Lawsuit-free since 9/14/05

Monday, March 07, 2005

Whither Pinocchio?

Sullivan Fibs to Faculty

At a recent faculty meeting, President Dan Sullivan assured SLU's faculty that (among a few other whoppers) the sole purpose of the lawsuit against Take Back Our Campus is to discover our identities. However, the minutes of the meeting reflect almost none of Sullivan's statements. In fact, the minutes don't say anything about Sullivan's responses. This elision is either (kindly, now) curious or (frankly, now) mercenary.

Why is this noteworthy? Because the brief filed makes no mention of discovering out identities except as a means of pursuing damages for copyright infringement. The brief states: "This is a civil action seeking damages and injunctive relief for copyright infringement under copyright laws of the United States...." (It stands to mention that we've already given them the "injunctive relief"-- we removed the four pictures in question from our site.) In contrast, Sullivan made it clear to the faculty that the purpose of the lawsuit was to discover our identities. Sullivan made similar statements during a Thelmo question and answer session and at the protest held in support of free speech and Take Back Our Campus. News 10 Now (in conjunction with the Central New York Business Journal) reported:
St. Lawrence is using federal copyright law in an ongoing lawsuit. The school is suing unknown people who posted copyrighted photos on a website called "Take back our campus." The lawsuit will help St. Lawrence to find out who's behind the site.

In short, the real reason for the suit remains unknown. What we do know is that Sullivan misinformed the faculty and students in an attempt to placate their activism and inquiry, or instructed his attorneys to misinform a federal court about the true purpose of SLU's lawsuit. Regardless, he lied to either the trustees, faculty and students-- or to a federal court.

Adlai Stevenson once offered a bargain: "I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them." If I were a lesser man, that offer would already be on the table. But I have no desire to make any such offer to Dan Sullivan. By unilaterally (without consulting the Information Technology Advisory Board, the faculty or the students) issuing the new AUP, with its draconian surveillance of e-mails and personal files and the Stalinist trickle-to-downpour restriction of information access (as everyone on the SLU network, with the possible exception of IT and a few administrators, is currently blocked from reading Take Back Our Campus), Sullivan has made a mockery of the classically liberal principles of free inquiry on which any university stands. By using SLU funds to file a frivolous federal lawsuit against Take Back Our Campus, Sullivan has shown that he's unafraid to waste precious tuition dollars and abuse the court system in order to silence those who might disagree with University policy.

But as I told the Central New York Business Journal when the lawsuit was first filed: "We have no plans to discontinue the site. It’s always been our plan not only to produce a great publication, but to train budding journalists in the art of muckraking." Thus we continue.

Sullivan has claimed that the cost of the legal action against TBOC is nearly negligible. However, we already know that the University has spent more than $3000 removing old hard drives and searching them for clues to our identities. This includes having some hard drives removed, replaced and shipped from Kenya to Canton. (In statements at the rally for free speech and Take Back Our Campus, Sullivan confirmed that hard drives had in fact been shipped from Kenya.)

As for the legal fees involved, it's no secret that Bond, Shoeneck and King is one of the most expensive law firms in Syracuse, paying third-year law students a starting salary of $68,000. [Wowsers! And what did the Take Back Our Campus staff get last year?--ed. Um... I think I gave everyone a pack of duty-free cigarettes and a copy of A Critique of Pure Tolerance.--CE.] One North Country lawyer we spoke with estimated that the legal action thus far has cost the University "at least $12,000."

That brings the University's total tab to over $15,000 so far. That doesn't even include any forthcoming trial fees. Jury selection (as SLU has demanded a jury trial) is sure to jack that up even further. And don't forget the five-hour round trip drive (sure to be billed at normal rates) for the Syracuse-based attorneys.

So it seems that when the egos of Dan Sullivan and the administration have been wounded, no expense is too small to silence the offenders-- assuming, of course, that it's the University community footing the bill.

For fun, let us know on what you think the University should have spent those thousands. Just post in our comments section or drop us a line at takebackourcampus@yahoo.com. We'll post the responses (of course, keeping your identities secret if you'd like) and let our readers vote on the best use of the money. The winning entry will be featured in our upcoming contest.


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