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

RHODE ISLAND — A college president issued a mass-email in support of free student speech and press following an apparent theft of student newspapers at the Community College of Rhode Island.

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

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

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

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

Di Pasquale concluded his message with a warning that the college would pursue “full disciplinary action” toward anyone engaging in newspaper theft.

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

“It’s a great step forward,” Armistead said, “but it wasn’t necessarily the way we wanted it to happen.”

The only controversial story in this issue was about health code violations in the school cafeteria, Armitstead said. Prior to the second disappearance, Armitstead suspected the school’s cleaning crew had innocently thrown the papers out.

He said there were also a number of outside organizations using 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 college to newspaper theft.

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

College spokesman Richard Coren said the college plans to investigate the incident.

The next issue of The Unfiltered Lens will be published Friday.

Community College of Rhode Island, news, Rhode Island, The Unfiltered Lens