OREGON, TEXAS, NORTH CAROLINA, MICHIGAN— As the fall semester reaches its mid-point, college student newspapers across the country continue to be struck by newspaper thefts.
At Linfield College in McMinville, Ore., about 500 copies of the student paper, the Linfield Review, were found in a dumpster on Sept. 27. The theft occurred soon after the papers had been distributed on the eve of Parents’ Weekend at the college. Among other things, the issue contained a story on the arrest of a student accused of making fake identification cards.
Editor Ryan Gardener said that if there were any witnesses, they have not yet come forward. He also said that advertisers in the paper have called and complained about the theft. So far the school administration has not questioned any students in the matter.
The last instance of newspaper theft on Linfield’s campus was eight years ago when members of a fraternity stole copies of the paper. In that incident, said Gardener, the members confessed to the theft and had to pay the cost of reprinting the newspaper.
This time, however, there have been no official confessions to school administrators, according to the college’s Dean of Students, Dave Hansen. Because no one has confessed to the theft, and because there is no supporting evidence as to who might have stolen the papers, Hansen said, it is unlikely that anyone will be punished.
Meanwhile, a student group in Texas removed approximately 1,700 copies of Et Cetera, the student newspaper of Eastfield College. The students took the papers because of an editorial cartoon that was run in the October 9 issue, Et Cetera editor Cory Johnson told the Student Press Law Center. The students, members of the Organization of United Hispanic Students, took the papers to protest a cartoon they said was racist, said Johnson.
The student newspaper’s adviser said “it is unfortunate that [the incident] happened” and that she and members of the Et Cetera staff were surprised the cartoon drew such a heated reaction from students. She said that she had not expected the cartoon to be controversial before the paper ran it. “[The paper’s staff] didn’t see the same thing [the students] saw,” she said, referring to the cartoon. So far, administrators at the school have refused to take action against the group. “You can1t steal free papers,” said the school’s Vice President of Student Development, Felix Zamora. Zamora said he is working to bring both parties together to try and work the matter out, but that no disciplinary action was being contemplated against the students.
In North Carolina, copies of the student newspaper at the University of North Carolina have been vanishing from boxes across campus.
A reporter for the paper said that the disappearance of the The Daily Tarheel, which has a circulation of 20,000 copies, has followed no pattern, but that the university police have been notified.
A university administrator said that taking papers is a violation of two parts of the university student code: theft of personal property on the premises and deprivation of the free speech rights of others. The university’s administration has yet to decide whether the paper’s disappearance will be considered theft. According to a story in the school paper, if the school decides the papers were stolen, and if the culprits are identified, the school’s student attorney general said those involved could be prosecuted.
Finally, students at Eastern Michigan University better be wary of where they put their student newspapers. They might not see them again.
After receiving complaints from students about missing copies of the Eastern Echo, adviser Paul Heaton decided to keep an eye on the building where the papers were disappearing.
He soon found what he was looking for when a campus police officer, acting on a statement from a member of the paper’s staff, confronted a university janitor. The man admitted to taking the papers that morning and placing them in the dumpster behind the building.
The adviser said in a campus police report that he found about 250 papers in the garbage behind the building. The janitor told police he took the papers because the students threw them all over the floor and didn1t pick up after themselves.
The school has said it will not prosecute the janitor because police have refused to classify the act as a theft.