Maura Stephens's Apology

As ICView editor since 1997, I have been the person primarily responsible for what appears in the pages of the magazine and on our website.

In the case of publishing the Final Word essay by Emily McNeill ’08, I not only didn’t exercise the best editorial judgment, but I didn’t follow editorial procedures.  Instead I ran the story without having anyone else on campus review it first.

I was remiss in both cases. For this I am very sorry, and I am particularly regretful that people who are close to Ithaca College and care about it passionately feel hurt by the institution. The institution is not to blame. I am the only one at fault here.

The last thing I intended was to fuel more conflict.

Maura Stephens, editor

Read The Violence Must End.

Read President Tom Rochon's response to the essay




Ms. Stephens:

Who on campus should have reviewed this article before it was published? Exactly what do you feel you should have done different in this instance?

President Rochon's remark is troubling because of its chilling effect. Maura Stephen's response is regrettable because she appears to be succumbing to the pressures of self censorship. This has nothing to do with journalistic balance, for it is not necessary and in fact is deleterious to a free exchange of ideas to insist that every piece accepted present an opposing narrative. Apparently, some are upset to read an article that presents a narrative they don't want to read. But should the rest of us be denied? A shameful day for Ithaca College.

I second Don's questions. Aren't you the editor?

You have no one to apologize to, Maura! You made the right choice by publishing Emily's article, which was opinionated, surely, but also well-written and truthful. The last thing Ithaca College should do is censor opinions just because a few voices in the IC community speak out.

If anything, I find it detestable that President Rochon is in support of this kind of censorship. Especially of something entitled "The violence must end." Right now I'm ashamed of Ithaca College.

I'm amazed at the number of people that can't distinguish between a public relations magazine and a news magazine, especially in regards to their functions. President Rochon is correct in his actions for the correct reasons. Even Editor Stephens has acknowledged that she violated established editorial procedures. This is not an issue of academic freedom or freedom of the press, but rather a business one. The IC View exists for business reasons and should be managed as such.

I am shocked that Maura has offered an apology for printing an informative, well-written, and critical piece of journalism. There is no doubt that passions run high on the issue of Palestinian/Israeli relations. There can also be no doubt that Emily's piece accurately reflects her experience in the West Bank, and that the violence she describes (as coming from both Israelis and Palestinians) is real as well. On what grounds, then, is an apology warranted? Have Emily or Maura lied? Certainly not.

President Rochon calls for an editorial board to provide more "balance," but again, this assumes that the facts of Emily's experience can be undone. Would a soundbite from Israeli settlers saying, "No, we didn't" change what she saw? Can it change what people like Ahmed have lived? Certainly not.

Those who would have Maura apologize for publishing the facts could better spend their efforts changing the situation on the ground rather than in the pages of the IC View.

Emily McNeill is an immensely talented journalist whose work is a testament to the finer points of an Ithaca College education. Maura Stephens, likewise, knows good work when she sees it, and the inclusion of this piece is proof. For that, no one needs to be sorry.

I realize that you are in a tough spot, but it is really too bad that you felt an apology was necessary. Perhaps Emily's piece was published too soon. Many years from now, it might seem more acceptable, as are such alumni reminiscences now of their participation in anti-war protests or civil rights confrontations in the 1960s and '70s. But, it is a terrible shame that in the midst of a great conflict such as that between the Israelis and Palestinians, in which our country wields enormous influence, too many of us are willing to ignore important facts that could help our nation craft a wiser approach.

I could not disagree more with Peter Rothbart. IC View provides insight on the life experiences and the occupational endeavors of Ithaca College Alum. To quote the IC View mission statement: "Its mission is to offer a candid, accurate, thoughtful, and lively view of College events and people and to stimulate discussion of issues of interest to the College community and the broader readership." I believe that Emily McNeil's article satisfies, nay embodies all of these qualifications with special emphasis on being a catalyst for discussion!

That being said, I feel that if the President and the Editor feel uncomfortable about associating the publication with specific points of view, the inclusion of converse or multiple views, rather than exclusion of accurate and thoughtful ones, may be a more adequate solution.

This apology is unwarranted. Please keep up the good work.

Apologize?! Oh dear, please do not apologize. Speaking the truth is one sided, of course! And, the president of IC apologizing oh dear, what hope do we have for education if we must pander?

I could not disagree more with Peter Rothbart. IC View provides insight on the life experiences and the occupational endeavors of Ithaca College Alum. To quote the IC View mission statement: "Its mission is to offer a candid, accurate, thoughtful, and lively view of College events and people and to stimulate discussion of issues of interest to the College community and the broader readership." I believe that Emily McNeil's article satisfies, nay embodies all of these qualifications with special emphasis on being a catalyst for discussion!

That being said, I feel that if the President and the Editor feel uncomfortable about associating the publication with specific points of view, the inclusion of converse or multiple views, rather than exclusion of accurate and thoughtful ones, may be a more adequate solution.

This apology is unwarranted. Please keep up the good work.

Ms. Stevens,

I am deeply sorry that you felt an apology, for whatever reason, was necessary for the publication of Emily's article. I am sensitive to the position that you are in, and sympathize with you in the struggle to encourage and maintain alumni and others' relationships with Ithaca College through the pages of the IC View publication. I hope that the "editorial procedures" that you've promised to uphold better in the future do not keep you from doing the exellent job you've done so far. Thank you for Emily's article as it provided me with another look into a conflict I struggle to fully understand.

Maura -

I am offended at the trash you have published this month. Since graduating Ithaca in 1991 I have had fun reading the IC Magazine each time it is published. The articles always take me back to the fun days I have enjoyed when I was a student.

The article, "The Violence Must End" by Ms McNeill is singularly the most one-sided untruth that has been written on a piece of paper. The Israeli bashing to the point of publishing that Ms. McNeill was shocked at seeing children chased and stoned by masked settlers; comparing the West Bank to Swiss Cheese. This one-sided journalism is similar to articles from hate groups.

Is Ms McNiell not shocked at the suicide bombers? Is she not shocked at the Hassids that get stones thrown at them at the Western Wall?

Maura, you have done your readers an injustice by not voicing the other side of the story in the same magazine. You should be an editor for Stormfront.

This IC View can't even be recycled - it's just pure trash.

Do me a favor and cancel my subscription the the IC View.

Jason Fruchtman
Plainview NY

Maura, I applaud you for daring to publish EMily's article. I too have been serving in the West Bank in Hebron, and nothing she said can be disputed according to my experience also. I question journalism that needs to be so politically careful not to "offend." It seems to me that truth is the goal of all journalism. Putting it out there in the public is the first step toward dialogue, understanding of all people involved. I'd say that those who are "offended" by the article need to speak their truth too, not take a backhanded kind of approach and make it a matter whether they'll support the institution or not. Wow! "To be politically correct" that really what we want to make the criteria of journalism?
Blessings. Paulette Schroeder osf

Maura, you were absolutely right to publish this article. Too many people automatically believe that since Hamas is currently in power, all Palestinians are uniformly supportive of their violent, terror-based tactics and must want nothing more than to utterly destroy Israel. It's about time someone like Ms. McNeill had the courage to write an article that exposes that presumption as false and that someone like you had the courage to publish that article. Many of us will be made uncomfortable (or even furious) by reading something that challenges our cherished prejudgments, but that is exactly the aim of journalism, especially journalism published by an institution that prides itself on being progressive and open-minded like Ithaca College. President Rochon's reaction to this article and his requirement that you publish this apology has cast a pall of shame over IC, one that I can only hope will be shortly dispelled. You have my full support, and I hope to continue to read challenging and thought-provoking articles in ICView.

The president should be ashamed of himself for humiliating you like this.

I want to piggy back on Nathan Maxwell Cann's comment. I am ashamed of President Rochon's intimidating tactics with regards this editor and this magazine. I have received the IC View for many years. This magazine features the accomplishments and experiences of all kinds of alumni. I look forward to the one magazine I subscribe to, primarily because it is about everyday people doing interesting, difficult, beautiful things with their lives. The IC View celebrates this.
Emily's article is a sensitively written piece describing very difficult experiences. Furthermore, it is a recounting of the conflict from inside the belly. She makes it VERY clear that her observations are of extremists doing extreme acts. There are extremists on all sides. There are extremists everywhere. And the censorship I am experiencing at my alma mater is extremist.
Maura, I am sorry if you were forced into a corner. I hope you can find it within yourself to stay the course and know that your readership is behind you.

I just stumbled upon this apology. I read the piece in question a few days ago in the hard copy edition I receive at my home (I'm the parent of a freshman). I was quite surprised that it was included in this particular journal. The correct forum for a piece of this nature would be on the op-ed pages of the a newspaper. It just felt out of place for this type of magazine. The editor had to be incredibly naiive to think that a large segment of IC alumni and contributors would not be offended by the strident tone. I accept the apology, but also believe the IC President's response to be diproportionate as well.

I am a former IC faculty member (Politics Department, 1986-89) and currently professor of Politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

I can't fathom what there was in Emily McNeil's article to apologize about. Everything she said was consistent with the kinds of things I have observed in my visits to the West Bank as well as what has been documented in reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations, including such Israeli groups as B'Tselem.

If Maura Stephens has information that contradicts such findings which would require more "balance" in the article, she should make them public. Otherwise, the only thing she is apologizing about is not suppressing an expression of concern about human rights abuses by a government which are considered strategic allies of the United States. It reminds me of when I taught at IC in the 1980s when some people objected to those of us who were raising concerns about human rights abuses in El Salvador.

Just as it is wrong to unfairly single out Israel for criticism, it is unfair to single out Israel as somehow being exempt for criticism.

There is therefore absolutely nothing about which Maura Stephens should apologize.

Dear Ms. Maura Stephens,

I am disturbed by the apology you were almost undoubtedly forced to write and I am particularly disturbed because you work at a university which should encourage, not stifle, the free exchange of ideas. The President of Ithaca University should be ashamed of himself for succumbing to the complaints of a few alumni over seeing a factually informed opinion that displeases them. How could you have possibly balanced the narrative further? You're publishing the experience of an alumna. Was it incumbent upon you to find another alumna or alumnus who was a settler to talk about how much they enjoy what is an open violation of international law. Even the US government openly condemns settlement expansion. The Israeli government regularly discusses trying to block further expansion and recently dismantled one of the illegal settlements in Hebron. The behavior of the settlers in Hebron is well known and widely condemned, not only in the international community, but also the Israeli press. This article was entirely appropriate. What is inappropriate is this series of apologies for the publication of informed opinion because some people don't like it. That is not only inappropriate, it's embarrassing and undermines the reputation of Ithaca as a serious institution of learning and debate. If someone doesn't like the piece so much they should put forward an alternative view, not condemn you for allowing this view to be expressed in the first place. For the record, as someone who has spent the past decade studying this conflict I can assure you that Jason Fruchtman's assertion that this article is a "one-sided untruth" is simply inaccurate. Nothing Emily said is inaccurate. It is unsurprising that Jason fails to defend his claims of inaccuracy in the article with any sort of evidence, as it would be impossible for him to do so. The West Bank today is indeed a piece of Swiss Cheese filled with settlements. All the evidence you need is a map of the West Bank with the settlements and their bypass roads that Palestinians are prohibited from using and you can confirm this. I must again reiterate my profound disappointment in the behavior of the administration in its response to unwarranted complaints about a well-informed article based on experience on the ground.

Timothy E. Kaldas

I do not know that the FINAL WORD PAGE of the ICVIEW was the correct forum for such a one -sided story, but it seems to me that Emily McNeill in her article entitled, THE VIOLENCE MUST END, has perpetuated the usual ARAB/PALESTINIAN propaganda fed to her while she was visiting that region last summer. Being quite young and naive, she probably did not look at or study the history of the region before she got there. Had she done her homework and studied it, I am sure she would have come up with a less enthusiastic one sided conclusion. While I am NOT condoning "unchecked settler extremism", I am referring to the countless times in history where Arabs and especially the Palestinians have refused to sit down and talk with the Israelis, (even given the fact that Israel might eventually give up the settlements in exchange for an everlasting peace in that region). President Clinton said it was one of his major disappointments that he could not get Arafat and Rabin to come together during his 2 terms in office. I suggest to Ms. McNeill, that next summer she should visit the Koran Schools in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran to learn first hand how young Arab students in all grades are fed extreme thoughts and beliefs... the worst being the total destruction of the state of Israel.

Boynton Beach, Florida

It is great that so many faculty, alumni, and students are weighing in on this issue, but it occurs to me that Maura Stephens is the only person with anything to lose in this whole embarrassing episode in Ithaca College history. I am also a staff member, but I don't have the courage to put my name on this because I am worried about my own job security. I have known Maura Stephens for many years and have been in committees, workshops, meetings, and trainings with her. She is above all a loyal, hardworking, committed employee and advocate for Ithaca College and to see her treated like this makes me sick. I wonder who's next. I have no doubt that financial circumstances will make it necessary for the college to lay people off, maybe even in the next few months. How will they treat the rest of us if they can treat someone like her, who is generous, wise, funny, concerned, and dedicated to the college? She doesn't flinch but always stands up for what is right. She offers new ways of looking at things. She is actually the one who convinced me -- and several others -- to donate to the Faculty and Staff Endowed Scholarship during the Capital Campaign of 2006. Maura Stephens always speaks up for the oppressed, and she deserves the support of the whole community, not just people who have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I hope President Tom Rochon realizes that he is picking on someone who is loved and admired, and decides to do the right thing.

The distinction between a public relations magazine and a news magazine is a red herring, and as such, has no relevance in this discussion. I further doubt that my Ithaca colleagues are ignorant of this distinction.

What we object to is the editorial policies President Rochon is forcing on the ICView publication. We do not believe that what President Rochon doing is honest or acceptable, and as students, alumni, and faculty of a private institution, voicing our opposition in hopes that we might change these policies. We further do not believe that promotion of certain ideologies through legislation and bullying is proper. For these reasons, Maura Stephens's forced apology is irrelevant.

It is trivially true that this is not a First Amendment issue; Ithaca College is not the Federal Government. It is further trivially true that ICView should be managed as a publication that exists for business reasons. We simply disagree with the business decisions President Rochon has made in this case.

I'm sure that all would agree that if President Rochon wants to succeed at Ithaca, he must heed the opinions of all those who are a part of the Ithaca community.

I am so deeply hurt by this apology that I do not know what to say.
IC is a private liberal arts school with one of greatest strengths being communications, how exactly does this retraction in any way uphold the values this institution tries to instill of freedom of speech and resistance against censorship. Instead I find that this retraction and apology is a stain upon the once virtuous record of IC.
I know that we depend on the support of our alumni for financial aid especially in these trying times, but how can any of us continue to to be proud of an institution so willing to bend under the will of censorship.

Dear Peter Rothbart,

Indeed, the IC View exists for business reasons—to exemplify the ideals promulgated by an institute of higher learning such as Ithaca College. As so many others have said, these ideals include, but are not limited to, the free exchange of ideas, rigorous and passionate intellectual debate, and the willingness to be challenged by discomforting views.

The writer demonstrated both considerable writing talent and a robust intellectual curiosity that compelled her to travel to the Middle East. In my mind, Maura Stevens exercised sound editorial judgement in accepting the essay for publication, as all that went into the essay speaks well of the education the writer recieved.

If readers find the opinions offered to be misguided, naive, or, even, disgusting, well, that's what the letters department is for.


Apology not accepted - and not needed.

The 'conflict' was not 'fueled' by this article -
It is much bigger than any of us.

What is so wrong with a little debate?

President Rochon is getting off on the wrong foot. If he thinks that establishing an editorial board for the view is a good idea then he is showing his true colors.

Keep on truckin' Maura. You are doing a great job. I'll pretend you didn't have to write that apology.

As a friend and colleague of Emily's, I would like to congratulate her on this articulate, honest portrayal of her experiences in the West Bank. As someone who has presented my views of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine to an audience at Ithaca College, I must commend the dedication of every student that faces the reactionary, angry backlash to raising the Palestinian issue on campus. Congratulations to the IC Student Coalition for Academic Rights for mobilizing against such censorship.

In Response to Peter Rothbart's comment about the difference between a marketing publication and a news magazine, I just looked at the self-description of ICView from the About Us page of this website:

" Its mission is to offer a candid, accurate, thoughtful, and lively view of College events and people and to stimulate discussion of issues of interest to the College community and the broader readership."

I don't see how the magazine strayed from this mission by printing Emily's thoughtful if pointed essay. I think your objection has something more to do with the the discomfort of you may have with the subject matter.

Maura, thank you for publishing the article in spite of the official apology. I made a similar one under pressure connected to the same issue when working at Ithaca College several years ago.

I'm angered and appalled that the president of Ithaca College would force an editor to apologize for publishing a controversial article; whether about Israel, Palestine or any other issue and whether I agree with the article or not.