San Francisco school punishes newspaper thief


Seven schools deal with incidents last fall





CALIFORNIA — The San Francisco State University administration disciplined a student in December who allegedly destroyed thousands of copies of the student newspaper.

“We will not allow threats or intimidation to limit the exercise of these rights and privileges,” SFSU President Robert Corrigan said in a press release. “We will not tolerate acts of violence, vandalism, or intimidation. The rule of force cannot replace the difficult, sometimes angry process of living with freedom of the press.”

SFSU expelled Troy Buckner-Nkrumah for being in violation of the student code of conduct. However, he never admitted to destroying more than 6,000 copies of the Golden Gater in May 1997.

“Teaching and learning can only prosper in an environment where free speech flourishes, where even the most repugnant points of view can be heard, challenged and learned from,” Corrigan said. “We owed it to every member of the San Francisco State University community to take strong action and to restore the campus’ confidence that this is a place where minds and hearts can flourish in all their rich diversity.”

OHIO — Fraternity members were caught on security tape at Wright State University stealing copies of a February edition of The Guardian.

Jeff John, adviser for the paper, said that about 3,000 copies of the 6,000 copy run were stolen. He said they are valued at about $6,000 in lost advertising. They had to reprint the issue at a cost of $12,000.

The newspaper obtained security video tape of a newspaper stand that is located outside of a campus computer lab. The tapes were taken to campus police by newspaper staff members.

However, John said that campus police ignored the students’ original complaint. It took his complaint for them to take action.

After exams and spring break, the Student Media Committee held a meeting in early April. At the meeting, they informed newspaper officials that the county prosecutor could not press charges because there was not enough evidence, John said.

“Students say that there are witnesses,” John said. “Students were there and thought it was curious that large stacks of newspapers were being taken.”

Guardian officials are now considering their options and what their next step will be.

WISCONSIN — Although the number of papers stolen was small, Dustin Block feels the theft of 50 copies of The Badger Herald at the University of Wisconsin in Madison had great significance.

He believes the sergeant-at-arms at Wisconsin’s state assembly ordered copies of the newspaper that were in the state capitol to be confiscated in February. The issue contained an article about a legislative page who had been fired due to comments about the assembly speaker she made in The Herald. The sergeant-at-arms denied involvement in the theft.

About 50 copies of the 17,000 press run were stolen.

“Though the ratio is small, I was disturbed that an authority figure in the capitol had every copy removed because of content,” Block, copy editor for the newspaper, said.

Although Block saw significance, his editor in chief did not. When Block filed a report with the capitol police, the editor in chief asked the investigating detective to drop the case, according to Block.

Although no prosecution took place, Block said everything ended well.

“The girl who was fired for the comment got her job back,” he said, “and I guess we scooped enough embarrassment on the leading figures.”

TENNESSEE — The McDonald’s Monopoly game caused a newspaper theft incident at East Tennessee State University in March. Martha Milner, the newspaper’s adviser, said that she is unsure of how many copies of the East Tennessean were taken from the 6,000 copy press run. She said that Campus Public Safety officers interviewed several students who said that they picked up 15 to 30 copies and that several students were doing the same. Campus security originally did not consider the disappearance a theft, according to Milner.

“This is the first time in two-and-a-half years that the newspapers have disappeared that quickly,” Milner said. “We would like to prevent this from happening in the future.”

No one group or individual has been singled out as having organized the theft.

“I do believe the East Tennessean did the right thing by reporting the matter to public safety because approximately 30 percent of the newspaper’s budget is from student activities fees,” Milner said.

Newspaper thefts incidents have also been reported at these schools in recent months:

  • Buffalo State College
  • Chicago State University
  • Louisiana State University


reports, Spring 1998