August 21, 2009
Story by Ken Krayeske • 12:45 PM EST
Dear President Hogan -
I write to you as a law student at the University of Connecticut, as a journalist, and as a concerned citizen. I write to you because experience tells me that the UConn Athletic Department will not adequately address my concerns, and thus, I must appeal to a higher authority.
On Sunday, August 9, 2009, local journalist Stan Simpson televised a 30-minute interview on Fox 61 with UConn men's basketball Coach Jim Calhoun. During the interview, Coach Calhoun misrepresented my academic record by stating I have been in law school for 15 years.
In good conscience, I could not let this distortion go. When the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee pores over my file for the character and fitness portion of the bar review in the fall of 2010, I need to make it known that I defended my academic integrity. If I do not defend my own honor, how can I defend clients zealously?
So I emailed Stan Simpson, and asked him to correct the misstatement. Mr. Simpson refused, and suggested everyone understood that Coach Calhoun's comment was hyperbole. Mr. Simpson recommended I take the matter up with Coach Calhoun.
My last interaction with Coach Calhoun in July 2009 leads me to think that I will find no recourse there: Coach Calhoun told me to contact his attorney, but refused to give me his attorney's name; then he directed me to the UConn press office. I hate to harp on this, but the athletic department is part of the problem, and it will not help correct Coach Calhoun's distortion of my academic record.
Call me paranoid, but I doubt that the every single member of the viewing audience grasped the jest, particularly when Coach Calhoun followed that comment by noting that I was arrested by the state police for interfering with Gov. Rell in January of 2007. Coach Calhoun then lamented that the state police were not at the press conference on Feb. 21, 2009 to stop me from asking him about his salary during the time of a severe state budget crisis.
For the record, the scurrilous charges from January 2007 were dismissed, and I am pursuing a federal civil rights lawsuit to find out exactly why the state police targeted me as a "person of interest" and placed me on a watch list and seemingly ordered me arrested on sight at the Governor's inaugural parade.
This false arrest happened midway through my 1L year in January 2007, while I was still at the Quinnipiac University School of Law. Thus, I have taken particular care to be as scrupulous as possible in completing my law school studies. I approach my schooling with all the gravity and seriousness that the legal profession demands.
The University of Connecticut School of Law accepting me as a transfer student for the fall of 2008 demonstrates my commitment to academic excellence. Provided that I suffer no recriminations from this letter, I am on track to graduate in May 2010. Thus any distortion of my academic record is unacceptable.
The Student Code at the University of Connecticut does not address the issue of faculty members distorting information directly, but it certainly specifies that it is an offense against scholarship to distort one's own academic achievement. If I were to lie about my own academic record in such a fashion, I would likely be violating Student Code Part III, Proscribed Conduct, Section B, Conduct Rules and Regulations, Subsection 1, Appendix B, Academic Integrity in Graduate Education and Research.
Section A of this Academic Integrity policy, entitled "Forms of Academic and Scholarly Misconduct" indicates that "making false, inaccurate, or misleading claims or statements when applying for admission to the Graduate School or in any scholarly or research activity, including publication" is a violation of the Student Code.
While classifying Coach Calhoun's televised interview as scholarly or research activity might be a stretch, it is certainly publication, and he made "false, inaccurate or misleading claims or statements" about my record. While he is not a student, he is a member of the American Association of University Professors. The University must demand a higher fidelity to the truth from its most public faces.
My hunch is that Coach Calhoun knows that I have not been in law school for 15 years, and he utilized the exaggeration to harm my credibility with the greater public. This would not be tolerated were I to have done it to another student before the Graduate Hearing Committee. The University of Connecticut would seem like Saturn eating his children if it condones this conduct of a faculty member against one of its own students.
Perhaps it would be instructive for me to demonstrate how I am certain that Coach Calhoun knows I have not been a perpetual student since receiving my undergraduate degree in magazine journalism from Syracuse University in 1994. Coach Calhoun, as you may know, has a voracious appetite and a legendary memory for all things written about him. He surely recalls the incident during the 1998-1999 season when, as a staff writer for the Hartford Advocate, I opined on the inappropriateness his profane tongue on the sidelines. See story as .pdf here.
The UConn athletic department punished me for my disloyalty, preventing me from doing one on one interviews with star players. I submit my correspondence with then Athletic Director Lew Perkins as evidence of the policy by the UConn athletic department to bully members of the press. Also, I attach the story I wrote in 1999 questioning Coach Calhoun's deal with Nike, and his attempts to intimidate me then.
This iron-fisted approach to press coverage is not exclusive to the men's basketball program. When I covered the International Bowl in Toronto in January 2009, Mike Enright of the UConn Sports Information Office told me I was not allowed to interview players on camera on the field after the game. When I pointed out to him that other media members from the Connecticut contingent were doing the same thing behind him, he said to me "We do things for certain people."
This tenuous relationship with the UConn athletic department exploded into acrimoniousness against me in the aftermath of Coach Calhoun's unprofessional response to my February 2009 question. Coach Calhoun, repeating UConn sports information office talking points that were already printed in the Hartford Courant and the Waterbury Republican, went on Mike Francesa's show, on WFAN-660 AM, in front of millions of listeners, and explained that I was uncredentialed, and had no right to be in the press conference.
Christopher Keating of the Hartford Courant reported Coach Calhoun's comments in his blog, without questioning their validity, and multiple newspapers, including the Waterbury Republican and the Hartford Courant carried the claim from UConn that I had lied my way into the press conference. Perhaps my concern is with the supine nature of the press and its inability to fact-check Coach Calhoun. But if Coach Calhoun's employer demanded from him the strict adherence to the truth that it demands of other members of the AAUP, my concerns might not exist.
In fact, I did have a press credential for the February 22, 2009 game, granted to me by Kyle Muncy of the UConn SIO. For your convenience, I have attached a copy of the email interaction between myself and Mr. Muncy that granted me the press pass. For the past five years, I have had a column published both in print at the Hartford News and online at the40yearplan.com, which I illustrate with my own photos.
The press pass I received makes no distinction between reporters and photographers. According to boilerplate language on the back, the credential authorizes "the use, solely by the agency and solely for news and editorial coverage of the game, of the descriptions, accounts, photographs, films, audio or video recordings, or drawings of or relating to the game (including, without limitation, any interviews, press conferences or other stadium activities related to the game) taken, made, created, or compiled by the representative."
After I discussed the matter with Mike Enright in February, and got no satisfaction, I considered writing you then to discuss the incivility demonstrated by the athletic community towards me. Aside from Coach Calhoun's and his press office's attacks on my credibility, women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma told the New Haven Register that I should have been jailed. How is it appropriate for members of a university community to imply that armed force should muzzle a free press?
For most reporters, this entire saga should be no skin off their back. But most reporters do not have to pass the character and fitness portion of the Connecticut Bar. To summarize, since I have been at UConn, powerful people from my school have called me duplicitous, a liar, implied I am not fit to walk among free people, and have besmirched my academic record and integrity, thus, I am compelled to seek redress from the University of Connecticut itself.
I understand that, at the minimum, I am a limited purpose public figure under New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), and am thus open to criticism. But we should neither condone nor accept distortions of academic records. While I have to protect my reputation, this issue is much larger than me.
Within the umbrella of a public university, an athletic department should not be able to attack a member of the academic community with impunity. This reflects poorly on the academic attitude of the University that would allow a coach, be it the women's tennis coach or the men's basketball coach, to misstate the academic record of a student in good standing.
This is about the relative power of the athletic department of the university to smear and spread falsehoods about its students. As a journalist, I cannot sit idly by while the facts are twisted to suit Coach Calhoun's political agenda and paycheck, and as a citizen, I am bothered that taxpayer dollars subsidize this kind of information warfare to prop up the image of a fat and bloated sports department.
Therefore, I pray for relief from you. I would respectfully request that you ask Coach Calhoun to correct his misstatements about my academic record, and to refrain from making such grossly inaccurate exaggerations in the future.
I would also request that you institute a training regimen in for all members of the athletic department staff, including coaches and front office staff, in First Amendment jurisprudence and freedom of speech, academic standards for adherence to the truth, and fielding questions from the press appropriately. I would also request that the athletic department cease and desist its quid pro quo practice of preferential treatment for positive media coverage.
These reforms, while seemingly minimal, would go a long way towards heightening the importance of truth and knowledge and study at the University of Connecticut, an institution dedicated to academics, not athletics.
Kenneth J. Krayeske
4L Evening Student
University of Connecticut School of Law (’10)
cc. Coach Jim Calhoun
Athletic Director Jeffrey Hathaway
State Representative Roberta Willis
State Senator Mary Ann Handley
State Representative Diana Urban