An Open Letter to The Tripod from Concerned Jewish Students

The Tripod’s policy on anonymous opinion pieces states, “The Tripod will permit anonymous opinions under a very limited set of circumstances, determined on a case-by-case basis. Simply not wishing to subscribe your name to an opinion for political purposes or for fear of ridicule from students are not sufficient grounds for anonymity. This is consistent with the anonymity policies of major newspapers across the country, among them the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. Such anonymous articles will be published when the veracity of their content is believed to be of significant importance or value to the public interest and when the health, safety or welfare of the author are determined to be in serious danger. Questions or concerns regarding the Tripod‘s anonymous opinion policy may be directed to tripod@trincoll.edu.

A comment left under a Tripod News article

Since Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, the Trinity Tripod has continuously released articles that contain blatant antisemitic tropes and factually incorrect information about the Israel-Gaza War. On top of the incident with St. Anthony’s Hall last year, Jewish students have felt consistently unsafe existing on this campus. Nationwide, antisemitism has surged by 377%, and according to the Anti-Defamation League, only 38.7% of Jewish students are comfortable openly expressing their identity on their college campuses, compared to 63.7% before the war started. It is no secret that Jewish students are feeling the rise in antisemitism on campuses across the country and Trinity College is no exception. This article aims to highlight the isolation Jewish students face on campus and how the biased articles published by the Tripod on the history of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict have contributed to it. Microaggressions buried under inaccurate language like “colonialism,” hurt people who have deep connections, family and friends in Israel. While attention-grabbing titles may not change what is going on in the world, for your Jewish readers they exacerbate a sense of alienation at this small college. No Jewish student wants to read their student newspaper on a Tuesday afternoon to see antisemitic tropes such as an anonymous reference to Hillel’s alleged “deep pockets.” The Tripod is instigating the creation of a microcosm of hate and classic antisemitism on this campus that is negatively impacting Jewish students.

According to the New York Times “Guidelines on Integrity” cited on the Tripod’s website “When we use facts gathered by any other organization, we attribute them. (…) When writing from a pool report, if we have not witnessed the events, we attribute them to the pool reporter.” Multiple articles regarding the Israel-Hamas war that were categorized as “News” in last semester’s editions failed to include any citations of sources, including, but not limited to, “Trinity College Responds Tepidly to the Genocide of Palestinian People” published Nov. 7. This absence raises concerns about the Tripod’s adherence to accuracy and accountability.

Furthermore, a closer examination of recent Tripod articles also presents another troubling finding: the lack of any Jewish voices in the News section, resulting in an inaccurate portrayal of both sides of an issue. This is not to say that the Tripod should stop covering these activities on campus, but the failure to include diverse perspectives perpetuates a one-sided narrative. For example, in the recent article “Five Students Meet With President After Protest, Walkout,” the Tripod and an anonymous source from SFJP claim that “The members of the coalition were disheartened at comments from non-Muslim students worried that the events were not for them. Jewish students on campus are welcome,” they told the Tripod, “It has nothing to do with religion.” While the leaders of SFJP can say that Jewish students are welcome in their organization, this is their opinion and should be properly sourced and presented as one. Speaking as Jewish students who have attended these events we have found them alienating and hostile towards our presence. Beyond the fact that this article casts Jewish students’ decision not to join this group as an odd choice, it also fails to provide any context or ask why a Jewish person would not attend these events. It also limits Judaism to solely a religion, when most Jewish students at Trinity do not identify as religious Jews, but as cultural or ethnic Jews. If the Tripod were to ask Jewish students why they might not join SFJP they may learn how SFJP shared a document titled “Countering Disinformation” on their Instagram that contained sections titled “Do You Condemn Hamas – Rebuttal” and claims such as “Western Jews have historically been the primary recipients of protection and safety” in a section titled “The Jewish Community Needs a Safe Place Against Anti-Semitism – Rebuttal.” The failure to report on these events or even create relationships with Jewish people on this campus who have different opinions than the editors is a failure to truly report on the news here. The Tripod must go through the work of building a base of sources in the Jewish community in order for their news to be truly accurate.

It is also worth mentioning that most of the articles published as news regarding the conflict were biased and anonymous, which raises significant concerns about editorial oversight and adherence to journalistic standards. The previously mentioned article published on Nov. 7 expresses a clear opinion rather than providing objective news coverage. Publishing opinion pieces masquerading as news undermines the credibility of the Tripod and violates the trust of its readership. Journalists should strive to present a balanced view of events, allowing readers to form their own opinions based on impartial reporting. By including biased and unattributed opinions within the News section, the Tripod risks misleading its audience and failing to fulfill its role as a reliable source of information within the Trinity College community.

In addition to concerns about sourcing and inclusivity, the Opinion Section in the Tripod raises issues due to its failure to retract or provide context on false information. An Oct. 17 anonymous opinion piece titled “Trinity Supports White Hegemony by Employing Dangerous 9/11 Rhetoric that Harms its Students” makes unfounded claims, including the denial of the rape of Jewish women by Hamas on Oct. 7, which had already been widely reported by Reuters, PBS and the New York Times. The author claimed, without substantiation, that the rape claims had been “retracted by the media and even the White House.” Free speech is not a shield for the Tripod to publish errors and propaganda of this magnitude, and the job of an editor is to make sure that even the opinion section is written based on concrete information and reliable sources. It is also their responsibility to monitor the comments left on their digital publications, and while they can’t censor people’s opinions, they can address the 50+ comments left on the only article published by a Jewish student addressing this situation, a lot of them containing antisemitic tropes or blatantly attacking the author.

In times of rising Islamophobia and antisemitism across America and our campus, the Tripod should work to write accurate news that presents the current situation factually. When it does not thoughtfully cover the news they not only pour gasoline on the fiery campus climate but they also increase hateful rhetoric. This leads to unnecessary divisions within our small campus community. The headlines should portray the news and not be centered on generating clicks. the Tripod is creating an atmosphere of animosity by writing clickbait-style headlines and pitting the campus communities against each other in their comment sections. There is no denying that covering the news is not easy and not everyone is going to like the truth, but it is necessary to present the news in a way that doesn’t worsen the campus climate.

We publicly invite the staff of the Tripod to come talk to a group of Jewish faculty, staff and students about how its journalism is impacting their lives on campus and how to properly combat antisemitism in your newspaper. We hope to have a conversation about how inaccurate coverage of Israel and Jews contributes to antisemitism on our campus.

Sincerely,

Concerned Jewish Students

Due to the aforementioned harassment and attacks the last Jewish students who published an article in the Tripod received, we don’t feel comfortable signing our names

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4Comments

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  1. 2
    Jane Doe

    Patiently waiting for an apology from the editors for knowingly printing misinformation for months and inciting hatred towards Jewish students on campus.

  2. 4
    Samuel Kassow

    I’m very happy that students are pushing back against a campus climate that tolerates and encourages ignorant, biased, false and antisemitic attacks on Israel. No one at Trinity would tolerate public use of the N word or the public display of Confederate flags. But open calls for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state seem perfectly OK. By the way, for 20 years my wife Lisa, who had been Hillel director, reached out to all students on campus. She helped organize and participated in protests against Islamophobia , homophobia and racism. In an hour of need, however, Jewish students have not gotten the support that they had freely given others in the past. The lack of empathy shown by certain student organizations for the mental pain experienced by Jewish students after the October 7 mass murder and mass rape is absolutely appalling. One friend of mine, a professor of history in Jerusalem, had his son kidnapped. Another friend , a professor and long-time peace activist, learned that his daughter and son in law were murdered as they shielded their 15 year old son from the killers’ bullets. Hamas gunned down more than 200 young people at a music festival. They murdered parents in front of their children and engaged in gruesome torture. The communities decimated in the Hamas rampage had been in the forefront of the peace movement ; had contained many volunteers who had regularly taken Palestinian kids from Gaza to Israeli hospitals; had helped Arab workers , supported a two state solution, and opposed the dysfunctional Netanyahu government. As I end my Trinity career after 51 years I want to reiterate my concern and support for the heroic soldiers of the IDF, among whom are family members as well as the grandkids of good friends. I worry about them constantly and hope they come home safe. It goes without saying that I also regret the loss of life in Gaza, but Israel did not start this war and must do all it can to eliminate an organization that is dedicated to its destruction. (If one applies the standards of today, then neither the US nor Britain could have won World War II) By the way, one more point: if Hillel has “deep pockets” it’s because of devoted and generous alumni like Henry Zachs who have also given freely to the multicultural houses.

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