Syracuse University College of Law Still Investigating Alleged Author of Satirical Blog
November 10, 2010
Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) student Len Audaer is still being investigated for "harassment" by his school, which suspects that he authored anonymous posts for the explicitly satirical blog SUCOLitis. (For our previous posts on this issue, click here, here, here, and here.)
On October 25, 2010, FIRE sent a letter to Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor, urging her to drop the investigation of Audaer. We reminded her that Syracuse is legally and morally required to uphold the free speech promises that Syracuse makes to its students and that the expression on the blog does not come close to meeting the Supreme Court's or even Syracuse University's own definition of harassment.
This case has produced a withering media outcry against Syracuse and its law school, with many news outlets condeming the Syracuse administration for blatantly violating a student's rights. Elie Mystal of the popular legal blog Above the Law wrote a scathing criticism of the case; Daniel Luzer, writing for the college blog in Washington Monthly, scoffed at the ridiculousness of the situation; and our own Robert Shibley joined the action, lambasting Syracuse's actions in Pajamas Media.
Despite this ridicule, SUCOL Dean Hannah R. Arterian has now replied to FIRE to inform us that Audaer remains under investigation for possible prosecution and punishment. She writes: "No such prosecution has yet been commenced as the investigation is not yet complete."
How long will Audaer be under investigation for "harassment"? He has had charges hanging over his head since October 15, when Associate Professor of Law Gregory Germain e-mailed him, stating that "I have received a charging statement from a student against you, and have begun an investigation of the charges. The charges are extremely serious."
Yet, when Audaer asked Germain to verify Audaer's account of their October 18 meeting, Germain replied curtly, "I don't have time to read or respond to your summary of our meeting."
Yes, I see how it is at Syracuse College of Law: Any student can get any other student under investigation simply by filing a charging statement. Then, Gregory Germain sits on the investigation for weeks while the accused student faces "extremely serious" charges, all the while claiming he is too busy to care about the student's own good-faith attempt to verify the content of the investigatory meeting. What a model of support for due process and free speech Mr. Germain is.
If Syracuse respects its own commitment to free speech, it will cease this investigation immediately. But if Syracuse fails to do so or even chooses to prosecute Audaer or anyone else for the content of SUCOLitis, FIRE will be there to support student rights with all of the resources at our disposal.