Three football players at Framingham State College haveadmitted to stealing at least 1,000 copies of the student newspaper, its advisersaid, in reaction to an article published Friday that alleged that members ofthe football team had forced first-year players to drink an excessive amount ofalcohol during an annual hazing ritual. The theft of the Massachusettscollege’s independent weekly marks the fourth such case of stolen collegenewspapers throughout the country reported to the Student Press Law Center inone week. In late February, students also stole papers at San AntonioCollege, University of Connecticut and South Dakota State University. Each thefthas spurred a campus police investigation, yielding suspects who might haveacted in retaliation for strong stances in those stolen editions. AtFramingham, campus police officers are currently sifting through severalvideotapes taken from the school’s surveillance cameras in order to identify anadditional female student who is believed to have stolen papers with thefootball players, said Desmond McCarthy, adviser to TheGatepost.After the police investigation is completed, theunidentified students could face a campus judiciary hearing where the players’status on the team will be decided, along with additional sanctions that mightinclude the repayment of printing costs, said Peter Chisholm, a spokesperson atthe Massachusetts college.”We certainly don’t tolerate it,” he said. “Bytaking newspapers you are interfering with the ability of other students to readit.”In the article, one former and two current football players,speaking under the condition of anonymity, alleged that football players hazenew players.McCarthy applauded the response by the campus police,administration and football coach. First-year head coach Mark Sullivan broughtmembers of the football team to the newspaper’s staff meeting this week toapologize for the theft. “The journalism was taken seriously by theschool. And the school’s response to the theft was entirely supportive,”McCarthy said. He said, however, that some of staff members might beless interested in tackling such a controversial issue in the future. During theweek of the issue’s release, two female staff reporters said they were harassedby football players, who called them, “bitches,” saidMcCarthy.Investigative reporting in the student newspaper at SanAntonio College led to theft by a student.Four hundred copies ofThe Ranger were snatched up Feb. 21 by a campus cybercafe student managerwho claimed he wanted additional copies for the cafe to promote a front-pagearticle about the establishment. But one student told the weekly paper,The Ranger, that Bailey’s Cybercafe Manager Ron Smith had expressed angerover the article, which reported that all food sales at the cafe were halteduntil it received proper city food licenses. Journalism Professor Chet Hunt saida staff photographer found a bundle of the papers under a table in the cafe outof view of customers.”We’re not happy because it deprived 400 studentsin one of our main classroom buildings from picking up copies at our optimumdistribution time on Friday morning,” Hunt said. In a Rangerarticle, Smith said about his taking the newspapers, “There was no maliceinvolved. I wasn’t trying to hide anything. If anything, I’ve tried to supportThe Ranger.” Smith declined to comment and directed all questions to thedepartment of student life.Student Life Director Kathy Armstrong deniedthat Smith had stolen The Ranger, but she said, if Smith had collectedthe copies other than for promotion, it would have been inappropriate. Shelambasted the front-page article, “Bailey’s Cybercafe violates city code,”calling the violation “much a do about nothing” and the newspaper reporting, “agross misrepresentation.” She said the student newspaper, which she labeled apublicity tool, was full of half-truths. Campus police officers areinvestigating, but an officer said they are unsure whether the collection ofpapers from the four floors of the library constitutes a crime. Hunt remainsadamant that any mass collection of papers without the staff’s consent is wrong.Thousands of copies of The Daily Campus at University ofConnecticut were discovered in trash bags in front of the school library onFriday. Although campus police are remaining mum over their investigation,editor Elizabeth Hathaway pointed to a controversial commentary as being thepotential instigator for the theft of nearly the entire 10,000 press run.The Feb. 27 issue carried a piece written by student Josh Levinson, whoclaimed the campus African-American Cultural Center was propagating segregationand racism by holding events that he said were exclusively for black students.Friday’s edition included two pages of letters to editor in reaction to thepiece. Hathaway heard that the theft was in “silent protest” of the commentary,but a representative from the cultural center told The Daily Campus thathe heard no such plans.Hathaway said footage obtained from asurveillance camera at the campus bookstore shows two women stealing armfuls ofnewspapers on Friday morning. Lt. Craig Rich said the police have possession ofthe tape but would not comment on the contents of it. He said police woulddecide whether to pursue criminal charges or university sanctions after it wasdetermined what crime, if any, the suspects committed.Although TheDaily Campus is a free publication, Hathaway said it should be considered atheft because each student pays $7 each semester in student fees to fund thestudent newspaper. She also estimated the theft cost the newspaper $3,573.62 inprinting and advertising revenue losses.”It is very disappointing thatpeople chose this very cowardly way to react, rather writing for or writing tothe newspaper,” Hathaway said.At South Dakota State University, astudent editor says an election day endorsement of one of the student governmentpresident candidates could have been the motive behind the trashing of 2,325copies of the weekly newspaper on Feb. 26. After a Sioux Falls TVstation reported on the theft that evening, campus police received an anonymoustip that a portion of the papers were thrown away in an off-campus Dumpster.Soon after editor Kara Kristensen received another tip that additional papers ingarbage bags would be left in front of the student union. InitiallyKristensen said, “The staff was disappointed because we spent a lot of timeputting together the paper. I was there until 5 a.m. People who should read thatinformation and benefit from it were not able to.” Although TheCollegiate was able to redistribute all the newspapers again, the campuspolice department is still investigating the theft. Chief of Police Tim Heatonsaid they have suspects, and if they identify the thieves, the matter would beforwarded to the state attorney for prosecution. Heaton said he is unsure if thestudents will be prosecuted because the newspapers are free; however, he saidthe college judiciary board will likely hand down sanctions.There havebeen successful criminal prosecutions of free college newspaper thieves in otherstates.
Visit the Student Press Law Center’s Newspaper Theft Forum