Ore. university fines subject of political cartoon $100 for newspaper theft

OREGON — Western Oregon University administrators have ordered a student who was the subject of a political cartoon in a bimonthly student newspaper to pay $100 for stealing multiple bundles of the campus-distributed publication.

Witnesses spotted the student taking stacks of the Western Oregon Journal, a free newspaper distributed at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, on June 4 from its distribution bins. They quickly informed the university’s judicial office about the incident.

After investigating, custodians found bundles of the newspapers in trash bins in almost all of the ten buildings in which the publication is distributed.

Susan Wickstrom, the newspaper’s adviser, said almost all of the publication’s 2,300 issues were found in the trash — a loss totaling about $3,900. About 500 copies of the newspaper were reprinted after the theft for redistribution.

Wickstrom declined to identify the student, but she said he was featured in a cartoon that criticized campus student government elections.

Although there is a notice in the newspaper that states people are allowed only to take one copy before being charged for another, campus security refused to investigate the incident because they said the notice should have been posted at the newspaper’s distribution points, Wickstrom said.

“[They said] there was nothing they could do about it because the student didn’t know he was committing a crime. We beg to differ with that,” she said. “They didn’t even want to take a report and didn’t think a crime had been committed at all.”

Even though campus security was reluctant to pursue the incident, university administrators decided a judicial hearing for the student was necessary and found him responsible for the estimated 50 newspapers he was seen taking.

“We were very satisfied with the outcome, and very satisfied with the administration,” Wickstrom said.

As part of the student’s punishment, he will be required to put up signs at each newspaper distribution point that state the publication’s circulation notice.

In her four years as adviser, Wickstrom said newspaper theft has never been a problem at the university.

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