Fla. university punishes student for her role in campus newspaper theft

FLORIDA — A homecoming queen nominee at theUniversity of Central Florida was punished by the school for directing other students to throw away stacks of the student newspaper, which reported that she had acriminal record.The Orlando university’s punishment required KatieNoland, the UCF student, to perform 16 hours of community service and pay thenewspaper $1,000, said Brian Linden,co-publisher of the newspaper.Because a Florida law prohibits universities from releasing information about student disciplinary records, it is unclear whether the school punished others involved in the incident. Noland informed the newspaper about her punishment, said Heissam Jebailey, The Future‘s co-publisher.Ashley Burns, the newspaper’s sportseditor, said that on Oct. 16 he saw ”this girl [with] a stack ofnewspapers about a foot-and-a-half high, heading toward the trashcan.”About 1,000 copies of the newspaper were taken.At the time of the theft,Noland was a candidate for homecoming queen. An article in the newspaperreported that she pleaded guilty in 2000 to charges of felony burglary and grandlarceny involving the theft of a roommate’s computer.Linden saidhe went to the campus police department to report the theft but was told thatbecause the newspapers are free, there was no chargeable offense. After showingthe sergeant that students at other universities were prosecuted for stealingcopies of free student newspapers, the police decided to take Linden’sreport of the incident.”They didn’t think they’d beable to prosecute,” Linden said. ”We decided to contact the schooland go through the Student Conduct Board.”Linden said the StudentConduct Board took the report of the theft seriously.”We werehappy with how it was going,” Linden said. ”But the only problemwith the process is that it was private.”Linden said the university looked into the newspaper’s claim andcalled Noland and members of her sorority in for a meeting with the studentjudiciary board.Jebailey said thenewspaper has implemented new policies since the theft. He said the newspaperwrote a news brief ”stating [newspaper theft] was a crime and we wouldprosecute if we found someone stealing them.” He said the newspaper nowprints a disclaimer that the first copy is free, but each additional copy costs$1.”We’re less concerned now about newspaper theft becausewe’re confident that, if it happens again, we’ll be able to rectifythe situation,” Jebailey said.After the theft, Noland was crownedhomecoming queen but has since resigned the crown to therunner-up.”The school didn’t actually say why [she gave upthe crown] because they’re not allowed to,” Jebailey said.”Basically, the school has said that she couldn’t fulfill the dutiesrequired by the job.”Linden said that when he heard the studentwas punished for the theft, he wrote letters to the university president andprovost’s offices as well as the campus police informing them of theimportance of prosecuting newspaper thefts.”When the chief ofpolice got that letter, he called me in and told me that he looked ateverything,” Linden said. ”He said he had decided [the campuspolice] were misinformed” and newspaper theft should be a prosecutableoffense.Linden said he is pleased with the outcome of thecase.”Before, when we had problems with newspaper theft, ithappened undercover,” Linden said. ”This case was blatant. Ithappened in the middle of the [student] union in the middle of theday.”Linden said at least three smaller instances of newspaperthefts have occurred in the five years he has been with the paper, but the lastlarge newspaper theft was in the mid-1990s.In 1988 four students at theUniversity of Florida in Gainesville were prosecuted for newspapertheft.Noland did not respond to requests for comment.

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