by Geoff Herbert
For the third year in a row, a Central New York school has been named one of the worst colleges for free speech.
Syracuse University topped 2011’s list, created by Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), after an SU College of Law student was charged with harassment and issued a gag order over a satirical blog called SUCOLitis. In 2012, SU ranked second worst after a School of Education graduate student was nearly expelled for using Facebook to criticize a community activist’s racial comment.
This year, SUNY Oswego has been named the worst college in the country for free speech.
“College is where inquisitive minds go to be exposed to new ways of thinking,” FIRE president Greg Lukianoff wrote on Huffington Post. “But on some campuses, the quest for knowledge is frustrated when administrators censor speech they would prefer be kept out of the marketplace of ideas.”
The State University of New York at Oswego — also known as SUNY Oswego and Oswego State — was criticized late last year when a journalism student was suspended over an email he sent to three college hockey coaches. Alexander Myers allegedly attempted to “defame, harass, intimidate, or threaten another individual or group” when he asked Cornell coach Mike Schafer and others to offer tough opinions about SUNY Oswego coach Ed Gosek for a class assignment.
“Be as forthcoming as you like, what you say about Mr. Gosek does not have to be positive,” Myers, an exchange student from Australia, wrote in the email.
He was banned from class for more than a week and forced to leave his campus residence while awaiting a hearing. Myers was reinstated after public pressure from FIRE and other national free speech advocates, though SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley insisted “none of this was about speech.”
Other schools on FIRE’s 2013 list include Harvard University, University of Alabama, DePaul University, Troy University and University of North Carolina. Syracuse University was not named this year.
“Most of the schools we include in this year’s list are public colleges or universities bound by the First Amendment,” Lukianoff added. “But some of them are private colleges that, though not required by the Constitution to respect student and faculty free speech rights, nonetheless promise to do so.”