I went to Syracuse University more than a few years ago, so I am certainly biased. Ironically, one of my good friends at Syracuse was a Newhouse Communications student named Mark Tinker. Although he never mentioned it, he was the son of Grant Tinker, and the stepson of Mary Tyler Moore. He's gone on to become quite a legend, and an institutional favorite as a television producer. He's extremely talented, courageous, successful, and well thought of.
The irony is that this past week SU was widely criticized by some for canceling their invitation to a speaker at the Newhouse School of Communications, the very school that taught Mark Tinker so well that he became one of the top television producers of all time.
The disinvited speaker is a journalist who was still within 21 days of visiting the heart of Ebola in West Africa.
This was a very smart move by the Dean of Newhouse, who only made her decision after consulting with medical experts. She simply decided that it was wise not to expose the 40,000 people in the Syracuse University community to even the possibility of such a horrible and virulent virus.
The truth is, we don't yet know enough about this disease, other than how devastating it is. We don't know enough about its true contagion factors, its treatment, and more importantly, exactly how contagious it is and during what period of time.
Now back to why I believe this is an ironic moment. One of Mark's first productions was a show called St. Elsewhere. The show launched many famous and truly talented actors. In the show's final year, there was an episode which depicted the fact that someone could contract AIDS from unprotected heterosexual contact. The accepted theory of the day was that this was absolutely impossible and Mark was subjected to scorn and ridicule from virtually everyone throughout the country who claimed that Mark had produced a show which unfairly and illogically induced fear across the country. It wound up that the very premise of that show, the fact that people were being exposed to AIDS on a daily basis due to their ignorance that AIDS could in fact, be spread through unprotected sex, became a crucial topic and one which we should all have been alerted to, long before the medical community agreed to this now obvious and uncontroverted fact. We should not have had to wait for Mark's TV show. Although I do not want to see any of us over-react to the fear of Ebola, my alma mater was right not only because the speaker had not yet completed his 21- day incubation, which may or may not be enough, but because we know so little about this disease. Maybe it is airborne. Maybe it is communicable for more than the initial 21 days. Do we gamble with our lives to be politically correct? Erring on the side of caution was absolutely and unquestionably the correct and prudent course of action. I only wish that the experts in communicable diseases had not waited for Mark Tinker to release his St. Elsewhere episode to start the conversation which ultimately led to the obvious conclusion which we now take for granted regarding the spread of AIDS. We cannot afford to make the same mistake with Ebola.