Student groups steal newspapers for homecoming floats

OKLAHOMA – 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 for their homecoming floats, the students told Eversole.

Eversole checked the newspaper racks. They were empty.

"I was just floored," she said. "I went over to the university center and I talked to the director of student activities, [and] said, ‘This is what’s happening, I don’t know who’s involved but the papers are gone.’"

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.

Eller said a campus student organization had gotten "busted" in the past for stealing napkins from campus dining halls for similar purposes.

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.

Neil Weaver, the university director of institutional advancement, said the situation was an opportunity for the students to learn a lesson. "The papers are free, the napkins are free," he said. "The question is from an ethical standpoint, how should you use stuff that’s free?"

In the future, Eller said, student organizations will include in their list of float rules materials that cannot be used, including the current issue of the student newspaper. Eversole said the Northeastern plans to print a list of rules to be posted on the newspaper racks stating what the paper cannot be used for.

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.

"[This type of theft] was a new thing so I didn’t expect people to jump and immediately say, ‘We’ll take care of this,’" Eversole said. "But it was treated as a joke."