned from the CUCR board. Full resignation letter after the jump, and board resignation request here. The Interim President is Tyler Trumbach, CC ’13 (formerly the Executive Director), the Interim Director of Finance is Tom Callander, SEAS’13 (formerly the Director of Operations), and the new Executive Director is Nashoba Santhanam, CC ’13 (formerly the Regent Creative Director). But the big news isn’t that these guys resigned; it’s why they resigned.
Since the story of the Columbia University College Republicans and Ahmadinejad first broke late Sunday night, there have been numerous allegations of wrongdoing traded among us, Spec, and CUCR. Meanwhile, all three organizations were conducting their own investigations and learning different parts of what turned out to be a major conspiracy. Now, Bwog is happy to report that we have the full story. The short version is that, without the knowledge of the CUCR board, David and Will wrote the fake letter to Ahmadinejad (along with two other anonymous people) and leaked it to Spec, only to turn around and get the CUCR board (who had no knowledge of any of this) to release statements to Bwog accusing Spec of “egregiously false” coverage.
Earlier this semester, Will and David started an unofficial sub-comittee to look into inviting Ahmadinejad, more as a publicity stunt than anything else. Without the knowledge of the rest of the board, David wrote a bizarre letter of invitation and Will, using a fake yahoo email account, leaked the document to Bwog and Spec on February 14th. We assumed it was fake, but Will/David contacted Spec reporter Yasmin Gagne, CC ’15, and assured her it was authentic. To help convince her,
Will and David someone (probably Will, but CUCR can’t yet confirm who) orchestrated something out of a spy novel: tipping her off that she should check a certain call number at Butler, where they had hidden (fake) price sheets for the potential Ahmadinejad visit— price sheets that later made it into Yasmin’s article. Asked to confirm these and other documents, Will assured Spec they were real.
On Saturday, nearly two weeks after receiving the anonymous invitation, Spec published their story: “CUCR Plans To Invite Ahmadinejad to Campus.” Almost immediately, members of the CUCR board (who had no knowledge of Will and David’s plot) told Bwog that the story was false. A board member sent us a statement disputing Spec’s report, which we published Sunday night. Meanwhile, Spec updated their story to clarify that only “members of CUCR” planned to invite Ahmadinejad.
The next day, CUCR sent a statement signed by all members of the board (including Will and David) stating that Ahmadinejad had never been considered as a potential speaker by the board and Spec’s coverage was “egregiously false.” This statement was technically true—as Ahmadinejad had only been considered by Will and David without the knowledge of any other board members—but incredibly dishonest. This didn’t seem to bode well for Spec. Their star source, who had confirmed to them off the record that he was considering Ahmadinejad, was now all but publicly accusing them of libel. But they couldn’t disclose that Will had misled them, since he had only spoken to Yasmin
over the phone both in-person and over the phone, off-the-record. It would violate journalistic ethics to reveal that he had confirmed it was real off-the-record, and besides, there was no paper trail to prove it.
Spec did strongly hint that Will had lied to them in an Editors’ Note, released
Monday Tuesday. At the same time, members of the CUCR board came to suspect Will and David had leaked the letter, and asked them to come clean. When they made partial confessions but refused to cooperate further and kept insisting others were involved, the CUCR board made the decision to ask them to resign or face impeachment. At this point, Will threatened to use his power as President to destroy CUCR make the transition to a new president and board as difficult as possible, so the board members got SGB involved. Bwog and Spec learned of the impeachment plan late last night, but were asked by CUCR’s new board not to reveal any details until after Will and David were officially removed, ominously warning that the two of them could do real damage if the news was leaked before they were expelled from the organization. Bwog and Spec agreed to wait; in return, CUCR promised to disclose everything they knew on-the-record and hold a public town hall next Wednesday at 8 pm, location TBD.
This was a messy situation for all involved. Spec’s initial story was incorrect—CUCR did not plan to invite Ahmadinejad—but their reporting was sound. If you can’t trust the President of a student organization when he tells you his organization’s plans, who can you trust? For our part, we do not regret publishing CUCR’s public statements when they were sent to us. Neither do we regret publishing information from CUCR board members who genuinely did not know that their President and Treasurer had set them up. But we did jump to a few unwarranted conclusions: in particular, we assumed and published that Spec had recycled an older public statement from Will and that Spec had misquoted a former CUCR president. These reports, we later learned, were untrue. We regret that our coverage encouraged people to assume the worst about Spec, and indirectly contributed to their freshman reporter Yasmin receiving truly abhorrent hate mail.
We hope that this letter finds you well. David and I have been growing concerned about the tone of recent meetings. We deceived the Board and members are understandably angry. We are concerned that the longer the reconciliation process goes on, the more personal relationships will suffer. We value our friendships more than our respective positions within the club.
Today, David and I met with Peter Cerneka and discussed the possibility of SGB arbitration. Pete informed us that the process would be long and drawn out – he wanted to begin initial proceedings after Spring break. We do not want that to happen. Therefore, if the board requests, David and I will resign.
Henry Kissinger once said about academia “never are the fights so fierce where the stakes are so low.” We hope that a year from now all members of the board will remember this incident with a sense of humor. David and I plan to release a statement to both Spectator and Bwog later this evening. However, if requested, we will follow the direction of the Board. We would like media outlets to release all relevant documentation to the public.
David and I have enjoyed out time at this club. No one cares about this organization as much as we do; we are sad to leave. We believe that over the last few years we have really shaped the intellectual climate on campus. Ann Coulter, Geert Wilders and the Safe Space Forum were all great events. We hope that CUCR will continue to host events of a similar nature.
Columbia University College Republicans
Director of Finance
Columbia University College Republicans