At Harvard University, Asking ICE for Comment Faux-ments a Controversy



The first five paragraphs of a Sept. 13 article in The Harvard Crimson about organizations rallying to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) achieved the goal of any reputable news story – to answer who, what, when and why. Then, staff writers – Elizabeth X. Guo and Amanda Y. Su – did the unthinkable for some on the allegedly elite college campus.

Their sin? They followed longstanding rules of journalism by requesting a comment from protesters and the subject of said protests, namely ICE. According to a petition started by a campus immigrant rights group, Act on a Dream, the Crimson staff made the “wrong call” in not backing away from their decision to contact ICE – and to do likewise in the future.

“We are extremely disappointed in the cultural insensitivity displayed by The Crimson’s policy to reach out to ICE, … In this political climate, a request for comment is virtually the same as tipping them off, regardless of how they are contacted, [bold in original]”the petition continues.

Unbelievably, the petitioners’ claims of victimhood extend beyond mere disappointment. By simply adhering to commonly-accepted journalistic standards of permitting subjects of a news story an opportunity to comment, the Crimson is upholding a “policy that blatantly endangers undocumented students on our campus.”

In the world of the “woke,” there is no inflammatory rhetoric without the complementary pound of flesh. Among the demands is that the Crimson issue an apology “for the harm they inflicted” on illegal aliens in the community, and that they “change their policies that require calling ICE for comment.”

In the month since the initial article was published, Act on a Dream has amassed a total of 650 signatures to their petition, according to an Oct. 22 article in the Crimson. Yes, the reporter made “multiple requests for comment” to Act on a Dream but to no avail.

In an Oct. 22 note to its readers, the Crimson again defended the decision to maintain journalistic standards, including “the belief that every party named in a story has a right to comment or contest criticism leveled against them.” The letter further noted, “experts from the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists have affirmed that The Crimson followed ethical journalistic practices.”

The controversy has not waned as the major outlets from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have covered the bubbling brouhaha. And Act on a Dream continues to unearth new ways to be offended.

“The amount of condescending emails we have received calling us ‘silly’ or referring to us as ‘children’ is incredibly patronizing and points towards a gross practice of gaslighting undocumented activists for standing up for the legitimate fears in our community,” they complained in an Oct. 23 tweet.

Isn’t it ironic that a group founded with the goal of ending all enforcement of longstanding immigration laws is decrying the fact some will not adhere to the societal speech codes they have created and to which they now demand all others conform.

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Jennifer joined FAIR as Web Content Writer in 2017 and brings to the role extensive communications and media background. She began her career as a policy research analyst on multiple national and state political campaigns before entering journalism. In addition to spending over a decade writing for several broadcast and print news outlets, Jennifer directed communications strategy for a member of Congress and a military nonprofit.

FAIR blogs can now be found on our main site at https://www.fairus.org/blog