John Carberry

John Carberry

October 28, 2015

EDITORIAL: An Embarrassment to Cornell

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While reporters filmed a segment on Cornell faculty member’s political donations for Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor on Friday, University officials asked them to stop interviewing students on campus, a move that generated headlines across the country. The piece primarily mocked Cornell and its “liberal bias” through student interviews following a report conducted by The Sun that found 96 percent of faculty members who contributed to political campaigns in the past four years donated to liberal campaigns. Yet what stood out above all was Cornell officials’ decision to ask reporters to not interview students on campus. Despite the best intentions of administrators, we believe those in Day Hall only exacerbated Cornell’s embarrassment in Monday’s Fox News piece.

Cornell’s “Best Practices for Media” guide, which was sent to Fox News, as well as The Sun upon request, dictates that journalists “are not permitted to interview, photograph or shoot video of individual students on the Cornell campus, without obtaining permission from the student and the University.” In regards to Fox News, Joel Malina, vice president for University Relations, argued in a statement that administrators sought to “protect student privacy” in their decision to enforce the media policy. We fail to see how Fox News was violating the privacy of students on campus, as students could have declined to be interviewed.

As a news source independent from Cornell, The Sun has served the campus and Ithaca community since 1880. Yet, with our reporters filing dozens of stories each week interviewing students, faculty and staff members, The Sun should not be the exception to Cornell’s media policy. Requiring a student publication to acquire the University’s blessing every time a reporter seeks to interview Cornellians at a shared governance meeting, a lecture or protest on Ho Plaza is unfeasible, which is likely why the administration does not apply such a policy to The Sun. Yet by requiring other media organizations to receive permission to interview students on campus and giving The Sun special treatment, the University’s policy remains inconsistent, with a focus on protecting the Cornell brand rather than its students.

There is no question that the Fox News segment clearly sought to embarrass Cornell through its cuts to cultural clips and witless questions. Yet the University’s response to the piece was far more embarrassing than reporter Jesse Watters’ shoddy journalism techniques. By disallowing reporters to ask students questions on campus, Cornell gave Watters the ammo he needed to ridicule the Hill in a greater capacity. Instead, Cornell should have embraced the autonomy of its students, allowing them to offer their consent in regards to media inquires, rather than acting as the gatekeeper to the Hill.

21 thoughts on “EDITORIAL: An Embarrassment to Cornell

  1. Not only should Cornell allow journalists to question students, most of whom one would guess are of legal age(18+), Cornell should be investigating it’s own challenge to EDUCATE and help to create responsible, self-thinking graduates ready to enter society in a meaningful and helpful way. The liberalization of college campuses across this country has become nothing short of indoctrination/brainwashing, creating more uni-dimensional thinking adults. Cornell should also question why 96% of staff political donations come from Democrat staff members. Do they not pay their conservative profs enough for them to make donations and if so, WHY NOT or, more importantly, why do they not have a fairly equal smattering of teaching staff from all political persuasions?

    • The idea of hiring professors according to their political choices is absurd. Your political affiliation should not be a key question, or asked at all, at a job interview. Not only is this often a fluid affiliation, that can change and fluctuate over the period of employment, but it’s also a deeply personal question, therefore an invasion of ones privacy. Just as you should not be asked what church you affiliate with, you should not be asked what political party you subscribe to.

      I would hate to see a University in a free country decide who they will hire by how the applicant may or may not vote. That would be ludicrous.

      It is also paranoid to think they would pay someone less because of this sort of affiliation. Perhaps the Conservatives in question are simply… conservative.

      • Given your suggestion of randomization, explain please the overwhelming number of liberal staff members when compared to those on the right. Your suggestion that Conservatives may just be “conservative” implying they are too tight to support candidates on the right is ludicrous. I would suggest that perhaps given the liberal environment that seems to pervade college campuses(staff) these days that those on the right are purposefully lying below the radar(job protection?). If so, that’s another example of Cornell putting their thumb down on freedom of speech AND assembly. In Cornell’s defense, sort of, they are not alone. As I said previously the liberalization on college campuses AND high schools is rampant.

  2. Pingback: Watters World | Cornell | Shutdown | Fox News

  3. Um, how exactly did Mr. Watters seek to embarrass Cornell? That is nonsense. The only entity that embarrassed itself was the Cornell administration

    • Funny, I didn’t get that at all. The gist of the article was criticizing the Cornell Staff/HR for limiting free speech on a campus where the free flow of ideas should not only be allowed but promoted. A free press is there to point out deficiencies, hypocracies and the like! Cornell’s position seems to be that of restricting ideas.

    • The editorial and comments all make good points, however I don’t believe that this bit of news generated headlines across the country. I compared it to the news a few months ago that CU would welcome a terrorist training camp on campus. Some staffer got a bit full of her/himself, didn’t think it through, didn’t see the big ball of SH** coming their way, and didn’t give it the “Washington Post” test. [Do you want this on the front page of the WP?]

      • Ha!Ha! Too funny! I’m not from Ithaca, my wife is…I was unaware that this newspaper was actually a campus one, sort of….I kinda remember when I was young and somewhat impulsive! The era of draft card burning, SDS, The Weathermen, etc…students today are pretty “tame” by comparison…

  4. The only thing I know about Cornell University is that they have a great wrestling team. Now I know that their professors are mostly left-wingers, and their students are not very smart for spending $65,000 a year to attend a the school.

    PS. Make sure you clear this with a the schools administration before you use it.

    • I’m a student at Cornell and know a few of the people in the video. I also know a bunch who were interviewed by Watters that did not make it to the clip because what they said did not agree with his agenda. As for the professors, I agree 96% is high. However, keep in mind that the Ithaca community as a whole is very liberal, and has been for a while. I’m sure faculty consider this among other factors before taking a position at Cornell.
      Sure, the school could benefit from having more political diversity in the faculty, but they are largely here to teach and do research in their respective fields, not preach their political ideals to students.
      I do definitely agree that Cornell shouldn’t require media outlets other than the Sun to jump through extra hoops to be allowed to interview students. However, Watters could have easily avoided the issue by walking a few feet from where the video was filmed in order to be off Cornell campus.

  5. I find it ironic that a liberal university was so quick to shut down a member of the press. I thought a university that was so in the bag for liberalism would be tolerant of a minor incident and a few uncomfortable questions. Students need to realize that their belief that they reside in a purely tolerant atmosphere is a joke. And as far as asking about political affiliations during hiring, I can tell you that sometimes resumes and interviews will reveal someone’s political leanings quite clearly based on prior affiliations. Will that fact that someone was a prior member of the college republicans or a former intern for a republican cause them to be passed over? I wonder.

  6. Pingback: Jesse Watters Cornell | Video | Shutdown | Fox News

  7. This is an outstanding editorial. Very balanced in its approach and fair. I personally believe Cornell’s policy is over protective of its brand as this editorial suggests.

  8. Richard Bensel, professor of government, claims that Republicans are not as intelligent as Democrats. Isn’t it a violation of Cornell’s code of conduct to denigrate a group? More importantly, he teaches a course on conservative political thought. It is not very plausible that someone who believes in the intellectual inferiority of conservatives could teach such a course without interjecting his own extreme biases. I wonder what grade he would give to a student who argued that liberals are intellectually inferior?

    • And that in a nutshell really describes Cornell’s attitude and why they have such a majority of liberals. Cornell can not defend the indefensible!

  9. This whole situation is very interesting to me. I read about the earlier spring” #fight the fee” campaign to eliminate the $350 for healthcare charge the administration is imposing on its students. David Scorton himself posted that they wanted healthcare that would be accessible for all. It would seem that a college was such a liberal history would be overjoyed with this prospect of being able to fund healthcare for all on the backs of their students. But then somebody has to pay for all the free stuff the Democratic candidates are promising the people if they are elected. Another possibility would be to enroll in the class offered at Cornell championing the cause that you can get by in life without working!!
    Unbelievable…..

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