Students seeking to silence criticism swipe papers at 3 college campuses


Thieves face criminal charges in Kansas for stealing 9,000 copies of publication





Those who attended Drew University's 'Spring Saturday' admissions event on April 15 may have received a tour of the campus, but their opportunity to get a true feel for the student voices of the university was taken away -- along with 1,000 copies of the student newspaper.

Co-editor Susan Rella said her staff filed a criminal mischief complaint with local police after the campus public safety department failed to act on reports that witnesses saw students wearing admissions and tour guide T-shirts removing stacks of newspapers from The Acorn's main distribution sites in the school's dining hall and student center.

Rella estimates that half of the paper's 2,000 press run was stolen but that most of those papers were later found in an area of the student center that is inaccessible to students.

The issue that was stolen contained front-page articles on sexual assault and two arson arrests. Rella believes the papers were taken to prevent students from viewing these articles.

"It was not an issue that the school would be quite proud of," she said.

The Acorn reported on the theft in its next issue, and Rella said that when her staff met with admissions officials asking them to take action against the students, the officials' main concern was not with punishing the students responsible for the theft, but with criticizing the editors for publishing the article.

"They did not take any action to find out who had stolen the papers, as far as I can tell, and these are people who are working right under them," Rella said. "We went all the way up to the top, to the dean of admissions, and he just wasn't taking it seriously either."

Roberto Noya, dean of college admissions at Drew, admitted that his office did not conduct an investigation into the matter but said a member of his staff did learn that a student admissions ambassador was involved in removing the papers.

Although no action was taken against the student, Noya said his office does not condone the theft and now makes it clear to student admissions workers that that type of behavior is inappropriate.

Rella said she does not think any sanctions from the university are forthcoming, nor does she expect any charges to come as a result of the criminal complaint.

"I think that the administration has effectively dodged it, and I don't really know what we could do to get anyone to care about it anymore," Rella said.

Four students at the University of Kansas are facing criminal charges for their involvement in the theft of 9,000 copies of the Daily Kansan on April 11, in addition to fines imposed by the school.

The Douglas County district attorney's office charged each student with one count of criminal deprivation of property, a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. That case has not yet gone to trial.

The students confessed to stealing 6,000 papers from the loading docks of the Lawrence Journal-World, which prints the Kansanand also admitted taking another 3,000 papers from on-campus distribution sites. Because the value of the stolen papers was calculated at $2,000, the offense could have been considered a felony.

"I think from the numbers and the value, there could have been felony charges, so they got off easy compared to what could have happened," said Kansan editor Jim O'Malley.

The students, members of a campus political group, were upset with an article concerning the group's nominee for student government president. Although they claimed that the thefts were not condoned by the group, United Students was fined $1,200 by the university's student senate elections commission.

Two of the thieves were student senators. They resigned from their positions and were fined $500 each by the commission and the other two students were sanctioned to prevent further participation in student government elections.

A resident assistant area coordinator is leaving Lake Superior State University, and student editors of The Compass think the departure is at least in part due to his connection with the removal of around 100 copies of the paper from a freshman dorm.

After distribution of the Feb. 11 issue of the newspaper, which contained a letter to the editor criticizing the university's resident assistant staff, Compass staff members discovered that all the copies in a freshman male dorm were missing. Editor Michael Guilmette said he replaced those copies, but the replacements soon disappeared as well.

A witness later reported seeing a stack of papers in the area coordinator's room. The incident was investigated by campus police, but no charges were filed in the theft.

Guilmette said The Compass also published an article about the theft, despite the area coordinator's threat to sue if it did so.

Student editors of Yale University's Light and Truth magazine filed a grievance against the school's director of public affairs stemming from an August 28, 1999, theft of copies of the magazine's freshman orientation edition by freshman counselors.

The complaint accuses the director of intimidation, obstruction of the staff's right to free expression and making false statements to the media.

According to the complaint, the director stated that the removal of the magazines was an appropriate action by the counselors because student editors had acted improperly by placing copies of the magazine in freshman mailboxes, which are to be used only to distribute university-approved materials.

However, editors accuse the director of knowingly making this statement when he knew it to be false. They claim the school's dean of student affairs has acknowledged that the distribution was not improper and condemned the theft.

The student editors are seeking formal sanctions against the director and assurance that their rights to expression will be protected in the future.

At New Jersey's Ocean County College, 500 copies of the May 11 edition of The Viking News were removed from bins at several distribution sites and placed in nearby garbage cans. Editors think the papers were stolen because of a story which discussed a previous theft in November 1999.

A witness told editor Catherine Galioto that she saw a member of the school's student senate removing the issues. That student was quoted in the article as saying, "The paper can f-king burn, for all I care."

Galioto filed an incident report with campus security and said the college's vice president is investigating, but said she feels the campus community's tolerance for the thefts reflects poorly on the school.

"The prevalence of newspaper theft and of an atmosphere conducive to such crimes leads me to seriously question if in fact this is an institution of higher education," Galioto said.


Fall 2000, reports