R.I. college president speaks out after apparent newspaper theft

RHODE ISLAND — Acollege president issued a mass-email in support of free student speech and pressfollowing an apparent theft of student newspapers at the Community College ofRhode Island.

The Unfiltered LensEditor-in-Chief Ian Armitstead said about 450 copies of the paper went missingbetween Friday and Wednesday, even though this week was spring break.

When Armitstead went to the newsroom Tuesday, he noticedsome bins at the Knight campus in Warwick were completely empty. He and adviserSteve Forleo refilled the bins, which were empty again the following morning.

Armitstead issued an email complaint to collegeadministrators. Wednesday afternoon, President Ray Di Pasquale alerted allstudents, faculty and staff that such activities would not be tolerated.

“The college allows materials, such as the studentnewspaper, to be placed in our buildings and expects that those materials willbe treated with respect,” Di Pasquale wrote. “Readers may not always agree withall of the opinions expressed, but the one area that we will always agree on isthe protected right to express them.”

Di Pasquale concluded his message with a warning that thecollege would pursue “full disciplinary action” toward anyone engaging innewspaper theft.

Armitstead said the Office of Student Life is also planningto include a student newspaper theft provision in the student handbook, and theuniversity attorney is planning to include it in the employee handbook.

“It’s a great step forward,” Armistead said, “but it wasn’tnecessarily the way we wanted it to happen.”

The only controversial story in this issue was about healthcode violations in the school cafeteria, Armitstead said. Prior to the seconddisappearance, Armitstead suspected the school’s cleaning crew had innocentlythrown the papers out.

He said there were also a number of outside organizationsusing campus facilities during spring break.

Adam Goldstein, Student Press Law Center attorney advocate,said this is perhaps the strongest reaction he’s ever heard of from a collegeto newspaper theft.

“I guess it says a lot about where we are right now with theFirst Amendment that someone standing up for not censoring is surprising,”Goldstein said. “But it is. Newspaper theft is an issue that not every collegepresident is going to understand intrinsically, so it’s encouraging that thisone does.”

College spokesman Richard Coren said the college plans toinvestigate the incident.

The next issue of TheUnfiltered Lens will be published Friday.