CALIFORNIA — The former president of Glendale Community College admitted to telling campus police in June 2006 to hold copies of the campus newspaper because of an article that discussed depression and suicide.
According to a December 2006 article in the student newspaper, El Vaquero, former President John Davitt had copies of the June 9, 2006, issue pulled because the article and an accompanying cartoon were “slanderous to [the] nursing department.”
The article named one of the two nursing students who committed suicide during the previous school year, and Davitt found that to be offensive, El Vaquero reported. He said the article gave the impression that it was the “rigor of the [nursing] program [that] contributed to [the students’] suicide,” according to the newspaper.
Soon after distribution, the staff noticed that papers were disappearing at an “alarming rate,” said Jane Pojawa, editor in chief of the newspaper at the time.
“Clearly they weren’t just being taken to be read,” she said. “They were being confiscated.”
Pojawa said in June that she suspected administrators had stolen the newspapers, a claim Davitt initially denied.
While he admitted in June that he had problems with the ethics of the story, he denied being responsible for taking the papers and instead offered that a custodian or an angry faculty member could have been responsible.
Davitt now has told El Vaquero that he told campus police to “hold” the newspaper until he could discuss the article with the staff and adviser — not to “remove” them. Pojawa estimated that 2,000 of the 3,500 copies were taken, and many were found in a dumpster. The theft cost the paper $1,200 in advertising revenue, she reported.
Davitt retired from his position at the end of June after 21 years as president. His decision to step down was announced long before the newspapers were taken from the stands.
Attempts to contact Davitt on Friday were unsuccessful.
El Vaquero was able to break the story of Davitt’s involvement last month with the help of anonymous sources, two of whom implicated the former president and the campus police.
However, the campus police investigation has long since been closed, and El Vaquero adviser Michael Moreau said he doubts if any further action will come from last year’s theft.
“I don’t think they ever had any interest in investigating this,” Moreau said. “I don’t know that we can get any more mileage out of this.”
California now has a law on the books that makes it illegal to take more than 25 copies of a free newspaper in order “to harm a competitor or to prevent others from reading paper.” Moreau cited the law, which went into effect Jan. 1, and said he is confident the law will allow El Vaqureo to better respond to a newspaper theft in the future.
By Brian Hudson, SPLC staff writer