Rowan University newspapers stolen after article named alleged drug distributors

NEW JERSEY — Campus police at Rowan University are investigating last week’s theft of roughly 600 copies of the student newspaper, The Whit, after it published the names of two students who were arrested on charges of possession and intent to distribute marijuana.

The copies of the weekly newspaper, which has a circulation of 3,000, were stolen from the student union sometime after they were distributed March 1, said Editor in Chief Liz Zelinski.

Zelinski said she one of the newspaper’s editors received a message via Facebook, an online social networking site, from a female student expressing anger over the article for identifying the students. Zelinski said she believes the student is behind the theft, and she notified campus police of the matter.

George Brelsford, the private school’s interim vice president for student affairs, sent a campus-wide e-mail that condemned the theft as a “threat to both free speech and freedom of the press.”

“Those responsible will be subject to both criminal and campus disciplinary action,” he said in the letter.

Timothy Michener, director of Rowan University’s public safety, said they “know who is responsible for this, and public safety is investigating them,” according to an article in The Whit.

The paper contains a statement that the first copy is free and additional copies are 40 cents. That policy was introduced in December 2006 after a recent trend of student newspaper thefts at college campuses nationwide, especially the theft of about 10,000 newspapers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Zelinski said.

The value was determined by dividing total cost among each paper distributed, Zelinski said, adding that she considers the paper more valuable when including the work the staff puts into producing the newspaper.

“What we want to do is get restitution for the amount of money in newspapers they took,” she said.

By Brian Hudson, SPLC staff writer

  • Visit the Student Press Law Center’s Newspaper Theft Forum