Oswego, NY — SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley told the student newspaper that she is saddened by the national publicity the college has received after she ordered a student suspended because of an e-mail he sent for a class assignment.
“I feel heart sick over the fact that the institution is being viewed this way and that any individual would have suffered, on all sides," Stanley was quoted as saying in The Oswegonian. "I do know that none of this was about speech.”
The case of Alexander Myers, an exchange student from Australia, has been featured on web sites and newspapers around the country. Myers told The Oswegonian the news has also reached his home country.
As part of a profile he was writing for a class on Oswego hockey coach Ed Gosek, Myers e-mailed three coaches from other schools. Myers identified himself as a member of the school’s public affairs office, and told the coaches that their comments did not need to be positive. Myers was an intern in that office.
The university charged Myers with two violations of the student conduct code, dishonesty and "disruptive behavior," and said he had used campus computers to harass or defame. Stanley ordered him to move all his belongings out of his dorm room and stay away from campus under threat of arrest. That suspension was never enforced, but Myers was banned from his classes and most academic buildings for a week.
The more serious charge was dropped just before Myers’ campus judicial hearing Oct. 29. He was found guilty of misrepresenting himself as working for the public affairs office instead of saying he was a student. He was ordered to write an article about what he had learned and to send letters of apology to the coaches.
A communications professor, John Kares Smith, wrote to Stanley to say the immediate suspension of Myers was unwarranted.
"This kind of suspension is usually reserved for very dangerous students…often armed with guns, knives, etc., and a danger to the society and themselves," Smith said in an e-mail to Stanley. "Mr. Myers is none of those things, is he?"
Stanley, who declined requests for interviews with The Post-Standard, told the student newspaper that a letter from a national campus free speech organization had nothing to do with the college dropping the disruptive behavior charge. The letter from theFoundation for Individual Rights in Education was sent on Friday, Oct. 26; at 9:30 a.m. the next Monday, Myers said, he was told the charge had been dropped.
Stanley also said the college believes in free speech.
"People have to be able to challenge ideas in a way that is protected," she told The Oswegonian. "There is no way that we would deliberately close down speech.”
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