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Photojournalist Dis-Invited to speak at Syracuse University Dies

Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Michel du Cille of The Washington Post dies in Liberia

Photojournalist Michel du Cille, a Pulitzer Prize winner who captured gripping images of Ebola patients and their caretakers, died December 11th in Liberia. According to reports, the photojournalist was in Liberia on assignment for the Washington Post, collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack.

The photojournalist was embroiled in controversy when at the height of Ebola Pandemic fear, du Cille was asked not to appear at Syracuse University. He and his wife Nikki Kahn were scheduled to participate in a journalism program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications.

The University was reportedly concerned about his recent assignment in Liberia and the possibility that du Cille hadn’t been incubated long enough and raised concerns about the “safety of the students”. The photojournalist’s response was that of disappointment, “I’m pissed off and embarrassed and completely weirded out that a journalism institution that should be seeking out facts and details is basically pandering to hysteria.”

According to Dean Lorraine Branham in an October 16th New Photographer magazine story about the disinvite, “He was disinvited because of concerns that were generated by some students that led me to believe that it would lead to even more concerns, so it was in the best interest of the students for me to withdraw the invitation.”

In the New Photographer magazine piece Branham said she told du Cille today that, “she would still like for him to come to Syracuse at some point in the future to lead students in a conversation about the “irrational fears and making bad decisions,” such as some of those surrounding the Ebola crisis. “And I know Michel considers my decision a bad decision. But we can have that discussion in the future with a larger group of students from the entire university, not just a smaller group at the workshop.”

Syracuse University Mentioned in Obituary

So striking were the actions of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communications, Mr. du Cilles’ Associated Press Obituary mentioned the incident, “In October, Syracuse University pulled an invitation for du Cille to attend a fall workshop for its communications school after a student raised concerns that he’d recently been in West Africa covering the Ebola crisis. Du Cille insisted he had been symptom-free for the three weeks since his return and said he was “embarrassed and completely weirded out” by the university’s decision.

Perhaps the legacy of du Cille at Syracuse University were his last quoted words about being disinvited, “The most disappointing thing is that the students at Syracuse have missed that moment to learn about the Ebola crisis, using someone who has been on the ground and seen it up close,” he said. “But they chose to pander to hysteria.”

 

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