NEW JERSEY — Disciplinary action will not be taken against two student editors at Princeton University who wrote a controversial article joking about the Holocaust, although the two students plan to apologize for printing the story.
On Feb. 10, Princeton students Jacob Savage and Rob Buerki wrote a list titled, “The top 10 Holocaust movies I’ve never seen but would like to,” under a larger headline “And Now For Something Completely Offensive,” in the student-run humor magazine Nassau Weekly.
In the Nassau Weekly article, Savage and Buerki altered mainstream movie titles such as “Meet the Fockers” to “Exterminate the Fockers,” and “A Weekend at Bernie’s” to “A Week at Bergen-Belsen.” The Daily Princetonian reported that Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Hilary Herbold said that discipline was “not out of the question.”
According to Savage, the Daily Princetonian misreported that he and Buerki decided to apologize after meeting with Associate Director of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne.
“We wrote the apology well before our meeting with Dunne,” Savage said. He said the apology was due to their personal feelings on the situation.
“We apologized because we realized we had hurt many people and because we regretted causing them pain,” he said.
University officials said discipline was not in the picture. “It was never said, it was never intended, it’s not in accordance with university policies. It was just a reporter error,” Dunne said. The Princetonian reported on Feb. 16 that the university might take disciplinary action against Savage and Buerki.
Princetonian Editor in Chief Melisa Gao attributed the difference in position to a misunderstanding. “After reviewing our notes, we had determined that they appeared accurate, but we have no reason to doubt Dean Herbold,” Gao said. “There must have been a miscommunication.”
Herbold said she came across the “Top Ten” list before it was published because a copy of it was inadvertently sent to the printer of one of her colleagues.
“Had I believed that [the article] warranted disciplinary action, I would have contacted Jacob Savage and Rob Buerki before it came out,” she wrote in an e-mail to Princetonian editors.
Herbold wrote that she told Princetonian reporter Jennifer Epstein “that there could conceivably be an article that appeared in print that was so hateful and derogatory as to result in disciplinary action,” but this was not such an article.
An article resulting in discipline would have to include “offensive language directed toward someone in particular,” Herbold wrote in a clarification letter printed in the Princetonian on Feb. 17. “Words or ideas not directed at any particular individual do not constitute a violation of the rules,” she wrote.
Savage and Buerki will publish an apology letter in the next issue of Nassau Weekly.
–By Diane Krauthamer