The Student Press Law Center (SPLC) reports that an episode of missing newspapers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) has a somewhat benign ending.
As it turns out, no one was stealing or destroying copies of the University Press student newspaper because of their disagreement with the paper’s content. Rather, the papers were nabbed by students in an engineering class:
Mariam Aldhahi, editor in chief of the University Press student newspaper, said they discovered Jan. 30 that students took the 2,600 papers for a class project.
The class was required to build bridges out of newspaper to withstand certain amounts of weight. The professor, Aldhahi said, did not know he was encouraging illegal activity by telling students to use the UP.
Once informed, the professor apologized and told his students to stop taking so many papers. Aldhahi said students even came to the newsroom to apologize personally.
While this reflects the too-frequent misunderstanding that taking gobs of "free" newspapers is harmless, we’re thankful that this case had a different ending than what we’re used to seeing when it comes to newspaper theft on campus. From UMass Amherst to American University to Towson University, we are sadly too accustomed to reading about students stealing and destroying newspapers en masse because of their opposition to what’s printed inside. In fact, FAU itself had such an episode a little over a year ago, with severe criminal consequences for the perpetrator.
Such boorish actions are not only an affront to the First Amendment, they are embarrassing and reveal a dangerous willingness to silence opposing views. I’m glad that was not the case this time at FAU, and that the accidental thieves have learned their lesson from this.