Thursday, June 26, 2003

MU president gives student $10 to repay debt

The Associated Press

OXFORD - A Miami University student who sent a hoax e-mail to students and staff saying classes were canceled for a day has received some unexpected support.

Senior Ben Field, a computer science major, said he has to reimburse his parents about $9,000 in legal fees related to the e-mail that carried the fake signature of university President James Garland.

Last week, Garland sent Field an e-mail saying he made a donation to his parents.

"I made a modest contribution to your folks to cover your debt," Garland wrote in the June 18 e-mail. "I admire your spirit and willingness to take responsibility for your misdeeds. Best of luck and look forward to seeing you at graduation, Jim Garland."

Garland's contribution was $10, university spokeswoman Holly Wissing said Wednesday.

Field, 22, of Salem, Ohio, sent the e-mail to 31,000 students, faculty and staff saying classes were canceled March 6, which was Green Beer Day. On that day, traditionally celebrated in Oxford on the last Thursday before spring break, bars open early and serve green-colored beer all day. The university does not sanction the tradition.

"I think this is a bright student who just acted before thinking. He is sincerely regretful, and I'm 100 percent positive he won't be doing it again," Garland said. "I just felt the young man needed and deserved a break and I wanted him to know that the university stands behind him and wants him to graduate and succeed."

Field got in trouble when authorities traced him to an automated computer program that combed through the school's Internet lists of e-mail addresses.

He initially was charged with unauthorized use of a computer, which carries a possible one-year prison sentence and would have gotten him kicked out of school.

Field pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted unauthorized use of a computer. He was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and pay a $1,200 fine.

Field has a Web site on which he apologizes and asks people to buy T-shirts to help him pay back his parents. The shirts say "I helped Ben pay his parents back."

Field said he has received $57, including Garland's contribution.

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