N.Y. college enacts policy prohibiting newspaper theft

NEW YORK – Getting away with stealing newspapers at Binghamton University will become a little bit harder at the beginning of this school year, when a new school policy banning people from taking multiple copies of a free newspaper to suppress the content goes into effect.

The new school policy was created through the work of Matt Chayes, former editor in chief of the Pipe Dream and Louis Leonini, former editor in chief of the Binghamton Review, both of which are student publications. Milton Chester, director of Judicial Affairs for Binghamton worked with Chayes and Leonini to get the policy implemented.

Newspaper theft is something with which the student editors are familiar. In March 2004 at least 50 copies of the Binghamton Review, a monthly conservative magazine, were taken by a member of the university’s student council who was upset about an editorial that was critical of his performance. He admitted to throwing away the papers, but claimed students “donated” their copies to him.

“[The newspaper theft] hit home when it happened, and I felt as if it was an unfair move by the person who took the papers,” Leonini said. “They took an action that was not in the spirit of free speech.”

The Pipe Dream was also stolen by students unhappy with an April Fools edition in April 2005.

Upset with the thefts, Chayes started the process of creating a new policy by researching newspaper theft online and determining what wording to use. He then brought the idea to Leonini and the two student editors met with Chester for approval and finalization of the policy.

Chester said he hopes the new rules will prevent anything like what happened to the Bingham Review from happening again.

“My belief is that you can’t censor ideas by stealing newspapers,” Chester said.

The new policy will be printed in the student code of conduct handbook that is put out every year, although Chayes said he is still unsure how it will be enforced, as the punishment for stealing newspapers is not yet established.

Chester said the punishments for newspaper theft would be considered on a case by case basis.

Despite not having any clear cut rules on punishment, Chayes said he is still happy Binghamton is “taking the lead” on outlawing newspaper theft.

“The fact is that it’s not acceptable to steal newspapers,” Chayes said. “If you disagree with something you should use more speech, not less. Campuses should be a place where free speech is celebrated.”

Leonini said he was surprised but happy that the new policy was adopted.

“When the newspapers were stolen it wasn’t just the opinions about that one story that were silenced,” Leonini said. “Other opinions in the magazine were silenced as well.”

-By Rebecca McNulty

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