The newspaper theft file at the Student Press Law Center keeps growingthicker with the addition of publication thefts at six universities. Thenumber of copies stolen in each incident ranges from 100 to 10,000, butall have resulted in silenced speech and lost revenue for the publications.
Thieves stole copies of two student publications at Yale Universityin Connecticut in April, prompting the student newspaper to declare suchthefts a trend on the Ivy League campus.
The university’s student newspaper, the Yale Daily News, reportedthat about 400 copies of the April 17 issue were stolen. The issue containedan article detailing attempts by members of the women’s varsity hockeyteam to obtain a new coach.
Letitia Stein, editor of the YDN, said 10 of the missing issueswere stolen by a hockey player who said she was upset that the newspaperwas working against the team. The captain of the team said there were noorganized plans to remove the newspapers.
Stein said the YDN reported the theft to Yale police, and thecollege dean sent an e-mail to the entire student body condemning the theftsand reminding students of the importance of free speech.
Less than a week before the YDN was stolen, 3,000 copies of acampus humor magazine, Rumpus, disappeared from the post office andother sites on campus. Many of the magazines were later found in universitybasements and recycling bins.
The April 14 issue of Rumpus contained the names of current membersof five secret campus societies, including Skull and Bones. Editors saidthey believe members of one of the societies stole the issues.
This is the second time in the last couple of years that Rumpus hasbeen stolen, said co-editor Nick Fleisher.
“I’m obviously concerned because it’s a free-speech issue, and it’sannoying and expensive for us,” Fleisher said.
In September, 700 copies of the conservative Yale magazine Lightand Truth were removed from freshman mailboxes by counselors at orientation.The issues attempted to discourage freshmen from attending orientationevents.
Editors of Light and Truth are currently in the process of filinga formal complaint against the counselors for violating their free-speechrights.
The October 1999 issue of Light and Truth reported an overheardconversation between two counselors.
“Yeah, I just grabbed all of those magazines by those maggots,” a counselorwas reported as saying. Another reportedly replied, “Yeah, you gotta getrid of those magazines. They should be burned.”
Thomas Conroy, deputy director of public affairs for Yale, confirmedLightand Truth’sclaims that counselors for the freshman orientation removedthe magazines from the mailboxes. Conroy said that although universitymailboxes were improperly used by the magazine, the thefts were not sanctionedby administrators.
Light and Trutheditors claim they did not know of the regulationsand said many advertisers and publications also put material in the mailboxes.
“We distribute magazines in the mailbox at the beginning of every yearand have never had problems in the past,” Roy said. “Other student publicationswere also distributed in the mailboxes at the same time Light and Truth was.”
Administrators at Villanova University in Pennsylvania returned2,000 copies — the entire press run of a student-run publication, theConservative Column, on March 21, saying the publication could be distributedon campus now that it had an adviser.
Tom Mogan, the school’s director of student development, ordered theremoval on March 15, claiming students did not have a right to distributethe newspaper on campus because it lacked an adviser.
Chris Lilik, co-editor of the publication, said he views the removalof the papers as an attempt to censor the Column, which is highlycritical of liberals on the Catholic university’s campus.
“I am a hundred percent confident that this is a case of censorship,”Lilik said.
Lilik played a message for the Report that Mogan had left on Lilik’sanswering machine the day of the removal. Mogan claims that he spoke toLilik on several different occasions about not distributing the Column untilthe newspaper found an adviser.
On the message Mogan said, “You should not put out any further ConservativeColumns until we resolve your situation as a student group. … We obviouslyhave some serious concerns about the content of the Conservative Column.Therefore, I will be removing all the issues of the Conservative Column thatI see and will keep them in my office until such time that we can resolvethe situation as a student group.”
“Why would he bring up content if he was so concerned about the advisingthing?” Lilik said.
Mogan admitted leaving the message on Lilik’s machine but said any referenceto content was made about a “Liberal of the Week” column that, he said,many faculty members complained about. “However,” Mogan said, “I cannotstress enough that it was prefaced by the fact that that was not why thepapers were removed.”
Mogan also said school officials were not concerned about the Column’s stanceon controversial issues, but that they had concerns about the tone of thenewspaper.
“Our standpoint was that they needed an adviser to advise them on thesefairness and responsibility issues because they were definitely attackingthe faculty members,” Mogan said.
“Content and tone are the same thing,” Lilik said.
In Maryland, the Baltimore County police and fire departments are investigatingthe “malicious burning” of several hundred copies of the Goucher Collegestudent newspaper.
According to newspaper adviser Deidra Hill, 220 copies of the Feb. 23issue of the Quindecim, the college’s free biweekly student paper,were set on fire near a dormitory early in the morning on Feb. 24.
The college’s office of safety and security is taking the case veryseriously because of the threat to students’ safety, said Hill, who isalso the associate director of communications for the college.
“If there is a suspect, the person could be prosecuted, and I thinkthat is very serious,” Hill said.
In 1994 Maryland became the only state in the nation to pass a law makingit a criminal offense to steal free publications.
The Baltimore County police and fire departments and the college’s officeof safety and security have interviewed 20 students from the dormitory,but they do not have any suspects in the case.
Among articles about same-sex marriages and part-time professors facingtermination was a front-page story documenting the eighth student to resignfrom the student government association’s executive board.
In Utah, university police apprehended two Brigham Young Universityfreshmen who admitted to stealing 10,000 copies — over half the pressrun of the Feb. 16 issue of university’s student newspaper, The DailyUniverse.
According to Rob Rogers, assistant city editor for The Daily Universe, thestolen issue included an article that questioned the eligibility of twocandidates running for student government positions.
The day after the issue was published, a student who worked on campusas a custodian called the newspaper to report that he saw vehicles drivingaround in the early morning, according to Rogers. That night, the universitypolice department charged two BYU students with stealing the newspapers.
BYU police presented the case to the Provo City district attorney, buthe declined to prosecute, said Alton Wade, vice president of student life.
The BYU honor code office is reviewing the students’ actions, Wade said.If found responsible for the theft, the students could face suspensionor probation from the university. In addition, the students could be requiredto pay the cost of the stolen newspapers.
“By the time this is over, this may be one of the most important lessonsthey’ll learn at their time at the university,” Wade said.
Campus security officers are investigating the theft of 100 to 150 newspapersfrom a press run of 2,000 at Lake Superior State University in Michigan.
Approximately 100 copies of the Feb. 11 issue of The Compass vanishedfrom a freshman residence hall, said editor Mike Guilmette. After a residentof the hall informed Guilmette that all the copies of The Compass weregone, he went back on Feb. 14 to replace the newspaper. That stack alsodisappeared.
Thom Hadfield, business manager of The Compass, filed a reportwith campus security on Feb. 15.
Hadfield said he believes a disgruntled resident adviser removed thepapers because of a letter to the editor he wrote criticizing the RA staffat the school.
Hadfield, who is also president of the LSSU Inter-Greek Council, wrote,”Many of the RAs I have seen this year I think were molded in Hitler’sSS training camps, or maybe it is just a case of all work and no sex makesRAs dull people.”
“The article met a lot of good comments from the general campus buta lot of bad comments from the RA staff,” Hadfield said. “And that is whenthe issues started to show up missing in the dorm.”
The Compass reported that a student living in the residence hallsaw a large stack of papers in his RA’s room when the door was open.
The RA denied that he stole the papers, saying there are always peoplein his room, and they would have seen the papers if he had taken them.
When student journalists at Yeshiva University in New York noticededitions of the student newspaper missing last fall, they had a hard timegoing to the school’s administration for help — because it was the administrationthat was stealing the papers.
“They would remove [the newspapers] whenever there was a major eventon campus where outside visitors would come in,” said Aaron Klein, co-editorof the YU Commentator.
Klein said facilities management employees would remove the newspaperswhen speakers such as Benjamin Netanyahu or Jesse Jackson came to campusor when the university held open-house days for prospective students. Kleinsaid such thefts have been going on at the university for 65 years.
Klein said the newspapers were often removed when they contained articlescritical of the Yeshiva administration, including an article about theremoval of the papers by the university. According to Klein, more than1,800 copies were removed last fall.
The string of removals prompted the Commentator to send repeatedletters to Yeshiva administrators. The letters did not resolve the issue,so the newspaper threatened legal action and contacted The New YorkTimes, which published a story about the administrators’ actions.
The Commentator received a letter from administrators on Dec.14 saying that they would not remove the newspapers again. Enclosed inthe letter was a reimbursement check for $1,850.
Klein said he is skeptical of the university’s promise not to take thenewspapers and believes next year’s staff must take the initiative to makesure it does not happen again.