Students seeking to silence criticism swipe papers at 3 college campuses

Prospective students visiting a university’s campus for the first timeare supposed to get their first glimpse of what life as a college studentis really like.

Those who attended Drew University‘s ‘Spring Saturday’ admissionsevent on April 15 may have received a tour of the campus, but their opportunityto 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 complaintwith local police after the campus public safety department failed to acton reports that witnesses saw students wearing admissions and tour guideT-shirts removing stacks of newspapers from The Acorn’s main distributionsites in the school’s dining hall and student center.

Rella estimates that half of the paper’s 2,000 press run was stolenbut that most of those papers were later found in an area of the studentcenter that is inaccessible to students.

The issue that was stolen contained front-page articles on sexual assaultand two arson arrests. Rella believes the papers were taken to preventstudents 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 saidthat when her staff met with admissions officials asking them to take actionagainst the students, the officials’ main concern was not with punishingthe students responsible for the theft, but with criticizing the editorsfor 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 underthem,” 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 hisoffice did not conduct an investigation into the matter but said a memberof his staff did learn that a student admissions ambassador was involvedin removing the papers.

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

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

“I think that the administration has effectively dodged it, and I don’treally know what we could do to get anyone to care about it anymore,” Rellasaid.

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

The Douglas County district attorney’s office charged each student withone count of criminal deprivation of property, a misdemeanor with a maximumsentence of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. That case has not yet goneto trial.

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

“I think from the numbers and the value, there could have been felonycharges, so they got off easy compared to what could have happened,” saidKansan editor Jim O’Malley.

The students, members of a campus political group, were upset with anarticle concerning the group’s nominee for student government president.Although they claimed that the thefts were not condoned by the group, UnitedStudents was fined $1,200 by the university’s student senate electionscommission.

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

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

After distribution of the Feb. 11 issue of the newspaper, which containeda letter to the editor criticizing the university’s resident assistantstaff, Compass staff members discovered that all the copies in a freshmanmale dorm were missing. Editor Michael Guilmette said he replaced thosecopies, but the replacements soon disappeared as well.

A witness later reported seeing a stack of papers in the area coordinator’sroom. The incident was investigated by campus police, but no charges werefiled in the theft.

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

Student editors of Yale University’s Light and Truth magazinefiled a grievance against the school’s director of public affairs stemmingfrom an August 28, 1999, theft of copies of the magazine’s freshman orientationedition by freshman counselors.

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

According to the complaint, the director stated that the removal ofthe magazines was an appropriate action by the counselors because studenteditors had acted improperly by placing copies of the magazine in freshmanmailboxes, which are to be used only to distribute university-approvedmaterials.

However, editors accuse the director of knowingly making this statementwhen he knew it to be false. They claim the school’s dean of student affairshas acknowledged that the distribution was not improper and condemned thetheft.

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

At New Jersey’s Ocean County College, 500 copies of the May 11edition of The Viking News were removed from bins at several distributionsites and placed in nearby garbage cans. Editors think the papers werestolen because of a story which discussed a previous theft in November1999.

A witness told editor Catherine Galioto that she saw a member of theschool’s student senate removing the issues. That student was quoted inthe 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’svice president is investigating, but said she feels the campus community’stolerance for the thefts reflects poorly on the school.

“The prevalence of newspaper theft and of an atmosphere conducive tosuch crimes leads me to seriously question if in fact this is an institutionof higher education,” Galioto said.