Fortunately, there are some bright spots at Cornell and students who are taking on the Cornell American for their intolerance (see my earlier post below). Here’s one bright spot — a great letter from Elisabeth Stern to Cornell’s President David Skorton:

Dear President Skorton and Ms. Ann K. Huntzinger,

I am writing to address a distressing article that was published recently in The Cornell American. I know that as a University dedicated to freedom, human rights, tolerance, and equality that you will surely agree that The Muslim Educational and Cultural Association’s annual Islam Awareness Week 2007 was an active and valuable contribution to the Cornell community.

Unfortunately, at least some of those at The Cornell American do not agree. I am aware that Cornell University supports and protects the right to freedom of speech. I agree that freedom of speech is crucial to the values that our community and nation stand on. However, the article on Islam Awareness Week, published in The Cornell American, contradicts those same values. The article not only mocks Muslim people and stereotypes all Muslim people as terrorists, but was an attempt to undermine others’ efforts to break such gross misconceptions. This article projects a frightening message of disrespect and discrimination. One can only hope that it is not a precursor to an even more overt act of intolerance. Even more terrifying, this is not the first time. The Cornell American has repeatedly exhibited support for active discrimination, inequality, and bigotry. The Cornell American is a source of budding intolerance on campus and a disgrace to the Cornell community at large.

Attached is an email that I received today from the president of Americans for Informed Democracy (AID), Mr. Seth Green. It was he who alerted me to this incorrigible article. I have worked with AID on multiple projects to address issues such as the genocide in Darfur, the global environment, and the malaria epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. I value their activism, support, and contributions to the attainment of global human rights. This article directly attacked the efforts of AID and similar organizations. I believe that in order to redeem the University as a whole, these issues must be publicly addressed.

I understand that the students responsible for this did not explicitly break a rule. I am not asking for the students involved to be punished. However, just as it is their right to compose and publish this article, it is your right to denounce it.

The article at hand, in itself, is not an act of persecution. However, it is a clear statement of support for discrimination against Muslim people. As I’m sure you are aware, most physical acts of discrimination (hate crimes) are preluded by words of generalized indifference or hate towards the group attacked. I urge you to take action now by reiterating your beliefs about the importance of tolerance to the Cornell community. Furthermore, I hope that you will re-evaluate ways in which to actively implement Cornell’s motto: Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds.

If you are interested in discussing this further, I would be more than glad to. Thank you for attentiveness to this threat to the Cornell community.


Elisabeth A. Stern