Editors scuffle with officials over distribution bins

Students say school is trying to restrict paper's circulation

NEW YORK -- Citing 'aesthetic reasons,' administrators at the City University of New York's Graduate Center removed distribution bins for the school's student newspaper and replaced them with two much smaller racks -- a move that editors say seriously hampers their distribution efforts.

Editor Mark Petras said the old bins held up to 300 copies of The Advocate, but now his staff can only distribute around 60 issues at a time in the plastic racks that appeared in April in the lobby of the school's nine-story building, which is the paper's main distribution site.

"If our distribution in the lobby is stopped, it really cuts off circulation to the whole building and the whole school," Petras said.

School officials have designated a shelf, the bottom of six on the rack, as the one on which the papers are to be placed. Petras said that on many occasions, even those copies of the paper were removed and replaced with other university publications, as they were during the week of convocation when the school received a large number of visitors.

When Petras went to administrators with his concerns about the racks, they refused to return the old bins to the lobby. To alleviate the problem that only a small number of papers could be placed on the rack, they suggested that Petras let the building's security officers in the lobby be responsible for replenishing the supply of papers on the shelves.

Petras found this suggestion unacceptable, telling officials that "incorporating non-students into the distribution of The Advocate can do nothing but compromise its mission."

He said he thinks the true motivation behind the distribution struggle is the paper's criticism of the administration.

"I've always believed that the administration looked down on the paper," Petras said. "Although they'll never come out and say it. They'll just impose these seemingly benign policies to hinder the paper."

Steven Gorelick, chief of staff in the office of the school's president, declined to comment, but said in a letter to Petras in May that the university has not impeded distribution of The Advocate.

Petras disagrees, claiming the university's actions constitute an imposition of an unreasonable restriction on the time, place and manner of distribution.

He is now awaiting a reply to a letter of response sent to Gorelick in July, in which Petras again asked to either have the paper's old bins returned to the lobby or be provided a new rack exclusively for The Advocate.

Fall 2000, reports