April 23, 2004
To the Rutgers Community:
The cover page of the April 21 edition of the Rutgers student publication The Medium contains a cartoon that is outrageous in its cruelty. Making light of the Holocaust, the cartoon desecrates the memory of six million innocent Jewish people, and many other groups, who were brutally murdered by one of the most hateful regimes in human history. While this publication is protected by the First Amendment (see http://urwebsrv.rutgers.edu/medrel/viewArticle.html?ArticleID=3910 for a detailed Q&A on legal and funding issues), the insensitive and ignorant material the editors have chosen to publish is completely at odds with our values as a university. Unfortunately, as you know from last fall’s controversy over racist personal ads published in The Medium, this is not the first time the editors have caused tremendous hurt among their fellow students and the larger community by their disregard for the standards of civility, diversity, and collegiality.
I have urged the students involved in this publication to reflect on what they have done, take responsibility for their actions, and apologize for the hurt they have caused. In addition, I have called on the University Senate, which includes a wide representation of students, faculty, and alumni from every campus, to address this continuing problem and to suggest possible remedies. While legal precedent makes clear that neither the university nor the student governing associations that administer its funding can shut this publication down based on its viewpoints, moral imperative demands that we speak out against the expressions of intolerance that appear so regularly on its pages under the guise of entertainment.
Last fall, I met with several members of The Medium editorial staff and discussed the responsibilities of editorial judgment that must accompany the defense of First Amendment rights. It is disappointingly clear that no progress has been made since then. The Medium is run by students and membership is open to students throughout the university; it is my hope that Rutgers students will work together to help this publication serve its stated mission of providing light-hearted humor instead of callously causing hurt and pain among the members of our community.
Richard L. McCormick
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey