Fraternity unpunished for theft, harassment

FLORIDA ‘ After all 9,000 copies of the University of Miami’s student newspaper, The Hurricane, were stolen more than a year ago, editor in chief Jordan Rodack thought the thieves would be punished as the university promised. But that never happened. Instead, Rodack has faced a year’s worth of harassment by his fraternity brothers who were behind the theft.

‘I could not even walk in my room without being harassed, screamed at or cursed at,’ Rodack said. ‘My room was broken into and trashed. Used condoms were thrown on the walls and a bucket of vomit was dumped in my room.’

Rodack has taken the brunt for the paper’s front-page article on Oct. 5, 2001, that reported that members of his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, made anti-Arab remarks following Sept. 11. A group of the fraternity’s pledges went around campus with a video camera asking students, ‘What would you do about those goddamn Arabs?’

Fraternity members stole the entire press run of that issue, which resulted in a $5,000 loss in printing and advertising costs.

The university ordered that three fraternity members who confessed to the theft be punished. Two students were suspended and a third was placed on probation. But days later, the punishments were rescinded, Rodack said.

The fraternity’s parent office also suspended the chapter for a month last year pending an inquiry into the thefts. The chapter is currently in good standing.

University officials will not comment on the punishment or harassment. Officials also would not disclose the details of an agreement made with fraternity members who subsequently placed an advertisement in the paper in September 2002 apologizing for the theft and harassment.

The university’s settlement with the fraternity has done little to stop Rodack’s mistreatment.

Rodack has received threatening e-mails and phone calls, and a fraternity member has followed him around campus.

‘They were doing this because I was editor of the paper and they didn’t understand I had a job to do,’ Rodack said in a Miami Herald article. ‘[The newspaper theft] was an attack on freedom of the press, and it’s gone unpunished.’

When the story broke about his fraternity brothers’ anti-Arab remarks, Rodack took himself off the story because of the apparent conflict of interest.

The Society of Professional Journalists and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors have reprimanded university officials for not punishing the students for the theft or for the harassment of Rodack.