CW Post fires dorm advisors over 'hostage' movie
BY HERBERT LOWE, OLIVIA WINSLOW AND JENNIFER KELLEHER
Newsday Staff Writers
February 7, 2007, 1:24 PM EST
A two-minute video that administrators consider insensitive to Muslims has cost five resident assistants and a residence hall advisor their jobs at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University, according to the editor of the campus newspaper.
The short film depicts a scene similar to one where Americans being held hostage by Al-Qaeda terrorists are forced to shoot videos pleading for their life, according to an account scheduled to be published on Wednesday in the Pioneer newspaper.
Instead of a human victim, a white rubber duck named Pete is being held "hostage." The film is called "A Duck Napping," and the rubber duck is the mascot for a campus residence hall, Brookville Hall, the Pioneer reported.
According to the Pioneer, in the video the five resident assistants are disguised in ski masks and speaking broken English and using stereotypical "Middle Eastern" accents. The description of the video, which was posted on YouTube and Google Video and later taken down, describes the chatter as farcical demands for the duck's safe release.
Reaction to the C.W. Post administration's handling of the matter has caused a "tremendous uproar" on the Brookville campus, said Danny Schrafel, the Pioneer editor-in-chief.
"I've been working on the paper a little over three-and-a-half years now and this is probably the biggest scandal I've seen on campus that entire time," Schrafel said.
He described the campus as split into two camps: People who believe the resident assistants were fired unjustly and people who were offended by the video.
In a statement provided to Newsday Wednesday, C.W. Post Provost Joseph Shenker defended the administration's response.
"At C.W. Post, we take seriously our obligation to create a campus environment that is free of prejudice and intolerance," Shenker said. "We do not condone any behaviors that demean the dignity of individuals or groups of people. We don't find anything about terrorism and hostage-taking to be humorous. We insist on a campus where respect for others is demonstrated at all times."
Shenker added: "Five student employees were engaged in a serious incident that violated their employment contract with the university. These students are now participating in our student conduct judicial process."
The Pioneer reported that the resident assistants were allowed to keep their free meal plan and room and board for the rest of the semester, provided they work 10 hours a week in a student affairs office.
The five resident assistants -- all seniors -- are Bert Estrada, a film major; Dustin Frye, a biology and psychology major; Robert Bennett, a history major; Jordan Marmara, a biology education major and Billy McDermott, a criminal justice major, the Pioneer reported. They worked in the Brookville Lodge A/B Complex and were dismissed on Feb. 2.
Kristin Kielczewski, the residence hall director, was forced to resign on Feb. 1, the newspaper reported.
Matthew Bartlett, a 19-year old freshman from Clifton N.J., who lives in one of the dorms where one of the dismissed student employees works, called McDermott a "a great guy."
"I'm upset they fired him," Bartlett said. "I'm pretty appalled by what they did because I don't think it's fair. It's our right as students to express ourselves. We're in college."
Bartlett said he had not seen the film, but he defended it even, he said, if its makers had intended to offend others: "It's film. It's art. It is intended to offend people sometimes."
At the campus' Brookville Hall, where some of the fired resident assistants work, fliers were posted: "Support your RAs. Freedom of Speech encompasses all of America. ... Even Long Island University."