Law school student on 'Trial' for harassment
December 15, 2010
Las Vegas Review-Journal
The textbook at Syracuse University College of Law must be Kafka's "The Trial."
According to information posted on the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, yes, the acronym is FIRE, Syracuse law student Len Audaer has spent two months under the threat of harassment charges, supposedly related to content on a satirical WordPress blog called SUCOLitis, yes, your colitis in Spanish.
The rub is: The university refuses to tell him who is his accuser or what he may have written that might constitute harassment. Now, says FIRE, the university is demanding he agree to a gag order on himself, his attorney and any news media that might get wind of the case.
The SUCOLitis site, which is described as a law school-centric take off on the popular satirical website "The Onion," is now closed to the public and accessible only with a password. The site included the disclaimer: "No actual news stories appear on the site."
FIRE has written the university on Audaer's behalf, but to no avail.
FIRE said of the sweeping, Star Chamber-like gag order, "The proposed gag order effectively prevents any media from reporting on the case using this information, and it effectively prevents Audaer from interviewing witnesses. It prohibits disclosure of any information obtained from Syracuse during Audaer's prosecution, including the complaint, the blog entries, and witness testimony, unless each recipient of the information agrees to certain conditions."
At a campus debate on this matter in October, reported on by The Daily Orange, it was pointed out Syracuse is a private institution and is not bound by any stinking Constitution.
But its own student handbook says, "Syracuse University is committed to the principle that freedom of expression is essential to the search for truth, and consequently welcomes and encourages the expression of different and varied opinions, and of dissent."
The Daily Orange wrote of the debate, "Roy Gutterman, director of the Tully Center for Free Speech, and Jason Feldman, a first-year law student, spoke in support of free speech, but first-year law student Chris Lattuca and assistant professor of law and LGBT studies Tucker Culbertson spoke against it."
The article quotes Lattuca as saying, "If Syracuse University decides to find a way to punish the students who created the SUCOLitis blog, they have every right to do so, and they're not going to be bound by the U.S. Constitution."
Lattuca reportedly said one blog posting on SUCOLitis described first-year law students as "especially slutty," and that the college should not have to wait until the blog becomes more offensive to take action.
"The thing about going too far is you haven't gone too far until it's too late," Lattuca was quoted as saying. "We don't look at these blogs and say ‘Wow, this is wildly offensive' until something bad has happened."
That's right. Nip it in the bud. You take all male babies and ... well, nip them in the bud. Limbaugh has a term for that - castratee, a satirical variation on castrato, I assume.
The LGBT prof - yes, that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, I assume - noted the suicide of the gay Rutgers student whose liaison was streamed on the Web, saying the blog might be a joke, but still had potential to harm.
Speech can hardly be free if it must be toned down till the most easily offended is satisfactorily unoffended.
Meanwhile, "The Trial" goes on.
- Law school student on 'Trial' for harassment, PDF, 901 KB , Las Vegas Review-Journal