Is your school paper going to publish a story you don’t like? Just steal all the hard copies.

Sarah McLaughlin of the FIRE blog reports.

Over 1,000 Newspapers Stolen at Auburn University

The Student Press Law Center reports that on August 28, more than 1,000 copies of The Auburn Plainsman were stolen, costing Auburn University’s student newspaper nearly $800. The newspapers disappeared from seven locations throughout Auburn’s campus. So far no one has claimed responsibility for the theft, but the paper’s editors believe that one of its stories may have been the cause.

The Plainsman’s potentially controversial stories included an editorial criticizing Auburn’s Student Government Association, a story on a council member who blamed his election loss on voter fraud, and the content of the regular Crime Reports feature, which often features student infractions.

Unfortunately, campus newspaper theft is not uncommon. In 2010, Members of Texas A&M University’s football team confiscated copies of the student newspaper (and were congratulated by their coach for doing so) in response to a story on drug use by team members. At Christopher Newport University (CNU) in Virginia, a student who was displeased with a story covering the arrest of a former campus police officer in CNU’s The Captain’s Log disposed of over 700 newspapers in 2011.

Students are not the only ones who engage in this form of censorship. At Oregon State University (OSU), administrators stopped the distribution of newspapers from the school’s conservative paper, The Liberty, by confiscating and trashing its newspaper bins. However, OSU learned a lesson about censorship when it was forced to pay $101,000 to settle the case this year.

Newspaper theft is one of the most egregious forms of censorship on campus. Students and administrators do not have have the right to censor a newspaper simply because they are offended by its content. If students dislike the content of a newspaper or disagree with the opinions expressed in it, they should express that by writing a letter to the editor or by using some other platform to share their countervailing view, instead of illegally stealing the newspaper.