INDIANA — Fraternity members at Indiana State University said they stole more than a hundred copies of the Indiana Statesman because the student newspaper’s use of their Greek letters in an article offended them.
Statesman adviser Merv Hendricks was eating lunch in the student union on Nov. 1 when he saw a group of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity members with two stacks of newspapers at a nearby table.
“I had a suspicion it was either someone who really liked what we published or didn’t like at all what we published,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks recovered the newspapers and restocked the racks. He said he later received a call from the university athletic director who had returned more papers to the stacks, identifying fraternity members as the culprits.
Later the four newspaper racks in the student union were found emptied.
A Phi Gamma Delta member told Statesman Editor in Chief Beth White on Nov. 1 — after the paper had been distributed but before they had been taken — that the fraternity reserves its Greek letters for special circumstances. She told him the newspaper would refrain from printing the letters in the future. He seemed OK after the conversation, White said.
“Obviously they weren’t OK with it,” she said.
White said the staff had no way of knowing how many newspapers were stolen. The student paper publishes three times a week and prints 6,500 copies.
“I was so shocked,” White said. “We’ve gone to several conferences where other newspapers have talked about something happening and a group stealing their papers and I thought, that is so ludicrous, I can’t imagine that happening.”
The paper contained $6,000 worth of advertising, and a print run of the Statesman costs approximately $1,200, White said. “That doesn’t include the wages for student workers,” she said.
In the Nov. 3 edition the Statesman published an editorial stating the staff had reason to believe the fraternity was responsible for the theft and that the paper would press charges against the individuals who stole the copies.
The next day a fraternity member gave White the names of three Phi Gamma Delta members who had stolen the papers. “The fraternity as a whole didn’t agree with [the theft],” White said.
The three members have been punished within the fraternity and school officials alerted the fraternity’s national headquarters.
The fraternity members apologized to the Statesman in a letter to the editor on Nov. 8, saying, “We believe the students involved in this action overreacted to your misuse of our [Greek] letters. We also believe that to brand these students as ‘criminals’ and ‘anti-first amendment’ was an overreaction.”
“Taking a few hundred copies of a free newspaper because of loyalty to a Greek organization is stupid. We admit that,” the letter said.
Hendricks said the individuals should be disciplined within the university judicial system.
“They are reacting to internal Greek protection of their own image,” Hendricks said. “Our point would be there is a proper way to make that complaint and that is not stealing the newspaper.”