University of Wisconsin police refuse to investigate theft of 2,000 student papers

WISCONSIN –– Campus police at the University of Wisconsinat Stout are refusing to investigate the theft of 2,000 copiesof the Feb. 8 issue of the student newspaper, citing the factthat the papers are free as a reason not to take action.

"Technically, because they do not charge for those papers,it’s not theft," said Lisa Walter, director of campus police.

Corey Klein, editor of The Stoutonia, said the paper’spolicy is that the first is free, but each additional copy is25 cents, to be paid at the paper’s office. Klein said this policyis printed on the masthead of each issue.

The stolen issue contained an article about a sexual assaulton campus in which two of the football team’s quarterbacks wereaccused of raping a student. Close to half of the paper’s 5,500-paperpress run was stolen-the majority of which were taken from thesouth end of the campus, according to Klein. Stoutoniastaff members replaced the stolen papers by redistributing copiesfrom other parts of the campus.

The Stoutonia faced a theft last semester in which about3,500 copies were stolen, and the paper paid $500 to reprint theissue. The person who delivers the newspapers to the racks aroundthe Stout campus told staffers he believed someone was followinghim because when he returned to a rack where he had dropped offnewspapers a few minutes earlier, almost all the papers were gone.

Klein said the university did not investigate that theft, either.

"Nothing came of it," he said.

Despite the fact that police departments in other states havecharged and prosecuted people for stealing free student newspapers,Walter said the university police could not.

"Even if we found out who took them, the university couldnot charge them with anything," she said.

Klein said he feels there is a double standard for studentnewspapers compared to other campus organizations.

"I can’t go into any organization and shut down theirmeeting, but effectively anyone can shut us down [by taking ourpapers]," he said.