1,000 newspapers disappear from racks at Weber State University

UTAH — Editors at The Signpost, the student newspaper of Weber State University, believe an article detailing possible sexual misconduct by a professor may be the reason that an estimated 1,000 copies of the paper recently disappeared from news racks.

Editor in Chief Maria Villasenor said the copies of the Friday Oct. 27 issue were noticeably missing from distribution spots on campus the following Monday.

“Usually our Friday papers don’t fly off the stands like that,” Villasenor said. “There’s always a just a few extra.”

Villasenor said papers were missing at various off-campus distribution centers, such as local restaurants and bookstores, as well.

Villasenor said she suspects that the theft is connected to a story that was published in the stolen issue about a professor who is being investigated for allegedly touching a female student inappropriately, though so far no suspects in the theft have been named.

“People should know what’s happening on campus, especially if there are allegations being made about their professors,” Villasenor said. “People may not agree with the news and what is on the newspaper, but … it should be out there.”

Staff members reported the theft to the campus police, but Villasenor said she is unsure if much can be done.

Two other newspaper theft incidents have occurred at the university in the past four years, according to adviser Allison Hess. The first newspaper theft case occurred in 2002 and involved another adviser of a student organization, Hess said. The suspected person was eventually fired after the university found that he also sent threats to one of the newspaper’s editors.

Afterwards, staff members added a notice to the paper stating that the first copy is free but additional copies are 50 cents each.

Another newspaper theft incident occurred last year, Villasenor said, after the paper published an article highlighting student criticism of the university’s financial aid department. Copies turned up missing in buildings adjacent to the Financial Aid Office and Villasenor said there were suspicions that staff members from the department were involved though nothing was ever proven. The issues reappeared when newspaper staff members informed the vice president of student affairs who in turn spoke with the Financial Aid Office director, Hess said.

Hess said university administrators were notified after each incident and have acted swiftly to remedy the situations.

“Our university administration has been very supportive and have taken [the incidents] seriously and acted immediately,” Hess said.

The latest newspaper theft case is the only one that newspaper staff members have reported to the police. Hess said an educational effort to inform university personnel on newspaper theft issues has not occurred, but that it may be a possibility in the future.

Robin Helton, a public information officer with the university’s police department, said an investigator is currently working on the case.