University of Massachusetts at Amherst: Student Newspapers Stolen While Police Officer Watches

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of Massachusetts – Amherst

When a student government leader was ridiculed in an issue of conservative campus newspaper The Minuteman, she decided to take matters into her own hands. The student, Vanessa Snow, was mocked by name as a leader of UMass Amherst’s student group Student Bridges, a campus organization supported by the UMass Amherst Student Government Association, because of Student Bridges’ finances. She violated the First Amendment right to free speech of the student group that publishes the newspaper by standing on the stack of newspapers, then grabbing them out of the hands of a student after she was required to stop standing on the stack. Meanwhile, the police officer who was on the scene watched and did nothing, but then filed a police report that does not match the video of the event. After FIRE intervened, Snow reportedly was held accountable, but it is unknown whether detective Lisa Kidwell faced disciplinary action.

  • UMass-Amherst abandons free-speech rights

    April 21, 2009

    An organization that defends individual liberty in education is taking issue with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Last month UMass-Amherst came under fire for its treatment of conservative columnist Don Feder. Feder was invited by a conservative school club to give a presentation, but was unable to do so after student protestors heckled him off stage while university officials stood by. Now another censorship issue is brewing on the campus after student protestors stole copies of a conservative newspaper and blocked its distribution on campus. Adam Kissel is the director of the individual rights defense program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, […]

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  • Administration rejects SGA suspension of ‘The Minuteman’

    August 7, 2013

    by S.P. Sullivan The Daily Collegian Online   Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life Esther Terry rejected an enactment by the Student Government Association (SGA) that would suspend conservative campus newspaper The Minuteman in a letter to President Ngozi Mbawuike last week. The letter, dated April 15, informed Mbawuike and the SGA that the enactment, which would suspend the registered student organization (RSO) the Silent Majority, which publishes the paper, did not bear Terry’s signature. “As the enactment does not reflect an appreciation of the Silent Majority’s constitutional right to the exercise of free speech, I reject it […]

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  • FIRE’s Top 3 Free Press Cases

    January 31, 2013

    Over the years, FIRE has repeatedly gone to bat for student newspapers and student journalists faced with censorship. That censorship came in many forms, ranging from newspaper theft, reduced support from student activity funds, and the firing of faculty advisors, to prior review and editorial control of content. Since it’s Free Press Week, here, in no particular order, are three of the most egregious examples of free press violations from FIRE’s case archives. 1. Prior Restraint at Quinnipiac University Prior restraint was the censorship tool of choice for administrators at Quinnipiac University (QU) from 2007 through much of 2008. Back […]

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  • Under Pressure from FIRE, UMass Amherst Revises 2010’s Speech Code of the Year

    February 14, 2011

    Under pressure from FIRE, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has revised its policy governing rallies on campus—and not a moment too soon. FIRE supporters will remember that the policy had earned UMass Amherst intensely negative attention, both here on The Torch and in the national media. In January, FIRE named the policy the 2010 Speech Code of the Year. In the post announcing this dubious distinction, Sam explained just why UMass Amherst’s policy was a cut above—or below—all the rest: While all 12 Speech Codes of the Month in 2010 flagrantly violated students’ right to free expression, one-the University […]

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  • Glaring Deficiencies Revealed in Police Report Following Theft of ‘The Minuteman’

    June 18, 2009

    There is an old adage that when you don’t have the law on your side you argue the facts, and that when you don’t have the facts on your side you argue the law. What if you have neither on your side? You end up with something like Detective Lisa Kidwell’s official report filed after the theft of The Minuteman at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Indeed, the report is riddled with distortions, inaccuracies, and untruths so evident that one wonders how someone who was there could have composed it. Torch readers may remember the theft of The Minuteman […]

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  • Victory for First Amendment Rights at UMass Amherst: Administration Rejects Censorship of Newspaper

    April 23, 2009

    Under pressure from FIRE, University of Massachusetts Amherst has rejected the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. In addition, FIRE has learned that UMass Amherst has held accountable at least one of the people who stole copies of The Minuteman out of the hands of a student while a campus police officer watched and did nothing. Several video recordings of the newspaper theft at UMass show UMass police officer Lisa Kidwell idly standing by as hundreds of copies of The Minuteman are stolen out of the hands of a […]

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  • Victory for First Amendment Rights at UMass Amherst: Administration Rejects Censorship of Newspaper

    April 23, 2009

    AMHERST, Mass., April 23, 2009—Under pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), University of Massachusetts Amherst has rejected the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. In addition, FIRE has learned that UMass Amherst has held accountable at least one of the people who stole copies of The Minuteman out of the hands of a student while a campus police officer watched and did nothing. “Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was right: Sunlight is the best of disinfectants,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Next time, maybe UMass […]

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  • First Amendment Chaos at UMass Amherst

    April 16, 2009

    Our press release today explains how multiple First Amendment violations have rocked the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in recent days. UMass has done nothing about the videotaped theft of and, later, the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. Worse, last night, when a student senator offered a bill to reverse the unconstitutional censorship of The Minuteman, the Senate’s speaker had the UMass police throw him out (video of this incident is expected soon). These assaults on free speech came in the wake of last month’s disgraceful episode in […]

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  • UMass Amherst Stands by as Student Newspaper is Stolen and Censored

    April 16, 2009

    AMHERST, Mass., April 16, 2009—Multiple First Amendment violations have rocked the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in recent days. UMass has done nothing about the videotaped theft of and, later, the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. Worse, last night, when a student senator offered a bill to reverse the unconstitutional censorship of The Minuteman, the Senate’s speaker had the UMass police throw him out (video of this incident is expected soon). These assaults on free speech came in the wake of last month’s disgraceful episode in which a […]

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  • UMass Amherst SGA Ejects Senator Standing Up for the First Amendment

    April 16, 2009

    This is a must-read. Yesterday I reported on a resolution introduced to the UMass Amherst student government that would have resolved most of the First Amendment issues currently boiling over on campus, following the student government’s attempt to coerce a student organization to apologize for its protected expression or else be derecognized and essentially destroyed. But here’s what happened, according to the sponsor of the resolution: Everything is a matter of public record with footage. I sent the bill to the speaker and associate speaker on Monday by 6 pm the deadline. The speaker refused to put the bill on […]

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  • UMass Amherst Student Government Has a Chance to Restore First Amendment Rights

    April 15, 2009

    The University of Massachusetts Amherst Student Government Association (SGA) has failed the First Amendment in almost every possible way by trying to punish a student organization for its protected speech in its March/April 2009 issue of The Minuteman. Tonight, they reportedly have a chance to undo the damage. The organization in question, The Silent Majority, already has had virtually the entire recent press run of its newspaper, The Minuteman, stolen from around campus (and we have the video to prove some of it). The stolen issue criticizes another UMass Amherst student organization, Student Bridges, for its “reckless spending,” and provides […]

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  • Derek Khanna removed from SGA senate meeting

    April 15, 2009

    Commuter Area Senator Derek Khanna was removed from last night’s Student Government Association senate meeting in what he described as a demonstration in support of the first amendment. Khanna submitted a motion for last night’s meeting that proposed the senate’s retraction of a resolution it passed last week. The previously passed resolution requested that the publication The Minuteman apologize for comments that the senate described as slander in its last meeting. Khanna believed the previous resolution violated the paper’s right to free speech and distributed a legal argument to members of the senate in support of his motion. Senate speaker […]

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  • FIRE Letter to UMass Amherst Chancellor Robert C. Holub

    April 10, 2009

    April 10, 2009 Chancellor Robert C. Holub University of Massachusetts Amherst 374 Whitmore Administration Building Amherst, Massachusetts 01003 URGENT Sent by U.S. Mail and Facsimile (413-545-2328) Dear Chancellor Holub: FIRE is disappointed to be writing you for the second time within a month about violations of the rights of students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst). We wrote you on March 24 with serious concerns about the excessive security fee charged to the Republican Club for an event featuring controversial speaker Don Feder. We asked for a response by April 14 but have not yet received one. We […]

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  • Video: Newspaper Theft at UMass Amherst While Police Officer Watches

    April 2, 2009

    Thieves at UMass Amherst grab scores of copies of conservative student newspaper The Minuteman out of a man’s hands while a police officer watches and does nothing. Here’s the video.

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  • Hell week for campus free speech

    April 2, 2009

    The week is not quite over, and it’s already been a lousy one for free speech on America’s campuses. Yesterday, angry students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst were caught on video stealing a conservative student newspaper, while a police officer stood by and not only watched, but excused the students’ behavior. A graduate student protested the attempt to steal hundreds of copies of the newspaper, explaining that the newspaper said right on its front page that only the first copy was free and every following copy was three dollars (a tactic necessitated over the years by hundreds of previous […]

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  • Breaking News: Freedom of the Press Disrupted at UMass Amherst

    April 1, 2009

    Within a day of distributing their most recent issue on campus, the student journalists responsible for publishing The Minuteman, a conservative newspaper at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, had their issues stolen by vandals, had to contact the local police department, and had to attempt to wrestle their issues back from the would-be thieves while a police officer looked on, refusing to offer assistance. Members of The Minuteman immediately contacted FIRE, and we have promptly begun investigating the issue. According to one eyewitness, he discovered a woman standing on a stack of issues, refusing to allow community members the opportunity […]

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