Student groups at Oklahoma university steal newspapers for homecoming floats

Two fraternities, two sororities and one religious organization stole 4,000 copies of Northeast State University’s student newspaper to construct their homecoming floats last month.

On Oct. 12, shortly after 5,000 copies of the Northeastern had been distributed, students reported a fraternity taking “huge piles” of newspapers off the racks, said Dana Eversole, associate mass communications professor and the paper’s adviser. The fraternity members said they needed newspapers to construct their homecoming floats, the students told Eversole.

Eversole checked the newspaper racks. They were empty.

Eversole demanded compensation of $100 from each of the five student organizations. She said she was rebuffed.

The following Saturday, at the homecoming parade, Eversole took pictures of the five floats as evidence of the crime. After consulting with the Student Press Law Center, Eversole said she filed a police report and wrote a letter to the dean of student affairs, giving him until Nov. 12 to credit the Northeastern $500.

Student Editor Ryan Eller said members of the organizations did not respond well to being called in by campus police. “I think that they were pretty upset because they didn’t understand that you can’t take the entire bundle at one time,” he said.

If the organizations had asked, Eversole said, the newspaper office could have given them recycled newspapers to use. Eversole said there are also newspapers in town that give away rolls of recycled paper. Instead, “They got down to the wire the last week and needed paper and [the Northeastern was] right there,” she said.

Eversole said the Northeastern has received $500 from the dean of student affairs. She said she did not know if the individual organizations are planning on reimbursing the office of student affairs.

SPLC View: While their reason for absconding with “piles” of newspaper was not especially sinister, the result was the same as in other more typical newspaper theft cases: thousands of readers were denied the opportunity to obtain information about their community that they might need or want, hours of work by the student media staff was all for naught and money spent by advertisers to have their messages seen would have been better invested buying stock in pet rocks. During “peak” construction times or other high risk periods (for example, distribution of student government endorsement issues), student media may want to consider posting notices on their newsracks warning off potential newspaper thieves.