Newspaper estimates loss of $2,750 after 3,500 copies of paper stolen

TEXAS -- When the student newspaper at the University of Texas El Paso, the Prospector, ran a front-page story about the self-dethroned homecoming queen, who was alleged to be a former exotic dancer, it had no way of predicting a loss of more than 3,500 papers and $2,750.

April Dominguez was crowned homecoming queen Oct. 5 but resigned two days later.

By Oct. 9 heaps of newspapers detailing her resignation began to vanish.

Gary Edens, UTEP's associate vice president of student affairs, said the homecoming queen resigned for personal reasons. He said the Prospector speculated to why the student resigned.

"The news was, she resigned," said Adriana Gomez Licon, the

Prospector's editor in chief.

Licon said she never confirmed that Dominguez once worked at a gentlemen's club and that Dominguez's resignation was her own choice. However, the student paper alleged through unnamed sources that Dominguez was a former dancer at a local strip club. Dominguez said only that she was not currently working for the club, but did not confirm or deny having worked there in the past.

Kathleen Flores, director of student publications, oversees the Prospector. She became aware of the stolen papers when two individuals tried to lift bundles of the newspaper from a kiosk outside her building.

"They said they were taking them for recycling," said Flores.

"I made them put them back."

Flores thought the missing papers were rare for that day's publication. The Prospector is published on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Flores began surveying the campus because of suspicions that other papers might be missing. At a nearby building, Flores noticed more empty kiosks.

She viewed surveillance film from cameras around kiosks where the papers were taken and noticed seven different individuals in groups of three stealing the papers.

Flores said the buildings missing the majority of papers were in close proximity to the Greek organization office. And two of the people stealing the papers had shirts with Greek letters on them.

"I called the University Police, and they came out and made a report," she said.

However, the presence of the police did not slow the papers from disappearing.

While Flores was talking with an officer, two students, in Greek letters, picked up multiple copies of the newspaper, and said they needed the papers for class.

While there is no policy regarding a fee for taking additional copies of the Prospector, Flores said the paper incurred a monetary loss.

"There were about 3,500 to 4,000 papers missing," she said. "In production and student salaries, paid by student fees, the paper lost about $2,750."

Without a written policy on newspaper theft, campus police referred Flores to Catie McCorry-Andalis, assistant vice president for student life and associate dean of students ,* to consider the situation as a "malicious prank" not theft.

Flores believes the missing papers had something to do with the article about Dominguez, who is a member of a Greek organization.

"Not only are they (thieves) denying students and faculty a chance to read the paper, they are also interfering with a contract between the advertisers and the paper," said Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center. "Unfortunately, this is sometimes viewed as a prank and treated lightly. But it is theft. Theft is a crime, and criminal prosecution is appropriate."

Flores said an editorial, about the theft, would appear in the Oct. 15 edition of the paper. While the Prospector does not have a policy on stolen newspaper, as of yet, the paper will adopt a policy soon, Flores said.

The school's investigation is underway. No one has been charged.

CORRECTION, 10/16: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the police referred Flores to Julie Wong instead of McCorry-Andalis. The SPLC regrets the error. Return to story

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