A former student athlete on Ryerson’s rowing team has been served a slander notice by the lawyers of the team’s head coach that suggests she be expelled.
Rachel Zylka, a fourth-year Early Childhood Education student, received the notice on Friday. It accused her of running an alleged “smear campaign” against coach Dominic Kahn.
The allegations cite two stories that appeared on Oct. 27 and Nov. 3 in The Ryersonian, in which Zylka questioned Kahn’s methods. Earlier in the week, a libel notice was served to The Ryersonian, its managing editor, Michelle Thompson, sports editor, Amy Brown-Bowers, and volunteer writer Linda Nguyen.
To slander is to defame an identifiable person through spoken word, in such a way that it lowers that person’s reputation among right-thinking members of the community. To libel is to defame a person in writing. Lawyers representing The Ryersonian and Zylka declined comment.
“It’s a nightmare for a lot of people and it’s not just going to stop here,” Brown-Bowers said. The libel notice said statements made in the Nov. 3 story misrepresented the facts and were incited by malice.
“Mr. Kahn is going to very vigorously pursue the claim,” Kahn’s lawyer Robert Bell said. Kahn declined comment this week, but previously told The Eyeopener, “[the alleged smear campaign] is affecting my reputation…I walk into [Ryerson] and get teased by other coaches. It’s embarassing.”
Athletics director David Dubois supported his coach and agreed the statements in The Ryersonian could potentially be detrimental to Kahn’s career. “This doesn’t just affect him as a Ryerson coach, it affects his reputation as an expert in rowing,” he said.
Dubois was unaware of the notices before reporters informed him. Zylka left the rowing team in October and filed a formal complaint to Dubois about Kahn three weeks ago.
Dubois would not comment about the status of the investigation. The Ryersonian is not responding to the libel notice in this week’s issue. “This is a learning institution,” Ryersonian instructor Peter Robertson said.
“Mistakes get made. “This isn’t necessarily a mistake, but it might have been a mistake and we’re prepared to accept accountability.”
The Ryersonian is funded and produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism. This is the third libel notice in the paper’s 56-year history. Both prior notices were resolved without damages.