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The Stylus

The Stylus

The Stylus

Silencing The Stylus: hundreds of copies stolen 

University Police investigated newspaper disappearance. (Photo Credit: Sam Piccione)

Hundreds of copies of The Stylus mysteriously disappeared from the Seymour Union less than two weeks after they hit the stands on Feb. 16.  

After conducting an extensive investigation into the theft of the newspapers, University Police determined that a Seymour Union employee was responsible for the removal and disposal of more than 200 copies of the February edition of The Stylus from the bin in the Seymour Union.  

The Stylus distributes 750 papers around campus and in the Village of Brockport every print at a cost of more than $1,000.   

After The Stylus staff spent weeks trying to solve the mystery of the missing newspapers, a Seymour Union employee admitted to taking the papers in an email sent to the paper’s Editor-in-Chief. Because it’s a personnel matter, The Stylus has chosen not to identify the person responsible.  

The employee wrote in an email, “My team and I will remove any newspaper from the display stands after they have been there for two weeks. This is done to keep things up to date in the building and drive student engagement.”  

The front cover of the Feb. 16 issue featured an interview with a Michigan State University student journalist just days after the school shooting had occurred.   

In addition to filing a report with University Police, The Stylus also contacted the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) for guidance. The SPLC is an advocacy group based in Washington D.C. that works to defend the First Amendment and free press rights for student journalists.   

“Newspaper theft is a crime. Even in the online/digital age, theft of physical newspapers continues to be an appalling form of censorship,” the SPLC explains on its website. “Each year student publications across the country fall victim to thieves whose intent is to prevent the dissemination of news, information and opinion in which they disagree.”  

In a conversation with SPLC attorney Jonathan Falk, the seriousness of the removal of the papers became clear. 

“This is a complete violation of first amendment rights and is a form of indirect censorship,” Falk said. “It’s case law-even if staff change the location of where people can get the paper that is indirect censorship. Newspaper theft deprives the rightful owner of their property and is theft in criminal and civil context.”  

Falk also said that the SPLC will “find a pro bono counsel to send your administrator a cease-and-desist letter, as well as potentially a demand in tow considering the theft.”  

The Stylus is funded by Brockport Student Government (BSG) which is a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Students are required to pay a student activity fee each year which helps fund organizations under BSG. In this scenario, part of that fee was essentially thrown in the trash along with the news.  

Journalism Department Chairperson Marsha Ducey, Ph.D. explained how important it is to ensure student press rights are protected.   

“If an employee of the university removed the paper without talking to members of The Stylus, that is viewed as a kind of censorship. You’re stopping people from seeing the newspaper,” Ducey said.  

The Stylus has a rate in its masthead which states that the first copy is free and additional copies cost 25 cents with hopes to prevent egregious situations such as this from happening. managing editor of The Stylus Lainey Porter explained that staff feel as though they’ve always been supported by administration and believe the incident stemmed from a lack of awareness.  

“We don’t want anyone to get into serious trouble with the law, but we do hope to bring awareness to this issue of censorship and student press rights.” Porter said. “Printing The Stylus is extremely time consuming and costly. It’s something we take pride in and never want to see shoved aside. Businesses also pay to advertise in our paper. They don’t pay to have their ads thrown away.”  

Union managers have apologized and have assured The Stylus that such violations of the First Amendment will never happen again. University Police sent the case to the university’s Human Resources Department where it is currently being handled. 

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