Monthly Archives: February 2017

Skating into spring semester

Peer Academic Leaders hosts free skate for Western students

Grace Flynn/Staff Writer

Western’s Peer Academic Leaders (PALS) hosted a free night of skating for students to get some time to relax, and enjoy a fun weekend with friends before the busy semester starts. All around campus, posters were put up to advertise this event and what it involved.

On Friday Jan. 20, Western students filled the local ice rink (Jorgensen Event Center) with music and laughter.

The DJs for the night were Dawid Konieczek and Canyon Mueller. They kicked off the event with fun tunes that everyone could groove to. Students who chose not to put skates on their feet stood along with Konieczek and Mueller, dancing and singing along with the music. They performed music that was exciting and filled the ice rink.

The PALS provided pizza for the crowd after the game, enough for 150 students, ending the night with only scraps. More than 150 students attended this event, causing the rink to rent out all of the skates in stock.

“We were expecting that students would just come after the (hockey) game, but we had ordered enough pizza for about 150 people,” said Brian Cole, Study Abroad Advisor & Ambassador for the PALS, who was also skating along capturing students on the ice with a video camera.

Students of all skating levels attending the event, and even though some people lost their balance, they had the support of everyone around them to help them get the hang of it.

By the end of the night, right around 11 p.m., participants were given a chance to show off their sick dance moves on the ice. The DJs were the judges for the dance moves and the winners left with special prizes in their pockets.

Well-fed and with the exciting music still ringing in their ears, students left the ice center with smiles on their faces.

Film Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Sci-Fi prequel has some issues, but offers an optimistic start for spin off series.

Sam Thornley / Staff Writer

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a prequel to the original 1977 Star Wars film and the first spin-off film in the long-running series. Directed by Gareth Edwards and starring an ensemble cast including Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, and Forest Whitaker, the film was released by Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm Ltd. on Dec. 16, 2016. The film also notably features the likeness of the late Peter Cushing digitally recreated onto actor Guy Henry as the character Grand Moff Tarkin.

The events of the story, set immediately before A New Hope, follows the efforts of the Rebel Alliance to steal the plans to the Empire’s Death Star battlestation. When the weapon’s designer leaks information out to a guerilla cell, the Rebellion recruits his fugitive daughter, Jyn Erso, to aid a team intent on discovering the plans before it is too late.

What the film accomplishes above all else is to inspire a message of hope in its theme. This is particularly prominent in how the Death Star’s architect, Galen Erso, demonstrates in a rather well acted scene how being forced to build a terrible weapon took him to some dark places, and yet he never gave up trying to impede the Empire’s progress. Even some of the smaller moments, such as Chirrut’s belief in the Force despite not having it, and the protagonists defying orders to do the right thing, can bring out a small bit of appreciation in the viewer.

Additionally, the film has some pretty fun characters sprinkled throughout, accompanied by some great performances by the actors involved. While the main protagonists of Jyn and Cassian are relatable, if underdeveloped, it is the characters of K-2SO, Chirrut, and Director Krennic that truly stand out. Played by great actors who give the characters a lot of wit and personality, these characters steal every scene they are in and are bound to command the viewer’s attention to the screen whenever they are present.

Finally, the film has probably some of the most spectacular action and set pieces displayed in a Star Wars film. Aside from the dazzling effects, the action scenes carry with them a crisp image with clear movement without throwing too many details into the viewers face at once. This is best expressed in the climatic showdown at the end of the film, where a land and space battle are both depicted, but both sides are shown to be interconnected in a race against time to grab the Death Star plans. As a result, the battle is intense and fast paced while throwing some creative moments in during the ride, which will leave those craving the action parts of the film very satisfied.

While a fun time to be had overall, the film does have some issues regarding character development, alongside a few questionable special effects amidst the otherwise all-star action. With the characters, while they are all fun and interesting, not all of them get development and some of them feel heavily underused. Jyn for example, has an interesting backstory and is appealing as a fighter, but sort of easily becomes a Rebel aside from a few small moments of resistance, which makes it feel rather rushed.

On the other hand, there are some characters who feel outright neglected. Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed’s Saw Gerrera and Bodhi Rook in particular suffer heavily from this, as both characters have really interesting backstories as a rebel extremist and a defected Imperial pilot with the jitters. Nonetheless, Saw has very little screen time and a comically over the top performance that feels out of place in the otherwise serious tone of the film, while Bodhi is mostly in the background, which feels like a tremendous waste of interesting story opportunities.

Aside from characterization problems, the film suffers from a fairly slow and confusing first act. Without the opening crawl traditional to the series, the film has a large amount of exposition given while jumping around from planet to planet. As a result, this can feel rather disorienting and will feel unfairly punishing to those that do not pay attention.

The biggest element of the movie that could throw off a viewer, however, is the computer animation used to revive the character of Grand Moff Tarkin, whose actor Peter Cushing had died over twenty years ago. While the effects are rather impressive, the fact it is still a different person having animation pasted over his face is still somewhat disconcerting and raises an ethical dilemma on whether or not dead actors should be revived. Consequently, the viewer may feel uneasy whenever Tarkin is on screen in an uncanny way the filmmakers probably did not intend to have happen.

Overall, the film does have some serious flaws that prevent it from being perfect or excellent, but is still highly serviceable as an above average time at the movies. The action is quite compelling and the characters are fun, if underdeveloped, while the events of the film will compel the viewer to consider watching Star Wars again. It’s not film of the year material, but it is a fun time to be had nonetheless and will hopefully leave the audience satisfied with their ticket purchases.

Jackson National Life Insurance Company Lawsuit

Western students respond to alleged discrimination

Marisa Cardin / Senior Staff Writer

Earlier this week, The Denver Post published two articles which included allegations of discriminatory remarks made by Western President, Dr. Greg Salsbury. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently filed a lawsuit against Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Dr. Salsbury’s former employer, under probable discrimination against female and black employees. This discrimination occurred under recruitment, promotion, and hiring within the company, which has over 5,000 employees.

Seven plaintiffs accused Jackson supervisors of making racist and discriminatory remarks. The plaintiffs were all black, and were allegedly denied promotions and bonuses throughout their years at Jackson, and were demeaned and fired when this information was brought forward.

Dr. Greg Salsbury, President of Western State Colorado University, was accused of allegedly making such discriminatory comments. At the time, he was the Executive Vice President of Distribution for Jackson. When two of the seven plaintiffs asked him about the possibility of external wholesaler openings, which would have ultimately led to higher salaries, Dr. Salsbury is alleged to have replied that “it was unheard of for black employees to make over $100,000.” Jackson also closed its office in Atlanta, a closing that was apparently the result of the hiring pool being “too black,” according to an alleged statement made by Dr. Salsbury.

In a recent email statement to Top, Dr. Salsbury stressed the importance of diversity within Western specifically. “I just wanted you to know that the allegations of my remarks are absolutely false and do not reflect the commitment to diversity that I bring to Western every day,” Dr. Salsbury wrote.

Top reached out to students and faculty alike to hear their opinions on the matter. Members of the Multicultural Center were approached, due in part to their dedication to exploring and celebrating different cultures and races. When asked about their initial responses to Dr. Salsbury’s alleged comments, this is what they had to say.

Santiago Sierra, sophomore at Western, said that he was “surprised to hear of the situation, especially considering the president’s extensive resume. The allegations made against him are really shocking, because he’s one of the people trying to promote diversity on campus.” Sierra said that these allegations weren’t helping the president’s cause. “Dr. Salsbury serves Western,” he said. “If it’s true, kids aren’t going to brush this off.”

Another member of the Multicultural Center, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the situation would create more barriers. “Hearing this news will just mean that students of color will have to prove themselves more, even if they’re afraid to stick out. I wasn’t shocked to hear about this, especially after the results of the election,” they continued, revealing that rhetoric like this was nothing new to them. “I’ve experienced discrimination before at Western. I was walking home and some people called out and told me to ‘go back where I came from’. It made me feel unsafe, and it makes me feel uncomfortable sometimes being the only person of color in class, or in my major. [Hearing this news] makes me question if this campus is even taking diversity into account,” said the anonymous student.

Gary Pierson, the Vice President for Student Affairs, responded through an email to Top regarding the alleged incident. “The events of the past week related to the Jackson National lawsuit have been troubling for the campus community,” Pierson wrote. “President Salsbury has emphasized in our discussions that his former employer, Jackson National Life and not Dr. Salsbury himself, is being sued. Nevertheless, these events affect us. I want to affirm that we, as an institution, not only welcome having a diverse and inclusive community, but that this is integral to our purpose and mission,” he continued. “Western has the mission to provide opportunity for all our students to meet their potential in their studies, careers, and lives. And we are better when our educational community includes diverse voices from diverse backgrounds. This is who we are.  We need to continue to work toward and be vigilant with respect to these principles,” Pierson wrote

“If what Salsbury said is true, I’d be worried for the safety of people of color here,” Top’s anonymous interviewee said, when asked how this situation could affect future or current students of Western. “Parents are going to question the school’s values and we’d potentially have more students transferring out of Western. There will be angry parents, and angry students. The Multicultural Center is a safe zone,” they explained, “where we can be free and be ourselves. I don’t want people to see Western as a racist community. If what he said is true, it shows that discrimination is still alive and strong. But if it isn’t true, I want the president to be more involved with diversity on campus!”

“If the allegations against Dr. Salsbury are true,” Santiago said, “students are going to think that [discriminatory comments] are okay… because the president has already done it. It’s just going to further encourage racism.”

Takano Salat, a junior at Western who had joined the conversation halfway through the interview, agreed immediately, “we’d be represented by someone with those [discriminatory] thoughts. I don’t want that.”

Sierra agreed. “I hope these allegations aren’t true, I don’t want them to be true. It just makes another reason for students to be discriminatory towards each other. It justifies that behavior.”

In Pierson’s email to Top, he encouraged the Western community to provide positive and welcoming messages to each other, despite the situation. “We want to affirm and ensure that our students, staff, and colleagues understand that we value their importance as a part of what we do, no matter their background,” Pierson wrote. “This is our mission, and integral to who we are.”

Dr. Salsbury, similarly, concluded his statement with a note of his pride at Western’s diversity. “Upon my arrival, I spearheaded our new strategic plan which specifically established improved diversity as one of the key initiatives – and I am very pleased that we have made increases in diversity of the student population each year since.  My sincere hope is that this will not distract us from our progress.”

For follow up information, visit http://top-o-the-world.com/  between now and Top’s next print issue, released on Feb. 17.