Coming to Oswego State as an exchange student from Australia, Alex Myers was likely hoping to see the American system of journalism firsthand. Unfortunately, thanks to an egregious overreaction from President Deborah Stanley and the Oswego State administration, Myers instead received a firsthand look at the apparently authoritarian administration of this institution.
Myers set out to write a piece on men’s ice hockey coach Ed Gosek, one that didn’t include the usual clichéd anecdotes and surface-level generalizations that run rampant through much of feature-based journalism. It was an honorable task, but one that undoubtedly proved challenging for a student journalist. So he made a mistake; he misrepresented himself.
Myers was unquestionably on shaky grounds ethically by doing this, but it was a mistake that could have been made by any student journalist learning to maneuver the complicated media world. It was a moment the school could have used to educate by helping Myers learn from his mistake. Given that the article was never written, the situation at this point had caused little harm to anyone. Instead of teaching, Oswego State hung him out to dry, attempting to suspend him from the school and evict him from his place of living. The administration’s punishment was so severe it escalated into a national news story.
President Stanley said in her statement about the controversy that Oswego State “honors the First Amendment and has vigilantly undertaken to protect students, faculty, staff and others against suppression of First Amendment rights.” The irony of this statement is that, for Myers, it was the school itself that threatened his First Amendment rights. When hockey coaches took issue with Myers’ questions, the school not only failed to protect his right to free speech, but levied charges onto him that were drastic and unfounded by any and all measures. They did not protect his right to freedom of speech; they attacked it.
Not to mention, as host to an international student, the school is, in many ways, a foreign student’s hub to a new and unknown country. This means that the school has at least some responsibility to provide the student with an environment that would allow them to fully experience the nation they have left their home country to explore. An international student is putting a great deal of faith in the university that hosts them, faith that they will be treated in a manner that will be conducive to full enjoyment of the new opportunities offered. In this regard, Oswego State failed Myers entirely. Myers probably spent a great deal of time planning and thinking about this trip, given the opportunity to experience a whole new country on the other end of the world. While Myers dreamed up possible United States experiences, we find it highly unlikely that he imagined a scenario in which he would make national headlines as a result of almost being expelled for an email he wrote. Welcome to Oswego, Alex.
As part of his punishment, Myers was required to write apology letters to Gosek and the Office of Public Affairs. While it is fair to say Myers should apologize for his mistake, he should not be the only party held accountable here. The Oswego State administration not only owes Myers an apology for blowing this situation out of proportion, but it owes its students and faculty an apology for embarrassing the Oswego State community on a national level.
Myers said that this experience has made him question whether he still wanted to pursue a career in journalism. We hope he reconsiders. We would rather that Myers learn from his mistakes and continue working toward a career in journalism. It would be a shame for the Oswego State administration’s poor judgment to stop a young journalist from pursuing his career.
We are all affected by the scandal and it sets a precedent for how the administration will handle future cases of this nature. We are interested in how the rest of campus feels about this; so please tweet at us, comment on our Facebook or on our website. And remember: be as forthcoming as you would like; what you say about the Oswego State administration does not have to be positive.