Editor’s Note: The following letters were written in response to an Ithaca Voice editorial published today, “Video about Cornell dean and ISIS is wildly misleading and dumb.”

As always, we welcome alternative or dissenting viewpoints. To write an editorial, contact me at jstein@ithacavoice.com. 

A number of other comments about the issue can also be found on our Facebook page.

— Jeff Stein

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1 – Written by Fred Graboyes:

I will grant you that Scaffido got ambushed by the interviewer. The interviewer simply leveraged Scaffido’s predisposition to the use of new politically correct terms with respect to terrorists and terrorism based organizations. For example, what is one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. What is one man’s terror group is another man’s humanitarian group. No right-minded American would consider Hamas anything other than a sponsor of terrorism. No right-minded American would consider a freedom fighter for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, i.e. ISIS, as anything other than a terrorist and cold-blooded murderer. The use of these terms lends legitimacy to those who believe terrorism is simply misunderstood combat or a law enforcement action. Scaffido got exposed unwittingly.

Unfortunately, Cornell President Skorton’s statement about Scaffido being unaware of what he was asked is either a coverup for Scafiddo’s mistake or Scafiddo is simply incompetent for the level of office he holds. Either way, I would expect better command of the situation from a senior level official at Cornell than what Scaffido demonstrated. Skorton’s use of the terms “incitement of violence” as opposed to terrorism and random murder will not alter the argument. His mindset has also been exposed.

I have no doubt that Skorton and Scafiddo are good people. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Unfortunately, Skorton’s and Scafiddo’s use of words appears to lend sympathy to the wrong side when it comes to random murder.

— Fred Graboyes
Watchung, NJ
West Point grad, Class of ’84 and am a parent of current Cornell students


2 – Written by John Mueller:

“I need to point out that in all questions posed to Joe, the “prospective student” uses words like” Islamic State” and “freedom fighters” and then says “ISIS” and “terrorists” in his narration. This is obviously misleading and distorts Joe’s supposed “support.” It’s predatory reporting, at best.

To me, it’s clear that Joe is trying to make a “prospective student” (again, Joe definitely doesn’t know the guy is a reporter) feel heard, feel like he has opportunities within his interests, and feel comfortable attending Cornell in the future. Failure to realize that “Islamic State” exclusively applies to ISIS and that “freedom fighters” necessarily means terrorists is no reason to villainize the man.

There are also numerous checks in place and several “speed bumps” that a pro-ISIS group would face if they sought to form at Cornell. Aside from probably never finding a faculty advisor, they would probably run into problems with the Student Activities Office and the SAFC. Joe was just being an encouraging and gracious host by answering so many questions– he is far from the be all and end all for new student organizations.

I would add that Joe manages some of the most time-consuming and logistically challenging clubs on campus. They would simply not function without his expertise. The fact that he spent so much time in a private meeting with a “prospective student” speaks to his thoughtfulness and care for the Cornell community– present and future.”

— John R. Mueller
Cornell class of 2013


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.