By: Sruli Fruchter and Jonathan Levin  | 

For Third Time This Semester, Stacks of Commentator Issues Removed From YU Without Notice

Stacks of The Commentator’s latest issue — estimated to be between 150-250 copies — were removed without authorization from their newspaper stand in the lobby of Mendel Gottesman Library on Wednesday, Dec. 29, one day after they were distributed on campus. This was the third time that issues of The Commentator have been removed from this location in the past two months.  

The Commentator printed 550 copies of its final issue of the semester on Tuesday, Dec. 28. That morning, the issues were distributed throughout various buildings on Wilf Campus, including two newspaper stands in the Gottesman building lobby, where they remained throughout the day. A full stack of issues in one of the stands was designated for Beren Campus, to be delivered the next day. By the following afternoon, the stand was empty. 

In the lobby, two other newspaper stands remained untouched. One held Commentator issues and was across the room beside Nagel Cafe, and the other held several of The YU Observer’s previous issues, stationed several feet from the empty Commentator stand.

At this time, it is unclear who removed the newspapers and for what reason.

After discovering the latest incident, The Commentator reached out to several university departments about the matter but nearly all inquiries were unanswered. The two administrators who responded — Vice Provost for Student Affairs Chaim Nissel and Chief Facilities and Administrative Officer Randy Apfelbaum —  did not have any information regarding the paper’s disappearances nor the motives behind their removal. The university also did not provide any assurances that this won’t reoccur.

“No idea,” Apfelbaum wrote. “We could see if the security cameras captured something but I don’t think there are any aimed at that area.”

Nissel responded, “I am sorry to hear this,” before urging The Commentator to speak with the Security Department to investigate the matter and “see how this can be prevented.”

Over the last two months, The Commentator contacted security on six separate occasions to inquire about these incidents but was told the department did not know anything about the incidents. 

The first of these incidents, occurring in late October, saw both The Commentator’s and The YU Observer’s issues removed from their stands; this incident took place days after The YU Observer published its October issue. 

The Commentator discovered this independently and subsequently contacted the administration about the incident. At the time, at an administrator’s recommendation, the Security Department was contacted. One security guard noted that he did not know anything about the incident and that he could not access the Gottesman building lobby’s security camera. 

A few weeks later, before YU’s Wilf Campus open house on Sunday, Nov. 21, the newspaper racks in the Gottesman building’s lobby were transferred to a side storage area without The Commentator being notified. After The Commentator contacted Aliza Berenholz Peled, assistant vice president of events and special projects, The Commentator was informed that the stands were removed by custodians since “they were all empty and sitting there.” The stands were returned Tuesday morning before The Commentator published its fourth issue. In this case, as with the others, The Commentator did not approve of the stands being emptied.

A few weeks ago, according to The YU Observer, two of its newspaper stands in Beren Campus’ 245 Lexington Ave. building were turned to face the wall, effectively hiding the papers from public view. 

Both The Commentator and The YU Observer are operated independently of Yeshiva University, which includes each paper raising and securing its own finances. The long-standing arrangement between the student papers and the university has been for each paper to house its printed issues in stands across both Beren and Wilf campuses. 

Costs for printing each Commentator issue amount to several hundred dollars, depending on the number of papers and other factors, such as printing in color. The university did not address The Commentator’s inquiries to whether it would reimburse the paper for its financial losses incurred from these missing papers. 

A similar series of events occurred to The Commentator in the past. In 1999, The New York Times reported that 1,800 copies across multiple issues of The Commentator, many of which had articles critical of YU, were removed by university officials prior to events where outsiders were expected on campus. One removed issue included an article that university officials were behind the paper’s removal. At the time, editors at The Commentator requested approximately $2,000 in reimbursement related to lost costs.

After Times reporters contacted the university about the disappearances and shortly before the Times published their article, the university reimbursed The Commentator $1,800 and sent the paper a letter saying that YU “did not condone removing or disposing of the paper.”

Photo Caption: On Tuesday night, the stand was full. The next afternoon, an editor noticed it was empty.

Photo Credit: The Commentator