Homecoming parade floats threaten free speech on Wisconsin campus

Members of six student organizations at the University ofWisconsin at Oshkosh have found a new use for their student-run newspaper.

These students are now using the weekly newspaper for buildinghomecoming parade floats.

More than 3,000 copies of two separate editionsof The Advance-Titan were stolen from high-traffic distribution sites oncampus during a two-week period earlier this month.

Editor in chiefWilliam Schwulst said during the past two years fraternities, sororities andother campus groups have made a habit of helping themselves to nearly half ofthe paper’s 8,000-circulation distribution.

“Homecoming comes up andorganizations are building floats,” Schwulst said. “They see the free newspapersand grab 500 to 600 from the news rack.”

Prior to the thefts, newspaperstaff members attempted to ease the problems with student organizations byoffering old editions to use for float-building materials.

“We saved oldissues — thousands — stored for that purpose,” Schwulst said. “Wetold the groups about it, but the message didn’t stick.”

Schwulst planson meeting with the assistant dean of students to discuss the recurring problemand brainstorm possible solutions for changing students’ attitudes towardnewspaper theft, he said.

He also plans on submitting a bill to theuniversity for the estimated costs of advertising and printing losses with hopesof reimbursement.

A policy dealing with this issue needs to be addressedin the student handbook, Schwulst said. Rules need to be established regardingmass theft.

“Be it for malice or shortsightedness — [theft] stillhas an effect on us,” Schwulst said.

SPLC View: A new twist to acontinuing problem. At least one other school, SUNY-Albany, also reported anewspaper theft this month.