Syracuse University: Disciplinary Investigations of Satirical Law School Blog

Category: Due Process, Free Speech
Schools: Syracuse University

Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) student Len Audaer was told on October 18, 2010, that he was being investigated for harassment for his alleged involvement with the anonymous, satirical blog SUCOLitis about life in law school, which was meant to emulate The Onion. The blog included a disclaimer stating, “No actual news stories appear on the site.” “Independent prosecutor” and SUCOL professor Gregory Germain had threatened Audaer with expulsion, without ever revealing what expression in particular justified the charges or even who was charging him. Just days after FIRE named Syracuse in The Huffington Post as one of the worst universities in the nation for free speech, Syracuse dropped the whole prosecution.

  • Blog Satirizes Law-School Life, but Syracuse U. Officials Aren’t Laughing

    August 6, 2013

    by Marc Parry The Chronicle of Higher Education SUCOLitis aspires to be something like The Onion of law-school life. The Syracuse, N.Y., satirical news blog has attracted thousands of views with fake headlines about beer pong, third-year students serving burritos, and the election of the university’s “sexiest Semite.” It delights in attributing fake quotes to students and faculty, as well as to famous alumni like Vice President Joe Biden, who is quoted as calling SUCOLitis “even funnier than me.” Syracuse University officials aren’t laughing. The law school has threatened “harassment” charges against a student who is allegedly a writer for the anonymous […]

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  • Law school student on ‘Trial’ for harassment

    August 6, 2013

    by Thomas Mitchell Las Vegas Review-Journal   The textbook at Syracuse University College of Law must be Kafka’s “The Trial.” According to information posted on the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, yes, the acronym is FIRE, Syracuse law student Len Audaer has spent two months under the threat of harassment charges, supposedly related to content on a satirical WordPress blog called SUCOLitis, yes, your colitis in Spanish. The rub is: The university refuses to tell him who is his accuser or what he may have written that might constitute harassment. Now, says FIRE, the university is […]

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  • 2L Glad He’s No Longer a ‘Pariah’ After Syracuse Drops Probe of Satirical Blog

    February 2, 2011

    A Syracuse University law student is feeling relief now that the school has dropped a harassment probe for his satirical blog posts. Syracuse ended the investigation after the student, Len Audaer, e-mailed apologies to several students who had complained about the SUCOLitis blog, which had used real names and fake quotes, according to the Post-Standard and the Daily Orange. Audaer says he was one of several people who contributed to the blog. Posts covered everything from urinal etiquette to attractive 1Ls to sex with a dead school administrator. “I think the one word that I feel right now is, ‘elated,’ […]

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  • Law school gagging speech

    December 19, 2010

    A Law student at Syracuse University is facing possible expulsion for “harassment,” but he doesn’t know who his accusers are or even why he’s in trouble. The source of all the trouble is a fake news blog called SUCOLitis. It’s like The Onion, but it focuses on making fun of life in law school. In one post, the “Faculty Committee on Aesthetic Standards” names the Class of 2013 “Most Attractive in History.” In another, a beer bong is elected class president. Harassment? Far from it. Very far, under any meaningful definition. Humor, parody and satire are huge parts of our […]

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  • Law Student Rights at Issue at SU

    November 11, 2010

    SYRACUSE, NY (wrvo) – A Syracuse University law student accused of harassment says the investigation itself has turned into a punishment with no trial. Len Audaer, a second-year law student at Syracuse University’s College of Law, found out a month ago that the school is investigating him for harassment. Audaer was informed that he could face serious charges of violating the school’s honor code, after complaints from un-named students about an anonymous blog called SUCOLitis. He was asked to meet with the faculty prosecutor assigned to the investigation, Prof. Gregory Germain, who said he could not discuss the case due […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Syracuse University

    September 6, 2013

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2013: Syracuse University.  Syracuse has just one “red light” speech code on its books, but it’s a doozy. The university’s Computing and Electronic Communications Policy (PDF) prohibits using its computer systems to send “offensive messages,” including “sexually, ethnically, racially, or religiously offensive messages.” This broad policy could apply to virtually any online expression that another person finds offensive, including earnest discussions of politically charged topics like immigration, affirmative action, and gay marriage. As such, it is wholly inconsistent with Syracuse’s commitment to “freedom of discussion” and “the expression of dissent.” […]

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  • Censorship at Syracuse, Part II: No Excuse at Syracuse for Gagging Student Satire (VIDEO)

    May 23, 2013

    "Syracuse University tried to derail my legal career simply because of a blog that satirized life in law school." In 2010, Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) student Len Audaer was summoned to a meeting with Associate Professor of Law Gregory Germain, where he was told he was being investigated for "extremely serious" charges, which included allegations of "harassment."The charges being investigated stemmed from Audaer’s alleged involvement with SUCOLitis, an anonymous, satirical blog about life in law school meant to emulate The Onion."[The posts] were extremely frivolous in nature and there was nothing malicious about [them]," says Audaer in FIRE’s […]

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  • The Unique Free Speech Challenges Facing Student Satire and Humor

    February 1, 2013

    As we wrap up Free Press Week, we take a look today at the unique challenges that college students face when engaging in satire and humor on campus, from humor magazines and editorial cartoons to satirical flyers and blogs. Like newspaper theft and denial of newspaper funding (which we have already explored this week), this is an issue that FIRE has seen time and time again on university campuses over the years. For any number of reasons, parody, jokes, and satire-whether in print or otherwise—tend to rankle students and university administrators alike as few other forms of expression do. Consequently, […]

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  • Gregory Germain Isn’t the Only One at Syracuse Who Disdains Free Speech

    February 15, 2012

    Remember Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) “independent prosecutor” Gregory Germain, who complained at a law student meeting last year that “I think there are a lot of people who have a sense of entitlement to free speech”? He’s at it again, this time in Syracuse’s student newspaper, The Daily Orange, and he’s not the only one disdainful of free speech rights. Journalist Debbie Truong’s article, “A blurry line: Following criticism, faculty struggle to distinguish between free speech, harassment,” shows that Syracuse has quite a long way to go just to define basic terms.  For example, take harassment in the […]

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  • Syracuse University’s Student Paper Laments Poor Speech Code Rating

    February 13, 2012

    The editorial board of The Daily Orange, the daily student newspaper at Syracuse University (SU), writes today of the effect that FIRE’s “red light” rating of the university’s speech codes may have on future admissions numbers: If the trend of incidents involving free speech continues at SU, it may have an effect on application numbers. Students will not want to come to a school that has poor free speech rankings because it can make for an uncomfortable learning environment. The incidents at the College of Law and School of Education made headlines and applicants across the country could have heard […]

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  • ‘SUCOLitis’ Case at Syracuse Named One of 2010′s Most Notable Events in ‘Daily Orange’

    August 24, 2011

    As colleges and universities across the nation are welcoming back returning students and greeting the new ones, Syracuse University’s (SU’s) student newspaper The Daily Orange rounds up 10 notable events that happened during SU’s 2010-11 academic year. Interestingly, the investigation of Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) student Len Audaer is on the list. Audaer was told on October 18, 2010, that he was being investigated for harassment for his alleged involvement with a blog called SUCOLitis, which was meant to emulate The Onion. The blog included a disclaimer stating, “No actual news stories appear on the site.” Yet “independent […]

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  • Victory: Syracuse University Drops Allegations Against Student Blogger

    February 2, 2011

    Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) has dropped its outrageous prosecution of law student Len Audaer more than three months after threatening him with severe punishment for “harassment” over his role in a fake-news parody blog about life in law school. “Independent prosecutor” and SUCOL professor Gregory Germain had threatened Audaer with expulsion over satire posted anonymously on the blog, SUCOLitis, without ever revealing what expression in particular justified the charges or even who was charging him. Audaer came to FIRE for help back in October 2010, after he was summoned to a meeting with SUCOL Associate Professor of Law […]

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  • Victory: Syracuse University Drops Allegations Against Student Blogger

    February 2, 2011

    SYRACUSE, N.Y., Feb. 2, 2011—Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) has dropped its prosecution of law student Len Audaer more than three months after threatening him with severe punishment for “harassment” over his role in a fake-news parody blog about life in law school. “Independent prosecutor” and SUCOL professor Gregory Germain had threatened Audaer with expulsion over satire posted anonymously on the blog, SUCOLitis, without ever revealing what expression in particular justified the charges or even who was charging him. Audaer came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Sunlight has again proved one of the […]

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  • Statement of February 1, 2011, from Len Audaer

    February 1, 2011

    It Ends February 1, 2011 Today I received a letter from Faculty Prosecutor Professor Gregory Germain via my lawyer Mark Blum. In the letter, Prof. Germain announced that he had decided that it was not in the best interests of the school to proceed with any charges. The SUCOLitis investigation is over, 109 days after it began. I am extremely relieved. Moreover I am indebted to my lawyer Mark Blum, to Adam Kissel and the good people of FIRE, and to my countless supporters and friends. Without them I could never have made it this far. Thank you.

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  • Syracuse Law Student Apologizes, Claims ‘School Betrays Promises Made In Negotiations’

    January 31, 2011

    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. […]

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  • Syracuse Statement Cements School’s Top Spot on ’12 Worst Schools for Free Speech’ List

    January 28, 2011

    Yesterday, FIRE placed Syracuse as number one on the list of the 12 Worst Schools for Free Speech that we published on The Huffington Post. Fittingly, on that very day Syracuse cemented its spot on the list by releasing a statement about its persecution of law student Len Audaer–a statement so deceptive and dishonest that we are frankly shocked that Syracuse released it. (For those just tuning in, FIRE has posted an extensive Q&A about the case.) You can read the entire text of Syracuse’s statement on its own website, but it is so atrocious that the only way to thoroughly address it is to take […]

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  • Statement of January 28, 2011, from Len Audaer

    January 28, 2011

    School Betrays Promises Made In Negotiations January 28, 2011 In an act of staggering naïvety, Faculty Prosecutor Professor Gregory Germain today asked if I was still willing to take the deal that the school is offering me. That comes despite their utter betrayal yesterday by releasing a substantially more incendiary version than the last one Prof. Germain himself had submitted to us! FIRE’s truly awesome assessment of the university’s statement can be found here. My response, to all parties, was as follows: What I had understood from our discussions was that a public apology and admission of complicity was to […]

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  • Syracuse Prosecutor: ‘There are a lot of people who have a sense of entitlement to free speech’

    January 24, 2011

    Last Tuesday, Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) faculty prosecutor Gregory Germain appeared before the SUCOL Law Student Bar Association to explain the latest developments in his absurd prosecution of a student for “harassment” based on the expression on a satirical law school blog called SUCOLitis. His comments reveal an unfortunately unsurprising lack of understanding of, and even disdain for, the principles of free speech on SUCOL’s campus. The most revealing lines of all in the meeting minutes come from Professor Germain, who reportedly said: I think there are a lot of people who have a sense of entitlement to […]

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  • Syracuse Law School Blasted by ‘Daily Orange’ for Prosecution of Innocent Student

    January 24, 2011

    Over the weekend, Syracuse University student newspaper The Daily Orange blasted Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) for prosecuting innocent expression posted on a satirical blog called SUCOLitis, which made fun of life in law school—like SUCOL’s version of The Onion. For more than three months, law student Len Audaer has been under investigation with the threat of expulsion for “harassment” because of the expression on the blog, even though: he has never acknowledged writing any of the blog posts on SUCOLitis; he has never been told which expression on the blog he is being investigated for; he has never […]

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  • Instead of Slaying a Beast, Syracuse Creates a Monster

    January 10, 2011

    Those who wish to censor are often shocked to discover that the harder they try to suppress speech, the more widely known it becomes. This phenomenon is certainly true for the investigation of Len Audaer, the alleged author of the satirical blog SUCOLitis at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL). Alex Piliouras of Syracuse Basement, another humor blog, explains how SUCOL’s attempts to silence SUCOLitis have given it a much louder voice: For another thing, blogs aren’t exactly pulling in millions of viewers. They’re blogs. It’s the equivalent of vomiting on a keyboard because you’re bored. However, once there’s the […]

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  • At Syracuse University, Does ‘Harassment’ Mean Whatever Gregory Germain Thinks It Means?

    December 30, 2010

    A couple of weeks ago, I reported on an e-mail conversation that Gregory Germain, the self-styled “independent prosecutor” in FIRE’s case at Syracuse University College of Law, had with me and with FIRE supporter David Ross. In the case, Germain is prosecuting law student Len Audaer because of satirical expression on an anonymous blog named SUCOLitis, which is like The Onion and satirizes life in law school. Professor Ross and Professor Germain continued their conversation—you can find the latest over at Popehat—but I wanted to point out this gem from Professor Germain: Mr. Ross seems to believe that all terms […]

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  • FIRE’s Kissel in ‘New York Post’ on Syracuse’s War on Satire

    December 21, 2010

    Yesterday’s New York Post featured an article by FIRE Vice President of Programs Adam Kissel about Syracuse University’s ongoing and unjustifiable war on satire and parody. Syracuse’s College of Law has been investigating student Len Audaer for more than two months over his alleged involvement in the anonymous SUCOLitis satire blog, which aimed to be like The Onion for the law school community. As Adam says in the article, instead of teaching the lessons of American freedom, “Syracuse is teaching the next generation of lawyers that the right not to be offended trumps the rights of free speech and due process.”

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  • Q&A on the Syracuse Free Speech Case

    December 17, 2010

    FIRE has learned that Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) Dean Hannah Arterian have been replying to the many messages they have received from supporters of free speech in the case of the wrongful investigation of law student Len Audaer (see FIRE’s case page for details). Their replies essentially say that Syracuse is right and FIRE is wrong (they are long on complaint and short on evidence). Obviously, we disagree. FIRE does not get involved in a case unless we have clear and convincing documentation of a rights violation on campus. The bottom line is that […]

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  • FIRE Supporters Making Voices Heard on Injustices at Syracuse

    December 16, 2010

    As FIRE supporter David Ross has illustrated, Syracuse University College of Law’s (SUCOL’s) chilling investigation of law student Len Audaer over the publication of an anonymous, satirical website has prompted strong reactions from supporters concerned about the state of free speech at Syracuse. Since we issued our press release, dozens (that we know of) have used our website to write letters to the university, calling for an end to the investigation. Many additional supporters have written to us to convey their shock and outrage. Thank you! Public interest in the case continues to grow, meanwhile, with publications like The Chronicle […]

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  • Peter’s Letter to the Editor on Syracuse Case in ‘The Daily Orange’

    December 16, 2010

    FIRE’s Peter Bonilla has written an excellent letter to the editor appearing in The Daily Orange about our ongoing case at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL). We have written extensively about the astonishing case of SUCOL student Len Audaer here on The Torch recently, so I don’t need to do much in the way of introduction. In a nutshell, Audaer has now been under investigation for two months (and counting) for allegations of “harassment” due to the content of an anonymous, satirical blog, SUCOLitis. Though SUCOLitis explicitly states that it is a satirical fake news site, and though the […]

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  • ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’ and ‘Las Vegas Review-Journal’ on Syracuse Case

    December 15, 2010

    In the “Wired Campus” section of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Marc Parry writes about FIRE’s case at Syracuse University College of Law: SUCOLitis aspires to be something like The Onion of law-school life. The Syracuse, N.Y., satirical news blog has attracted thousands of views with fake headlines about beer pong, third-year students serving burritos, and the election of the university’s “sexiest Semite.” It delights in attributing fake quotes to students and faculty, as well as to famous alumni like Vice President Joe Biden, who is quoted as calling SUCOLitis “even funnier than me.” Syracuse University officials aren’t laughing. The law school has threatened “harassment” charges […]

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  • Syracuse Faculty Prosecutor Melting Down: If You Can’t Stand the Heat …

    December 15, 2010

    One of FIRE’s longtime allies, David Ross, keeps a list of people interested in FIRE issues and of administrators who have been involved in some way in a FIRE case. When he gets a press release from FIRE about a violation of someone’s rights, he often copies this list when he writes the university to ask for an explanation. After he wrote Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor about our outrageous case at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL), he received a response from the faculty prosecutor, SUCOL Professor Gregory Germain. I replied to it, and that’s when Germain started to […]

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  • Rogue Syracuse Prosecutor Reveals Gag Order and His Contempt for Free Speech

    December 15, 2010

    Yesterday, in a message that we will reveal soon, Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) Professor Gregory Germain (self-described as “the ‘Prosecutor’”) revealed to a large group of e-mail recipients nationwide that he had filed a motion for a gag order on Len Audaer and his attorney Mark Blum in Audaer’s free speech case. We reported the details of the case in a press release yesterday. In short, Audaer was told he was under investigation for “harassment” because of the content of an anonymous, satirical blog about life in law school, named SUCOLitis. The content of the blog, however, comes […]

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  • ‘Normal Circumstances’ at Syracuse?

    December 15, 2010

    As you may know by now, Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) is asking the law school’s judicial system to issue a “protective order” (read: gag order) that would severely hamper Len Audaer’s efforts to bring public attention to SUCOL’s ongoing investigation of his protected expression.  In documents filed yesterday, faculty “prosecutor” Gregory Germain sheds some additional light on his reasons for seeking the order, namely: The [SUCOL student conduct] Code did not envision a charged student seeking public attention for the proceedings. The Code was designed to protect the privacy rights of charged students, who in normal circumstances would not […]

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  • Syracuse University Threatens ‘Harassment’ Charges over Satirical Blog, Seeks Gag Order on Alleged Author

    December 14, 2010

    Today’s press release provides a sad update on FIRE’s case at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL), which has threatened a student with “harassment” charges for the last two months because of the content of a satirical blog about life in law school. Two months later, the university has refused to tell him what expression in particular justified the charges or even who is charging him. Worse still, the faculty prosecutor, Professor Gregory Germain, is now demanding a gag order on law student Len Audaer, his attorney Mark Blum (SUCOL ’91), and any media outlets that receive information about the […]

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  • National Public Radio Affiliate Latest to Cover Syracuse’s Investigation of Law Student

    November 16, 2010

    National Public Radio affiliate WRVO, in Oswego, NY, published a story Friday on FIRE’s ongoing case at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL), where law student Len Audaer continues to face possible disciplinary charges for his alleged role with the satirical blog SUCOLitis. Torch readers will remember that Audaer is being investigated for harassment due to the content of the blog, which makes clear that it is a satirical publication that contains no actual news. SUCOL Professor Gregory Germain has been leading the investigation, a fact which would be unexceptional were it not for the numerous statements Germain has made […]

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  • Syracuse University College of Law Still Investigating Alleged Author of Satirical Blog

    November 10, 2010

    Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) student Len Audaer is still being investigated for “harassment” by his school, which suspects that he authored anonymous posts for the explicitly satirical blog SUCOLitis. (For our previous posts on this issue, click here, here, here, and here.)  On October 25, 2010, FIRE sent a letter to Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor, urging her to drop the investigation of Audaer. We reminded her that Syracuse is legally and morally required to uphold the free speech promises that Syracuse makes to its students and that the expression on the blog does not come close to meeting the […]

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  • Robert Takes On Syracuse University College of Law in ‘Pajamas Media’

    October 29, 2010

    Today in Pajamas Media, Robert criticizes Syracuse University College of Law’s (SUCOL’s) investigation of the satirical blog SUCOLitis and one of its alleged authors. These lines about sum it up: Nobody forced Syracuse to build a giant building with the First Amendment emblazoned on the side. Having done so, however, one would think that the university would at least have the shame to try to live up to it. And: Unfortunately, Syracuse’s recent assault on the free speech of its students has shown that this private university’s voluntary commitment to the principles of the First Amendment may be nothing more […]

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  • Media Interest Heightens in Syracuse’s Investigation of Satirical Law Blog as FIRE Intervenes

    October 27, 2010

    Public interest continues to heighten over the Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) investigation of SUCOL student Len Audaer, an alleged author behind the anonymous satirical blog SUCOLitis. Audaer, as we reported here earlier, is currently being investigated for “harassment” on the basis of the blog’s content—though he remains unaware of the identity of whomever has brought the complaint. SUCOLitis is now private and requires a password for access, but there is no indication from Syracuse that it will stop the investigation. FIRE has transitioned from concerned onlooker to active participant in this worrying case, as The Daily Orange reports […]

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  • ‘Above the Law’ on Syracuse Law School Parody Site

    October 21, 2010

    Popular legal blog Above the Law comments this afternoon on the controversy sparked by a satirical student blog at Syracuse University College of Law, a contretemps Peter discussed here on The Torch earlier today. Above the Law‘s analysis of the situation is a must read, and I can’t help but share some of author Elie Mystal’s observations here. For example, Mystal’s initial reaction is one that I’m willing to bet will resonate with most FIRE supporters: “I’m telling you guys, this country is going to hell, one ridiculous overreaction at a time.” And check out Mystal’s reaction to Professor Gregory […]

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  • Syracuse University Law Student Charged with Harassment for Satirical Website

    October 21, 2010

    At the Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL), student Len Audaer is being investigated—by both the law school and Syracuse University’s judicial affairs office—for allegedly being one of the writers of a satirical blog called SUCOLitis, which lampoons the people and affairs of the law school. According to student paper The Daily Orange in an article published yesterday: SUCOLitis, a WordPress blog, began publishing online at the beginning of October. A group of second- and third-year law students write on the website with the goal of entertaining those in SU’s College of Law, according to the blog. But some officials and […]

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