Free Speech On Campus: Don’t Be Too Quick To Assume You Have It
It seems most speech is now “hate speech,” as far as many college administrators are concerned.
From Gawker, “University Suspends Journalism Student For Asking Questions For A Class Assignment.”
Here’s email that got Alex Myers, an Australian exchange student currently studying journalism at SUNY Oswego, part of New York’s state university system, in trouble. (He was given a class assignment to profile a public figure and chose Oswego men’s hockey coach Ed Gosek, and reached out to Gosek’s fellow 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 coach wrote back that he found the last line of the email offensive. A day later, Myers was suspended indefinitely, pending a judicial hearing. The grounds:
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.
Of course, the “hate speech” prohibitions are violations of our right to free speech.
And off course, FIRE — the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — came to the student’s rescue…at no charge to the student…thanks to donations they get to support their efforts to defend free speech on campus.
FIRE needs donations — even $5 helps. Here’s a secure link to donate.
FIRE president Greg Lukianoff’s recently published (and terrific) book I just finished reading is worth getting: Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. All proceeds go to FIRE.
And if you’re in Los Angeles, FIRE and LA Press Club are hosting an event at the end of the month — November 29, 7pm — free to all who want to attend. There will be complimentary appetizers and complimentary drinks and Greg will be talking a bit about the book. You need to RSVP and get a ticket to attend, but tickets are free.