Apologize to Journalist Uninvited from Conference Due to Ebola Panic


Target: Syracuse University Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric F. Spina

Goal: Apologize for uninviting speaker from journalism conference due to unfounded Ebola fears

The Ebola outbreak in western Africa continues to be the subject of unending fearful commentary by those who do not understand it. Instead of confronting this speculation, too many people in the media are irresponsibly spreading the scare with reactionary decisions that keep obscuring the facts. Some, like photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Michel du Cille, have actually gone to the front lines of the outbreak and spoken with medical professionals to share with the world what’s really happening. So when du Cille was uninvited to Syracuse University’s fall journalism conference due to concerns about his having recently been reporting on Ebola in Liberia, he was outraged.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has guidelines for preventing the spread of the Ebola virus, which include a 21-day incubation period after any possible exposure, during which individuals should be checking themselves for symptoms and monitoring their temperatures. The incubation period for du Cille, who never found any symptoms, ended on the day he was supposed to take part in the conference. But this wasn’t good enough for Syracuse’s Vice Chancellor or Dean, who allegedly spoke to the Onondaga County Health Department’s medical director Dr. Quoc Nguyen and the head of the university’s health center about their decision to rescind du Cille’s invitation. However, it would be pretty much impossible for someone to spread the virus after 21 days of having no symptoms, and the virus can only be spread by direct contact (through mucous membranes or broken skin) with contaminated bodily fluids or objects. Dr. Nguyen has commented to Syracuse.com on the intense monitoring of international students returning to Syracuse from African countries, calling it “overly cautious.”

As du Cille told News Photographer magazine, “I am disappointed in the level of journalism at Syracuse, and I am angry that they missed a great teaching opportunity. Instead they have decided to jump in with the mass hysteria.” By signing this petition, you are condemning Vice Chancellor Eric F. Spina’s decision to perpetuate the unscientific media frenzy around Ebola by disincluding du Cille from the journalism conference, and asking him to issue a public apology.


Dear Vice Chancellor Spina,

I am highly disappointed in Syracuse University’s recent decision to rescind Michel du Cille’s invitation to the fall journalism conference this year. As someone who has recently been to Liberia to report on the Ebola outbreak, he is well situated to speak to issues of media hysteria and speculation in this area. He underwent the appropriate incubation period, though his exposure to the virus was unlikely, and had completed it by the time he has supposed to attend the conference. So why give credence to fear mongering media reports that have been sensationalizing this outbreak? Why expect an uninformed panic at Syracuse instead of making an effort to dispel dangerous myths?

By disincluding Michel du Cille from Syracuse’s conference, you have lent the authority of Syracuse University and its journalism department to unfounded fears that absolutely will create panic if they go unchecked. These fears have already resulted in harassment and discrimination against immigrants, and now they have contributed to misinformation among Syracuse students and administration. I urge you to apologize for perpetuating irresponsible “journalism” at the expense of international students, immigrants, and informed journalists like du Cille. I urge you to act on the knowledge that this misinformation can stop with you.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via Wikimedia Commons

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