Thieves filch newspapers at 6 colleges

Yale student paper says thefts have become a trend on campus after 3 publications disappear from bins

Thieves stole copies of two student publications at Yale University in Connecticut in April, prompting the student newspaper to declare such thefts a trend on the Ivy League campus.

The university's student newspaper, the Yale Daily News, reported that about 400 copies of the April 17 issue were stolen. The issue contained an article detailing attempts by members of the women's varsity hockey team to obtain a new coach.

Letitia Stein, editor of the YDN, said 10 of the missing issues were stolen by a hockey player who said she was upset that the newspaper was working against the team. The captain of the team said there were no organized plans to remove the newspapers.

Stein said the YDN reported the theft to Yale police, and the college dean sent an e-mail to the entire student body condemning the thefts and reminding students of the importance of free speech.

Less than a week before the YDN was stolen, 3,000 copies of a campus humor magazine, Rumpus, disappeared from the post office and other sites on campus. Many of the magazines were later found in university basements and recycling bins.

The April 14 issue of Rumpus contained the names of current members of five secret campus societies, including Skull and Bones. Editors said they believe members of one of the societies stole the issues.

This is the second time in the last couple of years that Rumpus has been stolen, said co-editor Nick Fleisher.

"I'm obviously concerned because it's a free-speech issue, and it's annoying and expensive for us," Fleisher said.

In September, 700 copies of the conservative Yale magazine Light and Truth were removed from freshman mailboxes by counselors at orientation. The issues attempted to discourage freshmen from attending orientation events.

Editors of Light and Truth are currently in the process of filing a formal complaint against the counselors for violating their free-speech rights.

The October 1999 issue of Light and Truth reported an overheard conversation between two counselors.

"Yeah, I just grabbed all of those magazines by those maggots," a counselor was reported as saying. Another reportedly replied, "Yeah, you gotta get rid of those magazines. They should be burned."

Thomas Conroy, deputy director of public affairs for Yale, confirmed Light and Truth'sclaims that counselors for the freshman orientation removed the magazines from the mailboxes. Conroy said that although university mailboxes were improperly used by the magazine, the thefts were not sanctioned by administrators.

Light and Trutheditors claim they did not know of the regulations and said many advertisers and publications also put material in the mailboxes.

"We distribute magazines in the mailbox at the beginning of every year and have never had problems in the past," Roy said. "Other student publications were also distributed in the mailboxes at the same time Light and Truth was."

Administrators at Villanova University in Pennsylvania returned 2,000 copies -- the entire press run of a student-run publication, the Conservative Column, on March 21, saying the publication could be distributed on campus now that it had an adviser.

Tom Mogan, the school's director of student development, ordered the removal on March 15, claiming students did not have a right to distribute the newspaper on campus because it lacked an adviser.

Chris Lilik, co-editor of the publication, said he views the removal of the papers as an attempt to censor the Column, which is highly critical of liberals on the Catholic university's campus.

"I am a hundred percent confident that this is a case of censorship," Lilik said.

Lilik played a message for the Report that Mogan had left on Lilik's answering machine the day of the removal. Mogan claims that he spoke to Lilik on several different occasions about not distributing the Column until the newspaper found an adviser.

On the message Mogan said, "You should not put out any further Conservative Columns until we resolve your situation as a student group. ... We obviously have some serious concerns about the content of the Conservative Column. Therefore, I will be removing all the issues of the Conservative Column that I see and will keep them in my office until such time that we can resolve the situation as a student group."

"Why would he bring up content if he was so concerned about the advising thing?" Lilik said.

Mogan admitted leaving the message on Lilik's machine but said any reference to content was made about a "Liberal of the Week" column that, he said, many faculty members complained about. "However," Mogan said, "I cannot stress enough that it was prefaced by the fact that that was not why the papers were removed."

Mogan also said school officials were not concerned about the Column's stance on controversial issues, but that they had concerns about the tone of the newspaper.

"Our standpoint was that they needed an adviser to advise them on these fairness and responsibility issues because they were definitely attacking the faculty members," Mogan said.

"Content and tone are the same thing," Lilik said.

In Maryland, the Baltimore County police and fire departments are investigating the "malicious burning" of several hundred copies of the Goucher College student newspaper.

According to newspaper adviser Deidra Hill, 220 copies of the Feb. 23 issue of the Quindecim, the college's free biweekly student paper, were set on fire near a dormitory early in the morning on Feb. 24.

The college's office of safety and security is taking the case very seriously because of the threat to students' safety, said Hill, who is also the associate director of communications for the college.

"If there is a suspect, the person could be prosecuted, and I think that is very serious," Hill said.

In 1994 Maryland became the only state in the nation to pass a law making it a criminal offense to steal free publications.

The Baltimore County police and fire departments and the college's office of safety and security have interviewed 20 students from the dormitory, but they do not have any suspects in the case.

Among articles about same-sex marriages and part-time professors facing termination was a front-page story documenting the eighth student to resign from the student government association's executive board.

In Utah, university police apprehended two Brigham Young University freshmen who admitted to stealing 10,000 copies -- over half the press run of the Feb. 16 issue of university's student newspaper, The Daily Universe.

According to Rob Rogers, assistant city editor for The Daily Universe, the stolen issue included an article that questioned the eligibility of two candidates running for student government positions.

The day after the issue was published, a student who worked on campus as a custodian called the newspaper to report that he saw vehicles driving around in the early morning, according to Rogers. That night, the university police department charged two BYU students with stealing the newspapers.

BYU police presented the case to the Provo City district attorney, but he declined to prosecute, said Alton Wade, vice president of student life.

The BYU honor code office is reviewing the students' actions, Wade said. If found responsible for the theft, the students could face suspension or probation from the university. In addition, the students could be required to pay the cost of the stolen newspapers.

"By the time this is over, this may be one of the most important lessons they'll learn at their time at the university," Wade said.

Campus security officers are investigating the theft of 100 to 150 newspapers from a press run of 2,000 at Lake Superior State University in Michigan.

Approximately 100 copies of the Feb. 11 issue of The Compass vanished from a freshman residence hall, said editor Mike Guilmette. After a resident of the hall informed Guilmette that all the copies of The Compass were gone, he went back on Feb. 14 to replace the newspaper. That stack also disappeared.

Thom Hadfield, business manager of The Compass, filed a report with campus security on Feb. 15.

Hadfield said he believes a disgruntled resident adviser removed the papers because of a letter to the editor he wrote criticizing the RA staff at the school.

Hadfield, who is also president of the LSSU Inter-Greek Council, wrote, "Many of the RAs I have seen this year I think were molded in Hitler's SS training camps, or maybe it is just a case of all work and no sex makes RAs dull people."

"The article met a lot of good comments from the general campus but a lot of bad comments from the RA staff," Hadfield said. "And that is when the issues started to show up missing in the dorm."

The Compass reported that a student living in the residence hall saw a large stack of papers in his RA's room when the door was open.

The RA denied that he stole the papers, saying there are always people in his room, and they would have seen the papers if he had taken them.

When student journalists at Yeshiva University in New York noticed editions of the student newspaper missing last fall, they had a hard time going to the school's administration for help -- because it was the administration that was stealing the papers.

"They would remove [the newspapers] whenever there was a major event on campus where outside visitors would come in," said Aaron Klein, co-editor of the YU Commentator.

Klein said facilities management employees would remove the newspapers when speakers such as Benjamin Netanyahu or Jesse Jackson came to campus or when the university held open-house days for prospective students. Klein said such thefts have been going on at the university for 65 years.

Klein said the newspapers were often removed when they contained articles critical of the Yeshiva administration, including an article about the removal of the papers by the university. According to Klein, more than 1,800 copies were removed last fall.

The string of removals prompted the Commentator to send repeated letters to Yeshiva administrators. The letters did not resolve the issue, so the newspaper threatened legal action and contacted The New York Times, which published a story about the administrators' actions.

The Commentator received a letter from administrators on Dec. 14 saying that they would not remove the newspapers again. Enclosed in the letter was a reimbursement check for $1,850.

Klein said he is skeptical of the university's promise not to take the newspapers and believes next year's staff must take the initiative to make sure it does not happen again.

reports, Spring 2000