From the Right: Letterhead controversy far overblown

By Nick Mignanelli
On April 2, 2012

I'm no fan of the student body president, nor an enthusiastic supporter of UNH's student government. Mostly I think student government at UNH is self-righteous and ineffective. This is especially true in light of the recent meaningless resolutions the student senate has been issuing to the New Hampshire State Legislature in an attempt to appear relevant - and to make believe that we're 60s flower children. However, I was a little taken aback by the miniature firestorm created last week by the misuse of UNH letterhead.

In case you missed it, a grave sacrilege has been committed against UNH's official religions (moral relativism and apathetic agnosticism). In late January, Student Body President A.J. Coukos sent a letter on UNH stationary to local religious congregations inviting them to participate in a day of fasting and prayer for God's blessing on the university. The highly inappropriate and offensive text of the letter implies that UNH students are somehow imperfect and in need of some type of higher power. Mr. Coukos wrote, "My hope is that the Lord shall hear our prayers, be well pleased, and bless the UNH students with his presence and call them out of darkness and into his glorious light." More shockingly, he goes so far as to undermine the authority of the university president saying, "As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, I know the ultimate Authority to whom I should be advocating is neither the University President nor the Governor, but our Lord God the Father, through his Son, Jesus Christ." It is clear that we have elected a monster!

A week later, Mr. Coukos sent a second letter to the original recipients clarifying that "though I am the Student Body President, the request is a personal one, and should not be considered an official communication from my office." About a month after that, in a meeting that included the passage of resolutions endorsing same-sex marriage and requesting that the Department of Housing ease alcohol policies, the letters were brought to the graduate student senate's attention. For these graduate student senators, Mr. Coukos' letter was the most frightening thing they had confronted since they realized that they would have to get a job following graduation. Luckily, they had been admitted to graduate school, but who would save them this time?! In an act of daring courage, the GSS Executive Board promised to "ensure that Mr. Coukos disclose that he sent the letters to the full UNH student body." Mr. Coukos would finally be outed for the Christian he is!

Last Tuesday, a short apology by Mr. Coukos appeared in this paper. His note read, in part: "My intent was to send the letter as an individual, and not on behalf of UNH or its students ... I apologize for any confusion the use of UNH stationery may inadvertently have caused ... I continue to support the rights of all UNH students to worship (or not) as they see fit." Mr. Coukos probably thought that that was the end of the ordeal.

Unfortunately, that just wasn't the case.

On Friday, TNH published an article entitled "Coukos' letter to churches causes stir: Despite apology, students upset over stationery use." The assertion made in the piece is that students are very angry about Mr. Coukos' actions, even after he corrected his error and issued a letter of apology to the student body. However, rather than relying on an online poll or some other type of quantitative data, the piece simply cites the opinions of two disgruntled students. One of these students is quoted as saying, "I do feel that even if it wasn't intentional, a mistake was made and responsibility needs to be taken for the action ... not just an explanation needs to be given." Perhaps we should feed Mr. Coukos to lions or force him to renounce his faith in front of a politburo; I suggest the GSS executive board!

I guess my main point is this: suppose Mr. Coukos were a homosexual rather than a devout Christian. I am not suggesting that these identities are mutually exclusive, but let's say for a moment that Mr. Coukos were a homosexual who - using UNH letterhead without the approval of the student senate - wrote a letter appealing for support from local gay and lesbian organizations. Would anyone call Mr. Coukos out on this? Would the GSS approach the matter with the same faux moral indignation? Would he be forced to write a public letter apologizing for this corrected mistake? Would TNH reprimand him for not first having sought the permission of the student senate, even after he apologized? Certainly not! Anyone who would dare criticize him in such a manner would be labeled a homophobe and accused of "bias."

I have no contention with the assertion that what Mr. Coukos did was wrong in a technical sense. Furthermore, I believe that he did the right thing in correcting the error and apologizing. However, I can't help but conclude that it was not the use of UNH letterhead that irritated his critics, but rather the message found therein. It's enough to call to mind the words of John 15:18.


Nick Mignanelli is a junior political science major and TNH's resident conservative contrarian. He is the communications director of the NH College Republicans. Follow him on Twitter @nickmignanelli

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