What if other students try to prevent distribution of student publications that they find offensive?

Many college campuses continue to deal with the problem of students’ confiscating newspapers to prevent the circulation of stories or ideas that they find offensive. Every year, cases are reported where entire runs of a publication are stolen, depriving the campus of the opportunity to even consider what was published. Unfortunately, very few of these instances have resulted in meaningful punishment of the offenders.

The problem in punishing those who steal papers is twofold. From the legal perspective, it is difficult to successfully prosecute the perpetrators for theft, as the newspapers are distributed free to whoever chooses to pick one (or 1,000) up. Prosecutors in a handful of cases have used charges of criminal mischief and vandalism, in addition to the more conventional theft charges, to secure punishment for those responsible for stealing papers. But the vast majority of such incidents go unheard by courts of law. Some universities have been accused of downplaying the importance of mass newspaper thefts out of fear of further offending various groups.

Category: Freedom of Speech

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