Campus Life

Missing Papers During Open House Prompts Blame Game

by Joe Liggio, Senior Writer

It looks like we’ve got another mystery on our hands.

Prior to Manhattan’s most recent Open House for prospective students on Oct. 27, copies of the Quadrangle were reorganized or disappeared completely from newsstands in several different locations across campus. With no clear perpetrator, several offices at the college are now pointing fingers in the ensuing investigation into what may have happened.

The newspaper issue in question, Volume 100, Issue 9, featured the headline “Mold Returns to Campus: Horan and Alumni Hall Affected.” Apportioned to the Quadrangle’s 16 newspaper racks around campus on Tuesday, Oct. 22, copies lasted on stands throughout the weekend, until things went sour sometime prior to the start of the event that Sunday.

Just before 9 a.m., three hours before Open House’s scheduled start time, a Quadrangle staff member noticed that no extra copies of Issue 9 were present behind the security desk on the second floor of Kelly Commons, the location where newspapers are delivered weekly and additional copies are retained.

After a brief search, distribution racks on the ground floor of Kelly, the third floor of Thomas Hall and the entrance to Chrysostom Hall were found to be completely empty prior to Open House.

In De La Salle and Miguel Halls, racks were reorganized so that remaining copies of Issue 8 from the previous week were placed on top of copies of Issue 9, obscuring the newer edition from view. The copies of Issue 9 once visible in the racks’ clear display panes were also replaced with leftover copies of Issue 8.

Adding to the mystery, some of the missing copies reappeared on a Thomas Hall newsstand sometime prior to 11 a.m. the next morning.

After Quadrangle and communication department staff working at the Open House exhibition in Draddy Gymnasium were made aware of the situation during the event, some began to seek out answers from administrators and faculty also present.

Quadrangle advisor Nick Gilewicz and communication department founding Chair Thom Gencarelli discussed the matter with Provost and Executive Vice President William Clyde soon after receiving news of the missing papers.

“On the day of Open House I had no knowledge that the Quadrangle papers had been removed from racks,” said Clyde in an e-mail statement. “When [Gilewicz] told me that I said I didn’t know anything about it (didn’t know it had happened) but wondered whether admissions (no name mentioned) might know anything about it.”

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Tara Fay-Reilly spared no time in responding when asked if admissions may have played a role in the removal.

“Absolutely not,” said Fay-Reilly.

She added that admissions staff were aware of the mold-related article featured in the issue and had put talking points together prior to open house in the event that visiting students or families had questions about the story.

“There are no smoke and mirrors here,” said Fay-Reilly, adding that admissions attempts to show off Manhattan’s campus “warts and all.”

Both Gilewicz and Clyde also discussed the matter with William Bisset, Vice President for Enrollment Management, who was present in Draddy at the time.

“[I] asked [Bisset] if he knew anything,” said Clyde. “He said he was quite sure his staff had not removed them.”

Bisset echoed this chain of events.

“At open house Dr. Clyde approached me … and asked if I had any knowledge of Quadrangle editions being removed from different places on campus, to which I said no,” said Bisset.

Upon being informed of the situation, Bisset approached Peter DeCaro of Public Safety, who then relayed the information to Associate Director of Public Safety David Erosa. Erosa then discussed the matter with nearby facilities staff including Victor Schneider, Assistant Director of Physical Plant.

“When I was informed … that someone had taken newspapers out … I told [Gilewicz] I would do an investigation,” said Erosa. “So one of the preliminary things I did, I spoke to Victor Schneider of Physical Plant. And he said, ‘Well usually we’ll clean them out if they’re old or if they’re messy, we do that all the time.’”

Bisset confirmed that DeCaro had relayed this information to him as well.

“I was told Mr. Schneider informed Public Safety the papers were removed by Facilities in preparation for Open House and that in years past, ‘old Quadrangle editions are routinely removed by facilities when they [are] getting the campus ready for Open House,’” said Bisset via email. “This revelation was news to me.”

Bisset reconfirmed this statement in a subsequent interview with the Quadrangle.

“Nothing nefarious, nothing intentional, but that facilities people, in cleaning up the campus, in preparing the campus for open house, normally will remove older editions of the Quadrangle … and that it was Victor Schneider that said his guys moved the papers. Where they moved them? I don’t know.”

Schneider has since said that this statement was never made.

“[That’s] false. I’ve never said that. We’ve never done that,” said Schneider.

“Physical plant’s role for events, not just open house, is getting campus ready … Part of stuff getting ready for events … is removal of garbage, trash and debris, but typically on the exteriors of buildings. Interior of buildings is not Physical Plant. We don’t clean, we maintain,” said Schneider.

He continued.

“If there’s an obstruction in a corridor … if a [newspaper] stanchion is blocking egress at a doorway, will we move it? Yes, because the safety of the people and the interaction of the doorway is impacted … That’s not a practice we do, of removing Quadrangle newspapers from stanchions for an open house,” said Schneider.

Schenider recalled removing one or two dozen copies from a stand on the second floor of Thomas Hall on the morning of Open House, but only to distribute them within Physical Plant offices, a practice he often does weekly. He added that he also left numerous copies remaining on the stand that he took from.

“No one’s looking to remove them, and certainly I didn’t give any directive to have them pulled,” said Schneider. “That’s no intention on our part to do that and that’s not a role we play here.”

Erosa reaffirmed that the statement was made by Schneider.

“That’s the information I received … That’s what I was informed and informed [Bisset] by,” said Erosa.

When asked about newspaper removals in the past, former Quadrangle Editor-in-Chief Stephen D. Zubrycky, ‘19, echoed assertions made by Schneider.

“In my four years with the Quadrangle, I never noticed any routine effort on the part of facilities to remove Quadrangle stacks in advance of admissions events,” said Zubrycky, who led the paper in 2017.

“I will also add that any effort on the part of the college to remove papers that the administration may deem unflattering would amount to censorship, and be a grave betrayal of the trust that must exist between the college and its students.”

Taylor Brethauer, ‘19, Editor-in-Chief in 2018, noted that papers would go missing from newsstands on rare occasion, but without any apparent suspects or correlation to the timing of admissions events.

“It was not something I was aware of happening super often during my time on staff at the Quadrangle, but on the occasions that it did happen, there was never any warning or communication given to any of us on staff … [I] would notice the papers missing in the popular locations– Thomas, Kelly, the library, etc.– basically any high traffic racks for major visitation days,” said Brethauer. “It was extremely frustrating, because it was random throughout the year.”

While an examination of security camera footage covering affected newspaper stands would seemingly provide answers to the situation, this measure would end up proving fruitless.

“I went back to the videotape and I was looking at the locations and I couldn’t find anything,” said Erosa. “What happens is, when they’re in the cloud, it doesn’t hold, ‘cause there’s so many cameras on the cloud, it doesn’t hold … it might go in like a week.”

He continued.

“And a lot of locations aren’t on camera … We couldn’t find anything, and I wish we did.”

Aside from the obvious implications regarding free speech on a college campus, the removal of The Quadrangle also comes at a monetary cost to the school.

Printing a 12-page edition of The Quadrangle, like the missing issue in question, comes at a cost of $750 per week.

Student Engagement, which oversees and provides funding for clubs on campus like The Quadrangle, falls under the Office of Student Life, which is headed by VP for Student Life Richard Satterlee.

“I do not support removing the newspaper from the stands, and I was disappointed to hear this occurred,” said Satterlee in an e-mail statement.

This is not the first time The Quadrangle has faced suppression in its history at Manhattan College.

Another stand-out example occurred in 2011, when staff from Student Engagement, (then known as Student Activities), admitted to censoring as well as throwing out copies of that year’s Triangle, the newspaper’s annual satirical April Fool’s issue.

Like last month’s incident, this removal occurred just prior to another on-campus event for prospective students— in that case, an Accepted Students Day— and resulted in even more finger pointing between administrators, who also implicated Residence Life in the act. Reasoning for the pull ranged from foul language contained within the issue to mishandled directives from supervisors, who supposedly intended to return the issues to newstands after the end of Accepted Students Day.

Unfortunately, the theft of student publications is an all-too common occurrence at colleges throughout the United States.

According to the Student Press Law Center, a non-profit organization which works to protect First Amendment and press freedom rights for high school and college journalists, ten newspaper theft incidents have been reported at American colleges to date in 2019, totalling over 8,300 stolen copies. The theft of newspapers like The Quadrangle is still considered a prosecutable crime, even if issues are freely distributed on college campuses.

Ultimately, while the culprits behind this disappearance have still yet to be realized, it seems that those in leadership roles at the school have taken notice of the issue.

Dr. Gencarelli summed up his thoughts on The Quadrangle’s removal in an e-mail statement to the paper.

“I understand, from a public relations standpoint, why the College’s administration would not want the College newspaper, with a front page story on mold in campus buildings, to be something the parents of prospective students would potentially see and read during the one Open House event we hold each year. What I do not appreciate is the way this was mishandled,” said Gencarelli. “This is not positive, respectful, nor constructive behavior on the part of this person— nor, in following from this, on the part of the entire administration. And it reflects on the entire administration exactly because we do not know who was responsible.”

He continued.

“This was, I am sure, a knee-jerk, last-second response by the person who made the decision. And I am sure the reason he or she has not come forward is that he or she is embarrassed by how poorly he or she handled it.”