ILLINOIS — Staff members of the Lincoln Park Statesman, a conservative student newspaper at DePaul University, believe staff members from another student publication removed about 150 copies of the newspaper from distribution points Oct. 9, but campus security has not classified the incident as theft.
Statesman Managing Editor Joseph Blewitt said entire stacks of the newspaper were removed from dorms and academic buildings last month. Blewitt said his staff suspected that members of The DePaulia, the official student newspaper of the university, are responsible for the missing copies. The stolen issue featured a front-page story claiming how an article published in The DePaulia was inaccurate. Blewitt said the Statesman has a press run of 1,000 copies.
The Statesman filed a complaint with the university’s public safety office. Blewitt said a person has admitted to taking copies of the Statesman but only because they were in designated DePaulia distribution bins.
The office of public safety is not classifying the incident as a theft, but rather a dispute over proper distribution areas, DePaul Spokesperson John Holden said. A DePaulia distributor found copies of the Statesman at distribution boxes designated for the official student newspaper and decided to dispose of them, Holden said.
“It sounds like there’s a lot of confusion or mischaracterization of what actually happened,” Holden said. “There didn’t appear to be any kind of malice [against the Statesman], they just happened to be in the spot where they did not belong.”
DePaulia adviser Michael Conklin said the person who removed the papers was a distributor and was not affiliated with the DePaulia in an editorial capacity. Conklin said publications that are placed on designated DePaulia distribution bins are always removed regardless of editorial stance.
“I’m not exactly sure how it is possible to remove something that is, in effect, trespassing and have it interpreted as “theft.’” Conklin said.
Blewitt said the Statesman has a policy of distributing newspapers nearby but never in DePaulia distribution bins. He also said that in some locations where Statesman issues disappeared, there were no bins designated only for The DePaulia.
Holden said the incident was not classified as theft because the Statesman is a free publication.
The Statesman includes a disclaimer stating that first copy of the newspaper is free but additional copies cost three dollars.
“It would have been one thing if the [newspapers] were put in a loading dock somewhere, we would have taken them back, no harm done,” Blewitt said. “But the copies never surfaced and we assume that [they were] destroyed.”
Blewitt said Statesman staff members are currently looking into possible legal options.
“It’s just one more example where an official part of the university is trying to squelch free speech that they don’t like or that they disagree with,” Blewitt said.