Syracuse University and the Syracuse University College of Law have continued to botch the prosecution of an innocent student, but it looks like Syracuse might finally have a way out now that the student has apologized for having a role in the fake-news blog SUCOLitis. Law student Len Audaer has been under threat of expulsion for months for "harassment" because of the anonymous blog.
Robert explained on Friday how Syracuse University Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina cemented his university's spot on FIRE's list of the 12 Worst Schools for Free Speech, which we published last week on The Huffington Post. Robert wrote that Spina had released a statement that was "so atrocious that the only way to thoroughly address it is to take each point line by line," which Robert did.
Then, Audaer himself published a statement noting that while he has now apologized, this apparently is not enough (yet) for Syracuse. Please read the whole statement, but here's the main part:
What I had understood from our discussions was that a public apology and admission of complicity was to form the basis for the agreement. This I have consistently been enthusiastic to do and I in fact believe I owe an apology to those who may have been genuinely offended. Where I'm struggling, however, is in the confidential settlement document that was recently sent to me by Prof. Germain. I can agree to everything but a promise that I will never again criticize the school for its actions, especially in light of yesterday's developments.
Yesterday [January 27, 2011], The Huffington Post ran an editorial written by the president of FIRE which named Syracuse University the worst offender in the country for curtailing free speech. I was not involved in or consulted for the writing of this article. In response, the school released a statement that resembled the one we were negotiating but went far beyond the language we had already agreed upon. It undid much of the negotiation and was frankly a huge betrayal of the good faith that had existed until that point. I am perplexed as to how Prof[.] Germain thinks that a deal can still be on the table when that deal would include the text to a public statement that the school has already defenestrated for the purpose of viciously misrepresenting me and the case.
Audaer says more (and so do I) in today's issue of The Daily Orange, as reported by Jon Harris and Dara McBride. Notably, Audaer said, "My apology shouldn't come with conditions." Here's more:
Audaer sent four e-mails to people who were offended by the blog or were associated with posts law school officials indicated were offensive. He apologized for any hurt he or the blog may have created.
About a week ago, Audaer, his lawyer, representatives of the law school and a federal judge were quietly negotiating to end the investigation. Then an editorial published in The Huffington Post on Thursday named SU the worst college in the country for free speech, and the university reacted by issuing a response to the statement. The response contained both comments on the ranking and updates on SUCOLitis negotiations.
Audaer said the statement was supposed to remain confidential to negotiations, as it was still being discussed and he had yet to agree to its terms. Gregory Germain, faculty prosecutor for the investigation, confirmed the statement released by the university was a version of one that had already been in the works.
Audaer said he had not originally planned on sending these e-mails or coming out as an author of the blog. But after the statement was released, Audaer viewed negotiations to be over and apologized personally.
Adam Kissel, FIRE's vice president of programs, said Germain mishandled the case by trying to get a gag order on Audaer and keeping him under investigation for months. A gag order would have prevented anyone from giving quotes from documents to the media unless the outlet agreed to print the document in its entirety.
Kissel said SU should have recognized the speech in question was protected by the university's own rules and that Audaer would have been willing to apologize rather than face expulsion.
"The best outcome and most correct outcome would have been to take the student's complaints, look at them, decide they had no merit and end the case immediately," Kissel said.
SU was given a speech code rating of red by FIRE, which means at least one policy at the university restricts free speech. But Kissel, of FIRE, said there is a strong chance SU will be moved up very soon to the red-alert list, which identifies the worst violators of campus rights.
Said Kissel about SU: "It's a dangerous place for free speech."
Yes, it is.
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