Earlier this month, FIRE exposed a shocking case at the State University of New York College at Oswego (SUNY Oswego), where a student was suspended and ordered to vacate campus simply for writing emails.
Alexander Myers, an exchange student from Australia, contacted three hockey coaches from other institutions, as research for a class assignment he was writing about SUNY Oswego men’s hockey coach Ed Gosek. In his email, he wrote that "what you say about Mr Gosek does not have to be positive." The next day, Myers received a letter from SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley, which placed him on interim suspension and charged him with "disruptive behavior," on the grounds that SUNY Oswego policy prohibited emails that "defame, harass, intimidate, or threaten another individual or group."
If you find his suspension outrageous, you’re not the only one! Once FIRE broke the news, media outlets across the country picked up the story, calling much-needed attention to SUNY Oswego and its disciplinary practices. Here’s a quick summary of the coverage:
- College Media Matters: "SUNY Oswego Journalism Student Threatened with Suspension Over Email to Hockey Coaches"
- Student Press Law Center: "SUNY Oswego student threatened with expulsion for reporting says he may reconsider going into journalism"
- The Huffington Post: "Journalism Student Suspended for Offending Hockey Coaches"
- Gawker: "University Suspends Journalism Student For Asking Questions For A Class Assignment"
- The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY):
Student press outlets have picked up the story, too.
- The Daily Wildcat (University of Arizona): "SUNY Oswego incident demonstrates free speech on campuses still counts"
- The Spectrum (SUNY Buffalo): "Return to Sender: SUNY Oswego student’s email shows importance of journalism etiquette"
- SUNY Oswego’s student newspaper, of course, weighed in on the issue with an article and an editorial:
- Poynter: "University sanctions journalism student for ‘disruptive’ interview request"
- Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas (University of Texas at Austin): "U.S. university reverses suspension of journalism student after public outcry"
We’ve been pleased to see Myers’ case receive the sunlight it deserves. We hope that, between FIRE’s correspondence and this media attention, SUNY Oswego thinks long and hard before overzealously punishing student speech again.