October 28, 2015

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Don’t Fox with me

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Re: “Cornell Stops Fox News’ Jesse Watters From Interviewing Students About Liberal ‘Indoctrination’”

This past Friday, I had the misfortune of being interviewed by Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters on faculty donations. You can see me in the now widely viewed Fox segment; I’m the guy in the pink shirt who, the segment implies, is silenced by the administration. Watters gripes that they had my permission, and Cornell is clearly crushing dissent!

Watters’ claim that they had my permission is, however, a rather interesting one — especially interesting considering I did not grant permission to be interviewed. My conversation with Mr. Watters went something like this:

Watters: “Do you mind if we interview you?”

Me: “About what?”

Watters: “A recent report in the student newspaper.”

I never said “Yes” or “Okay” in response; instead I brushed it aside, uninterested. We proceeded to have a congenial talk about how we grew up in the same area, and class scheduling at Cornell before he turned the talk to politics. At some point during the preceding conversation the camera had started rolling, and I was being interviewed. By the time I realized this it felt rude to walk away, so I kept talking. Being tricked into an interview aside, what angers me is that Fox News, not the administration, silenced my voice on an important issue.

Early in the conversation Watters asked me if the fact that so many faculty donations went to Democrats bothered me. I answered simply, “No,” elaborating that Cornell is not obligated to teach all opinions; Cornell should only teach opinions grounded in reason.

When I said this, Watters asked if Democrats have a monopoly on facts. He was right to ask; Democrats are not always correct, but on key issues, the Republican Party continues to bury its head in the sand. I brought up climate change, saying that the continued Republican Party belief that climate change isn’t real discourages faculty. Mr. Watters promptly ignored this. Climate change is real — ask 97 percent of scientists.

Climate change isn’t the only issue on which the GOP finds itself factually challenged. A common Republican claim is that we live in a post racial society in which we need no longer worry about racism. Despite this, studies have found when employers are given identical fake resumes candidates with black-sounding names are 50 percent less likely to get call backs than those with white-sounding names. Another common theme is that the wage gap and workplace sexism are nonexistent, nevertheless another resume study found that potential employers rated fake applicants with female names as less “competent” and less “hirable” than those with male names. The existence of sexism, racism and climate change (to name just a few) are all supported by facts and evidence.  The Republican Party simply refuses to come to terms with them.

Even more concerning is the fact that Republican politicians are often not simply ignorant when it comes to these issues; rather, they are actively sexist and racist. It comes as no surprise when Jeb Bush says his favorite superhero is Supergirl because, “She looked pretty hot.” Similarly, though it generated a media circus, Donald Trump’s openly racist comments about Mexican immigrants were not out of character. Racism permeates the Republican Party, and Republican leaders either do nothing to stop this or actively encourage it.

Often, this means that were Cornell’s professors more supportive of Republican politicians they would have to be either misinformed or willing to support a party that accepts racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-science rhetoric. Both would disqualify one from a professorship in my mind. Diverse viewpoints, supported by evidence, are important and, assuredly, healthy at Cornell. Any Cornell student has who has taken intro econ knows we have our fair share of professors whose favorite words seem to be “Milton” and “Friedman.” Conservatism exists on Cornell’s campus and among its faculty, but I think the alarming Republican positions I listed above put off professors.

In short, if Jesse Watters and his friends at Fox News want to see more Cornell professors donate to Republicans I suggest the Republican Party first become less hateful, backward and ignorant.

Tristan Keil

ILR, Class of 2017