College Censorship Via Dumpster: a Look at Who Is Throwing Away Student Newspapers

When I was editor of my college newspaper (this was forever ago when Geocities and AOL were kings of the Internet), we printed some story that was critical of somebody or other. Possibly the college president. Possibly the school’s disciplinary process. Possibly Monsanto. The newspaper hit the racks right before a break period. When we returned from the break, we discovered that most of the newspapers had been cleared from the racks. The administration told us they had disposed of them over the break as part of the “cleaning process,” an explanation we found deeply suspicious, but we carried on.

Our experience was far from isolated. College newspapers get snatched from the racks and dumped frequently by various aggrieved parties, sometimes university officials, but often students. The Student Press Law Center has an interactive map that tracks reports of censorship via dumpster from 2000 on. The SPLC calculates more than half a million college newspapers have been trashed over the past 12 years. That’s a lot of students upset over getting their pot busts reported.

The map features markers with additional information for notable dumping incidents. Here’s a few that stood out:

University of California at Berkeley
Date: 11/4/2002
Summary: Police said that Berkeley mayor Tom Bates admitted responsibility for stealing and trashing about 1,000 copies of The Daily Californian that carried an editorial endorsement of his opponent. According to the paper, Bates had earlier denied the theft, but eventually released a statement apologizing for his actions. Several students told police they saw Bates trash the papers. Police have recommended to the district attorney he be charged with petty theft. The newspaper was able to recover 90 percent of the papers.

According to Wikipedia, Bates was ultimately fined $100 and made amends after winning the election by getting a law passed banning the theft of free newspapers.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Date: 3/17/2009
Summary: Two campus police officers admitted to recycling 300 issues of The Tech after a front page story of a MIT police officer getting arrested for drug trafficking in East Boston. Staffers learned of the incident and were able to file a police report as well as restore a majority of the papers to their proper stands. The officers were suspended without pay.

 Well, at least they didn’t arrange for a SWAT raid on the newspaper office.

North Dakota State University
Date: 5/28/2008
Summary: After The Spectrum published a special issue featuring a five-page list of salaries of all university employees ran, 4,500 copies went missing from stands. The editor said a number of university employees called to complain about the paper publishing the salaries and believes that prompted the theft. The editor estimated losses of about $3,000.

One could imagine how much publishing exactly where college money is going could interfere with all those calls for more Pell Grants and government subsidies for higher education.

(Tip of the hat to the hat with a tip – Popehat)

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  • db||

    It was common at Penn State in the 1990s for conservative student newspapers to mysteriously disappear from their displays in bulk shortly after publication.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    That happened there in the 60s too. YAFers just laid in wait and took photos of the miscreants, who turned out to be SDS activists, and plastered "wanted-thief" posters around campus.

  • fried wylie||

    IT'S A TRAP!!!

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    It was common at Penn State in the 1990s for conservative student newspapers to mysteriously disappear from their displays in bulk shortly after publication.

    You know what else mysteriously disappeared at Penn State during the 1990's?

  • SugarFree||

    Academic standards?

  • db||

    Hey!

  • Calidissident||

    Moral integrity?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Yes. Actually, it is uncanny because that was pretty much the answer and wording I was thinking when I wrote the question.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Jerry Sandusky's salami?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    According to Wikipedia, Bates was ultimately fined $100 and made amends after winning the election by getting a law passed banning the theft of free newspapers.

    Bates should have edited that page to read that he was cleared of all charges and that he is genuinely delightful.

  • fried wylie||

    I think it's funny that people feel the need to destroy the newspapers to hide the information they contain. Could save some lifting and just leave them unread where they were initially distributed. Or the newspapers could save everybody some effort and just put a dumpster chute right off their copier.

  • Loki||

    Well, at least they didn’t arrange for a SWAT raid on the newspaper office.

    I'm going to guess that that's only because the MIT campus police didn't have a SWAT team. I'm sure that since this incident they've aquired a tank courtesy of the Pentagon.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    One could imagine how much publishing exactly where college money is going could interfere with all those calls for more Pell Grants and government subsidies for higher education.

    Publishing personal information is bullshit, and I assure you that most "college money" doesn't go into salaries. If they wanted to do an expose on how much money was being spent on salaries they could publish aggregate amounts for each department or admin unit or whatever. There is NO plausible benefit to publishing personal information, other than giving thieves, kidnappers, and burglars a useful target list.

  • R C Dean||

    Publishing personal information is bullshit,

    What if the college is directly taxpayer-funded? Does the public not have a right to know how its money is being spent?

    What if the college is tax-exempt? Tax-exempt organizations generally are required to tell anyone who asks what their control persons/highest paid employees make.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Of course they have a right to know how the money is being spent, in the aggregate. Personally, no. There's no conceivable public interest in knowing how much an individual janitor makes.

  • SIV||

    Two campus police officers admitted to recycling 300 issues of The Tech

    Do you know who else used to "recycle" degenerate literature?

    I'm amazed they still publish student newspapers in the digital age.
    Back in the day I could see why "aggrieved parties" would try and destroy a publication everyone casually read looking for the "buy one pitcher get one free" coupons.

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