Hundreds of copies of political magazine stolen from College of Staten Island

NEW YORK — Hundreds of copies of the Third Rail were stolen from stands at the College of Staten Island two weeks ago after the regularly provocative political magazine featured a picture of a nude man and woman on its cover.

Campus police are investigating the theft of what Third Rail Editor in Chief P. Melissa Fisher has estimated to be 550 copies.

The magazine was distributed just before the school’s spring break, and Fisher said that although some issues might have been taken legitimately, 550 is an unusually large number to be taken during the class recess, when the public commuter campus is a “ghost town.”

Campus police have confirmed that some issues were disposed of in campus trash bins, but a review of campus security cameras has not revealed anything out of the ordinary, a university spokesman said.

Administrators issued a campus-wide e-mail Thursday afternoon notifying students of the incident and emphasizing that newspaper theft is a punishable offense according to school policy.

Fisher said she suspects the theft occurred at two different times. Shortly after distribution, Fisher noticed that many of the distribution points around campus were already empty, and she ordered reserve copies placed in the empty stands.

After the redistribution, the stands again were empty, Fisher said, and editors received word that a bundle of several dozen magazines had been disposed in a campus trash bin. Production costs total $1.49 per copy, which totals to $819.50 for the estimated stolen amount, according to a press release from the magazine.

Fisher said the magazine is not unfamiliar with controversy, and it often aims at piquing student attention through incendiary content.

“The issue is dealing with apathy, so we felt that we had to get the students’ attention,” she said. “So the cover is two people, fully nude: one male, one female.”

But that tactic is intended to incite dialogue, not theft, Fisher said.

“We welcome people calling us or writing us, e-mailing us in response to our print,” she said.

Meanwhile, the magazine does not plan on shying away from contentious content.

“We have dealt with controversy on this campus before. We’ll deal with it again,” Fisher said. “We will be as in your face as we can. We have the right to print anything we like, and we will.”

By Brian Hudson, SPLC staff writer

  • Visit the Student Press Law Center’s Newspaper Theft Forum