On Oct. 17 SUNY Oswego provided a recent example of abuse of its student press.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reported that an Australian exchange student at the school, Alex Myers, was asked to write a feature article for his journalism class on a public figure. Myers chose Oswego head ice hockey coach Ed Gosek.
While preparing his piece, Myers, who was also an intern at Oswego's Office of Public Affairs, reached out to other college hockey coaches, particularly those at Cornell University, SUNY Cortland and Canisius College.
FIRE posted the following email in its report, sent from Myers to those coaches:
“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.”
Cornell coach Michael Schafer was reportedly offended by the notion that he would have negative things to say.
Myers, however, was not encouraging negative information, but rather encouraging the coaches to be open and honest.
Oswego levied charges against Meyers, claiming that he violated Oswego’s Code of Students’ Rights, responsibilities that include academic dishonesty and disruptive behavior. Though the college initially issued a suspension against Myers, this punishment was officially abandoned in favor of a “warning” after the charges of disruptive behavior were dropped. Myers issued apologies to the coaches and will speak to students in other journalism classes about his experiences as part of an “education assignment.”
Regardless of whether or not the charges were pulled back, what justification was there for imposing them in the first place? In what ways were Myers’ questions dishonest or disruptive, which, in the college’s allegations, would mean threatening or intimidating?
Granted, Myers’ decision to identify himself in the email as an employee of a college office and not a journalism student was foolish and ineloquent. It shouldn’t, however, be criminal.
As far as disruptive, Myers’ questions served no other purpose than to gather information on coach Gosek, who is widely respected. There was nothing stopping coaches from heaping high marks on Gosek.
Geneseo men’s ice hockey head coach Chris Schultz said he had nothing but praise for Gosek.
“Gosek is one of the good guys in hockey. He is well respected around the country and he does an amazing job with his talented team,” Schultz said.
So why come down so hard on a student doing a homework assignment, while making it look to the outside world like some kind of a cover up? Why the holier-than-thou attitude toward a young man who is supposedly being trained to be a professional reporter?
The fact is that the college used its authority to silence a student at the very thought that he might be willing to print negative comments on the top-ranked hockey program for which Oswego is so well known.
Myers made a foolish mistake identifying himself as a college employee rather than a student working on an assignment. But would a Democrat and Chronicle reporter be threatened with losing their job for a similar email? I don’t think so.