105 Misc.2d 793, Ithaca College v. Yale Daily News Pub. Co., Inc.

Citation105 Misc.2d 793, 433 N.Y.S.2d 530
Party NameIthaca College v. Yale Daily News Pub. Co., Inc.
Case DateNovember 03, 1980
CourtSupreme Court of New York

Page 793

105 Misc.2d 793

433 N.Y.S.2d 530

ITHACA COLLEGE, Plaintiff,

v.

YALE DAILY NEWS PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC. d/b/a The Yale

Daily News; and Berkley Publishing Corporation, Defendants.

Supreme Court of New York

November 3, 1980.

[433 N.Y.S.2d 531] Wiggins, Tsapis, Holmberg & Galbraith, Ithaca, for plaintiff (Dirk A. Galbraith, Ithaca, of counsel).

Parker, Duryee, Zunino, Malone & Carter, New York City, for defendants (William Lee Kinnallay, Jr., New York City, of counsel).

ROBERT E. FISCHER, Justice.

In this action for libel, defendants have moved on various grounds for summary judgment. With the single exception of the issues raised as to the statute of limitations, the facts are not in dispute.

The issues relate to "The Insider's Guide to the Colleges 1978-79", which was compiled and edited by the student staff of the defendant Yale Daily News (Yale) and published by defendant Berkley Publishing Corporation (Berkley). This 404 page paperback publication contains descriptive commentary of 230 colleges and universities throughout the country. Plaintiff, Ithaca College, as one of those institutions, deems certain aspects of an article relating to it to be defamatory. In particular, the college asserts that the following paragraph contains material (herein underlined) which damages both its business and academic reputation:

"Life at Ithaca is anything but harsh. (Watch out, though. The weather stinks, except in the summer when you're home.) The Pub, located in the middle of the campus, provides the center of social life for many students. Sex, drugs, and booze are the staples of life. If Ithaca has a reputation as a party school, it is well deserved. The predominant attitude among the upper-middle-class student body is that 'we are only here to party.' Sex is casual, and formal dating is unheard of; the pickup scene thrives in Ithaca. The women are reportedly attractive, and the guys weight-trained. The use of pot is a foregone conclusion, and cocaine occasionally manages to wend its way into the hands of those who can afford it. Speed and downers are common, but acid enjoys healthy disuse. The town is cram-packed with bars, theaters, and cultural events."

The staff of the defendant Yale compiled the data for this seventh edition of the "Insider's Guide" in 1977, the original publication having been in 1971.

On March 7, 1977, Yale wrote the editor of the school newspaper at Ithaca College, requesting him to recruit two staff members to evaluate the school. The editor was advised that it was difficult for Yale personnel "to visit and evaluate each school personally", and that its editors "depend heavily on students who can objectively and coherently evaluate their campus", and furnished guidelines for the proposed evaluation with the letter. In addition to repetitive requests for accuracy and objectivity, as well as comments about the school's academic life, the reporters were invited to note its social life, viz: "What do people do at your school when they're having fun? Are drugs popular? How about alcohol? What kind of music do people listen to?" A return date of April 15 was requested.

By letter dated April 25, 1977, Yale also requested plaintiff's admission office to furnish statistical data for its seventh edition "to provide up-to-date information for the [433 N.Y.S.2d 532] over 40,000 high school seniors who read the book each year." A return date of May 8 was requested. The data supplied is contained in the bold-face type preceding the descriptive commentary.

Defendants advise that they edited the copy supplied by the school reporters, but printed the language-here deemed to be defamatory-"almost in haec verba."

The preface to the book observes that its contents are "apt to excite plenty of disagreement and downright disapproval" and the reader is admonished to "take our words with more than just a polite grain of salt." The preface further notes

"Unlike other student-written guides to colleges that we've seen, we haven't written this book for students of one lifestyle only. Instead, by providing objective inside information, we hope to help the premed as well as the freak, the jock as well as the future Phibate. A word of caution: We would be the last to say that all of what you read here is gospel. Our correspondents are rarely unanimous. We attempt, by judicious editing, to present all sides, but these efforts seem doomed to failure."

Published in December, 1977, the book bears a January, 1978 (Second Printing) publication date.

In the Fall of 1978, the Vice-President for Student Affairs of Ithaca College learned of the Guide's publication "through discussions with students and parents of students attending" the school. His affidavit advises that he had "heard reports from prospective applicants to Ithaca College and their parents questioning the advisability of enrolling at Ithaca College if the statements contained in (the Guide) were true. That it is impossible at...

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3 practice notes
  • 85 A.D.2d 817, Ithaca College v. Yale Daily News Pub. Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • New York New York Supreme Court Appelate Division Third Department
    • December 17, 1981
    ...libelous per se. In view of this determination, it is unnecessary to pass on the other issues raised. The order should be affirmed. 105 Misc.2d 793, 433 N.Y.S.2d 530. Order affirmed, without costs.various private, non-academic, "social" activities carried on by a segment of the st......
  • 715 F.3d 254 (9th Cir. 2013), 11-55016, Makaeff v. Trump University, LLC
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • April 17, 2013
    ...have held that private colleges and universities are all purpose public figures, see, e.g., Ithaca Coll. v. Yale Daily News Publ'g Co., 105 Misc.2d 793, 433 N.Y.S.2d 530, 534 (App.Div.1980), but those cases are inapposite. Trump University has little in common with the Ithaca Colleges of th......
  • Greenberg v. Spitzer, 111220 NYMISC, 2020-51318
    • United States
    • November 12, 2020
    ...rather than the exception, summary judgment is favored in defamation cases (Ithaca Coll. v Yale Daily News Publ. Co., Inc., 105 Misc.2d 793, 796 [Sup Ct, Tompkins County 1980), affd 85 A.D.2d 817 [3d Dept 1981]); Rinaldi v Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc., 42 N.Y.......
3 cases
  • 85 A.D.2d 817, Ithaca College v. Yale Daily News Pub. Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • New York New York Supreme Court Appelate Division Third Department
    • December 17, 1981
    ...libelous per se. In view of this determination, it is unnecessary to pass on the other issues raised. The order should be affirmed. 105 Misc.2d 793, 433 N.Y.S.2d 530. Order affirmed, without costs.various private, non-academic, "social" activities carried on by a segment of the st......
  • 715 F.3d 254 (9th Cir. 2013), 11-55016, Makaeff v. Trump University, LLC
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • April 17, 2013
    ...have held that private colleges and universities are all purpose public figures, see, e.g., Ithaca Coll. v. Yale Daily News Publ'g Co., 105 Misc.2d 793, 433 N.Y.S.2d 530, 534 (App.Div.1980), but those cases are inapposite. Trump University has little in common with the Ithaca Colleges of th......
  • Greenberg v. Spitzer, 111220 NYMISC, 2020-51318
    • United States
    • November 12, 2020
    ...rather than the exception, summary judgment is favored in defamation cases (Ithaca Coll. v Yale Daily News Publ. Co., Inc., 105 Misc.2d 793, 796 [Sup Ct, Tompkins County 1980), affd 85 A.D.2d 817 [3d Dept 1981]); Rinaldi v Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc., 42 N.Y.......