Thieves steal student newspapers from two Wisconsin campuses; administrator reaction varies

Despite their close proximity, campus officials reacted dramatically differently to student newspaper thefts that occurred at two University of Wisconsin campuses -- Stout and Oshkosh -- in the past month.

Student editors at the Stout campus are frustrated by administrators' refusals to investigate newspaper thefts on their campus and estimate they have lost $6,000 in printing costs and lost advertising revenue because of two recent thefts.

Corey Klein, editor of The Stoutonia, said students stole about 500 copies of the April Fool's issue because of a photo of a gymnast on the back page that was digitally altered to increase the size of her behind. Klein said several students participated in the theft, but only one admitted to doing so -- after a Stoutonia employee witnessed her stealing the papers.

Campus police have refused to take action, Klein said. The issue of the paper published following the theft contained an additional four pages detailing the April Fool's theft and another in February and described the lack of action by authorities. The issue also contained an editorial asking for apologies from those responsible for the thefts and requesting that the university create a policy to prevent further ones.

Klein called the additional pages and the editorial "a last ditch effort to bring about change" at the university.

Two hundred miles southeast at the Oshkosh campus, administrators have condemned those responsible for a recent theft, with the Chancellor suggesting expulsion as punishment.

According to Amy Holschbach, editor of The Advance-Titan, both university police and the dean of students are conducting separate investigations into the theft of at least 2,000 copies of the March 14 issue.

Editors suspect that an article about underage drinking at a sorority party prompted sorority members to steal the papers, but neither investigation has reached a conclusion.

"We're surprised that students went to this extent," Holschbach said, adding that she hopes in the future students upset by the paper's coverage will not resort to theft.

Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells issued a statement to the campus following the theft defending the newspaper's right to publish and promising that action will be taken against the thieves.

"This assault on our most cherished freedom is an assault against the very life force that creates and sustains a university like ours," part of the statement read.

SPLC SENSE: While a few school officials have begun to condemn newspaper theft when it occurs on their campus, almost none respond as decisively as UW-Oshkosh