Posted Nov 01, 2007 08:53 pm CDT
Unlike class reunions, where former classmates can see for themselves who has aged well and who hasn’t, the alumni newsletter presents “facts” that are taken on faith.
“Wow, that guy who hardly ever showed up for class is now VP of a large corporation. Who’da guessed?”
If it’s printed, it must be true, right? If that’s your belief, then you’ll believe that Ross Weil, a 2002 graduate of American University, married his “life partner,” Brett Royce, a 2001 graduate. You’ll also believe that Weil was named chief operating officer of the “Gay Rights Brigade.”
Here’s the thing: Both men claim they are not married to each other, and, in fact, are not gay. In a lawsuit filed in August, Weil and Royce allege libel, defamation and malice, as well as “reckless and gross negligence” on the part of the university. They are seeking damages of $750,000 each.
Spokeswoman Maralee Csellar says staffers of the newsletter normally contact alumni if information about them is unclear or incomplete. As to whether the item about Weil and Royce was a prank, Csellar says the incident is under investigation.
“This is a very serious matter,” says Michael A. Kaufman of New York City, who represents both men. “The university published false statements about my clients’ sexuality,” he says, and misrepresented how Weil makes his living. In a separate statement, Kaufman was quoted as saying the case “has nothing to do with homophobia.”