Rowan University students confess to taking newspapers

NEW JERSEY — Two female students have confessed to stealing copies of Rowan University campus newspaper, The Whit, last month in an attempt to prevent students from reading about a friend’s drug charge.

The university’s public safety director said the two suspects were brought in for questioning in mid-March and “confessed immediately,” according to the Gloucester County Times.

Whit Editor in Chief Liz Zelinski said the two suspects, who have not been publicly identified, received community service as a penalty. They will not be charged for the newspapers, which cost 40 cents for each additional copy taken according to a statement printed in each issue of the newspaper.

“They didn’t think about it as a detriment to freedom of speech or stealing property,” she said. “They just didn’t realize how serious it was.”

Editors initially pegged the theft at 600 copies, but the two students admitted to stealing just 44 copies. When caught they still possessed about a dozen copies of the paper, which were returned, Zelinski said.

Zelinski was unconcerned about the discrepancy about the number of issues stolen, and she said that more than anything she is glad that the clamor over the incident has dissipated.

“We hate being the center of attention,” she said.

The newspaper will not alter its distribution process as a result of the theft, and Zelinski predicted that the only long-term result will be a broader understanding of the First Amendment at the university.

Soon after the theft in early March, the private school’s interim vice president for student affairs issued a campus-wide e-mail in which he condemned the theft as a “threat to both free speech and freedom of the press.”

“I’m really grateful for the administration, how they helped us out,” Zelinski said. “They were really on top of this case.”

By Brian Hudson, SPLC staff writer

  • Visit the Student Press Law Center’s Newspaper Theft Forum
  • Rowan University newspapers stolen after article named alleged drug distributors News Flash, 3/9/2007