Column critical of cheerleaders leads to newspaper theft

Administration says squad came forward to take responsibility

GEORGIA -- Berry College officials are investigating the university's cheerleading squad for stealing about 900 copies of the student newspaper on Feb. 7.

The entire cheerleading squad took responsibility for the theft and came forward to the Student Affairs Office, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Julie Bumpus said.

The cheerleaders returned the papers to Student Affairs on Feb. 8 and redistributed them to campus buildings. The Campus Carrier, the student paper, typically distributes 1,800 to 2,000 copies of their weekly issue.

Staffers at the Carrier believe the papers were stolen because of an opinion column that ran criticizing the cheerleaders for their lack of passion during basketball games, Editor in Chief Ashton Staniszewski said.

"As a student newspaper, we offer to be the voice of all the students," he said. "And it's unfortunate that an opinion set them off like that."

At least two students witnessed people taking papers from racks in different campus buildings, the Carrier reported.

Pam McMorrow, staff adviser for the cheerleading squad, declined to comment on the incident when the Student Press Law Center called her on Friday.

The SPLC sent messages requesting comment on Tuesday to several cheerleaders through the Facebook social networking site, but none of the women had responded by Wednesday afternoon.

The Student Affairs Office is currently in the middle of its investigation of the theft and is not sure when it will be completed, Bumpus said.

"When that phase is completed, we'll decide on what, if any, (disciplinary) charges are involved," she said.

The athletic department could also take separate disciplinary action against the cheerleaders after Student Affairs rules on the incident, the Carrier reported.

Staniszewski said the theft was unfortunate and stifled student free speech on campus.

"I feel like it was a major disrespect not only to the members of the paper but to the members of the campus community," he said. "I'd like to see some sort of justified punishment."

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