Professor loses libel suit against student

Judge deems student's article 'partly false, but substantially true'

\nMASSACHUSETTS - A Wellesley College professor has filed\na motion for appeal after a Massachusetts trial court judge ruled\nin December that a student did not libel him in a 1993 magazine\narticle.

Professor Tony Martin brought suit against former Massachusetts\nInstitute of Technology student Avik Roy after Roy stated that\nMartin had gained tenure at Wellesley only after suing the school\nfor racial bias. The statement appeared in the September 1993\nissue of Counterpoint magazine, a publication written by\nWellesley and MIT students.

Massachusetts Superior Court Justice Judith Fabricant ruled\nthat the assertion made by Roy in the article was "partly\nfalse, but substantially true," even though Martin's racial\ndiscrimination suit against Wellesley occurred in 1987, and he\nhad been granted tenure 12 years earlier.

Fabricant's opinion noted this discrepancy, but she emphasized\nthat in his 1987 suit, Martin had indeed alleged racial bias on\nthe part of the university during the tenure decision made in\n1975.

Therefore, in this particular context, Roy's statement could\nbe considered true, even though the cause-and-effect relationship\nbetween Martin's lawsuit and his tenure implied by the statement\nwas clearly false.

Martin failed to prove that Roy had written the statement with\nmalice, and he also did not show that the article had substantially\nharmed his reputation or caused him emotional distress, Fabricant\nwrote.

"There is simply nothing in the statement that a reasonable\nreader could interpret in a manner that would damage Martin's\nreputation among any respectable segment of the community,"\nFabricant wrote.\n

Fall 1999, reports