University Suspends Journalism Student For Asking Questions For A Class Assignment
November 10, 2012
by Barry Petchesky
Alex Myers is an Australian exchange student currently studying journalism at SUNY Oswego, part of New York's state university system. Last month he was given a class assignment to produce a profile on a public figure. He chose Oswego men's hockey coach Ed Gosek and began in the standard manner: he reached out to Gosek's colleagues in the sport.
Here's the email he sent to three coaches at other schools:
My name is Alex Myers, I work for the Office of Public Affairs at SUNY Oswego.
I am currently writing a profile on Oswego State Hockey head coach Ed Gosek and was hoping to get a rival coaches view on Mr Gosek.
If you have time would you mind answering the following questions.
1. How do you find Mr Gosek to coach against?
2. Have you had any interactions with Mr Gosek off the ice? If so how did you find him?
3. What is your rivalry like between your school and Oswego State?
Be as forthcoming as you like, what you say about Mr Gosek does not have to be positive.
Thank you, Alex Myers.
One recipient, Cornell head coach Mike Schafer, wrote back within the hour:
My interactions with ed gosek have all been off ice as we are div 1. He is one of the best guys in college hockey. Your last line of saying your comments don't need to be positive is offensive. Mike schafer
Myers quickly responded, apologizing for any offense caused by his last line. "I was simply letting you know that this piece I am writing is not a 'puff' piece about Mr Gosek," he told Schafer. While clumsily handled, this is good! We don't want our journalism students succumbing to the temptations of the rote love letter profile. Those are easier to report, easier to write, and mind-numbingly boring. Not that anyone should set out to "get" a Division III hockey coach, but it's fine to let potential interviewees know they shouldn't be afraid to go negative.
The next day, Myers was suspended indefinitely, pending a judicial hearing. Nonprofit civil liberties group The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has all the documents, and they're infuriating. In a letter from Oswego President Deborah Stanley, Myers was told he would have to remove all of his belongings from his dorm and move out by the next day. He was not to enter the campus or any of its buildings, or he would be subject to arrest. The university police were copied on the letter.
Myers was charged with two counts. The first, a general charge encompassing "dishonesty," stemmed from Myers identifying himself as an employee of the Office of Public Affairs, where he was interning, even though that job had nothing to do with the class assignment. No question, he fucked up there.
The second charge is unfathomable. The university cites the section of its code of conduct that covers "harassment, intimidation, stalking, domestic violence, or creating a hostile environment through discrimination or bias toward any individual or group." Most chilling, the section also covers "invasion of privacy." For doing research for a profile of a public figure. I know college kids like to call any authority figures "fascist," but man, Oswego, you're not exactly making your university a place where ideas can be exchanged freely.
This one has a happy(?) ending. After FIRE got involved, Oswego dropped the harassment charge. And at a disciplinary hearing last week, Myers was spared a suspension. Instead he has to write a story for the school newspaper and/or his journalism class "sharing what he has learned from this experience," and write letters of apology to Gosek and the coaches he contacted. He's doing it, because he wants this all to go away, and because you just can't fight Big Academia.
SUNY Oswego Journalism Student Suspended for Emails to Hockey Coaches [FIRE}
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