October 3, 2003

Don't Agree? Dump It.

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Newspapers on opposite sides of the political spectrum have suffered from the phenomenon of dumping, in which stacks of papers are thrown in the garbage.

At various points, both the conservative Cornell Review and liberal Turn Left newspapers have been discarded in bulk, much to the concern of their staffs.

Joseph Sabia grad, a Sun columnist who previously wrote for the Review, said that the paper has been dumped multiple times in the past.

“There’s no doubt that the Review is a specific target,” he said.

Although he did not deny that Turn Left has been dumped, he said, “It happens with far greater frequency to a conservative publication like the Review.”

One of the founders of Turn Left, Tsee Yuan Lee ’02, said that the paper was dumped occasionally when he was on the staff. He recalled placing stacks of papers on racks one day and then returning the next to find them gone.

“We didn’t think we were that popular, so someone was dumping it,” he said.

Confirming that possibility, Ilya Ryzhov ’04 found a stack of Turn Lefts last year in a garbage can in a laundry room of one of the class halls on West Campus.

Neither newspaper has found out who has been discarding the issues. Sabia said that the Review staff considered installing cameras above the distribution bins but found it impractical.

Although the offenders remain unknown, staff on both papers offered various explanations of their motives.

“They probably feel either really threatened by the paper or they really hate the ideology so much that they would [dump it],” Lee said. “We know there’s some people who can’t stand other people being liberal.”

However, others from Turn Left disagreed.

“I don’t think it was particularly against Turn Left,” said Andrew Garib ’06, editor-in-chief of the publication. “I don’t think Turn Left is controversial enough or strong enough of opinion [to be dumped].”

As for the Review, editor-in-chief Joseph Pylman ’04 noted that the newspaper gets dumped most often on North Campus, particularly Robert Purcell Community Center. He speculated that freshmen want to show political activism on campus in some way and carry out that motivation by dumping papers.

Sabia also observed that the Review tends to be dumped when the paper tackles “big issues,” such as their post-Sept. 11 issue.

Garib offered an alternative explanation for the disappearance of some of the papers. He had previously thought that it was the administration and staff quickly removing political papers from public places, treating them as extra clutter. He thinks that perhaps the University does not see political newspapers as doing a public service but merely propaganda, and values them less than other publications.

Staff at both Turn Left and the Cornell Review think that the University administration should take action in some way, possibly by issuing an official statement against the incidents. Also, Lee believes that the administration should impose a fine if the police or administration catches someone dumping a stack of papers.

However, Pylman said that the administration has dismissed most of the Review’s complaints in the past.

“The response that they’ve given us in the past is, ‘Well, you had it coming,'” he said.

Some faculty also believe that the University should take a stand on the issue.

“I think it violates the spirit of the University,” said Prof. Richard Baer, natural resources. “It’s a case where the administration should take a sharp stand and discipline students when they do that.”

However, Kent Hubbell ’67, the Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students, said that the administration does not condone dumping.

“We certainly believe this shouldn’t happen, and when we observe it happening, we try to prevent it,” he said.

Sabia also thinks that the Student Assembly should pass the Cambridge Declaration, a statement that condemns dumping newspapers, among other issues.

Despite their political differences, both sides condemned the dumpings.

“The whole tactic of dumping newspapers … is cowardly, it’s avoiding the issue,” Pylman said.

Lee agreed and also pointed out that dumping student publications wastes Cornell students’ money, since both papers are funded through the Student Assembly Finance Committee.

“If you have to resort to destroying other people’s property, you are threatened by the other group,” he said. “It’s a sign of weakness on anybody’s part.”

Faculty and University administration also denounced the dumpings.

“I think it’s regrettable when any media is vandalized,” Hubbell said. “It interferes with free dissemination of these newspapers.”

Students not associated with either of the organizations also felt that the dumpings are inappropriate.

“I don’t think that’s really a good response,” said Daniel Sternberg ’06. “You look kind of fascist, so to speak.”

Similarly, Kalina Black ’07 said, “There’s a difference between free speech and freedom to destroy.”

Archived article by Shannon Brescher