UPDATED: Sex issue at private Kan. university goes missing

UPDATE 3/18: Jurski said in an email that OU administration and Campus staff met last week and are putting together a task force to form a new student media board policy. Members of the task force will include representatives from student media, faculty, administration and the board of trustees. Jurski said she is not sure on the specific details of the task force, but as far as she knows, student media is not under risk of being censored or receiving prior review. Once a new policy is decided, the board of trustees will vote on it in May.

KANSAS — OttawaUniversity’s student newspaper, TheCampus, printed its first issue entirely devoted to covering sex andrelationships in February. Two days after that issue hit the stands, the staffof The Campus was dealing with thedisappearance of the newspaper from its racks for the first time in campushistory.

Danielle Jurski, editor in chief of The Campus, said a couple of times a year the newspaper prints aspecial section relevant to students’ interests.

“Our paper takes a more conservative approach,” Jurski said.“The editorial staff decided that sex and relationships would be a good issue,and obviously something that’s pertinent to college students.”

Ottawa University is a private school located inOttawa, Kan., a town of just over 12,000 people. The school describes itself as a “Christ-centered community of grace which integrates faith, learning and life.”

The cover art of the sex issue portrayed naked Barbie andKen dolls posed in a provocative position in front of a well-known universitybuilding. Jurski said the cover was intended to show students that the issuewas directed towards them, and was generally well received by the students, butseveral administrators and faculty members seemed angered by the photo andcontent of the issue.

Dennis Tyner, vice president and provost of OttawaUniversity, said he thinks there were many people in the community and on theprivate university’s campus who were disappointed with the image on the sexissue cover.

“I don’t think the picture was probably well thought out,”Tyner said. “I applaud the students for writing a newspaper about topics thatare prevalent and very important to students.”

Jurski said the paper prints 1,200 copies of each issuebi-weekly, and estimates that at least half the copies of the sex issuewere pulled, with few clues as to who might have taken them.

“They were stolen on campus in the library, in theadministration building, in the student union and in Wilson Field House,”Jurski said. “Somebody could have probably stolen themwithin a matter of minutes because our campus is so small.”

Jurski said that there is surveillance in some of thelocations where the newspapers went missing, but The Campus staff is “having a hard time trying to get the actualtapes.”

Tyner said the university is conducting an internalinvestigation into where the newspapers could have gone.

“My biggest concern is whether the newspapers were stolen, and to take newspapers off of a shelf that are free is not stealingnewspapers,” Tyner said. “So I was concerned about papers that may have beenstolen from back rooms where we hold bundles of papers before putting them onthe shelves and none of those were stolen.”

Jurski said The Campususually prints a statement in each issue that the first copy is free andadditional copies are 50 cents each, but forgot to print the policy in the sexissue.

“If that were the case, then we could argue that newspaperswere stolen,” Tyner said.

Tyner said the additional cost policy the newspaper printsdoes not exist because the board of trustees never approved it.

“The institution pays for the printing of that newspaper andif they’re going to adopt a policy like that, they’re also going to have todeal with how they’re going to pay for their newspaper,” Tyner said. “You justcan’t make up a policy that we’re going to charge students for the newspaperthat the institution is paying for.”

Mike Kautsch, a University of Kansas media law professor,said with or without a price statement, a free newspaper has value.

“I realize that in some jurisdictions there’s been aquestion as to whether a free student newspaper has a value, which is normallya precondition of making out a case,” Kautsch said. “Even in the absence ofsome statement within the newspaper to the effect that the paper has value, Idon’t think it’s very difficult to show that it does.”

Kautsch referenced two Kansas statutes on theftand criminaldamage to property, both of which he said could be applied to thedisappearance of a free newspaper.

“Under the Kansas statutes, it would be a relatively simplymatter to launch a prosecution for the theft of a newspaper, even if it’scharacterized as free,” Kautsch said.

Jurski said the sex issue came out two days before a board of trustees meeting and she has heard that the board talked about the paper.

“I don’t know if they were talking about what they wouldlike to do, but from what I understand, there could be constraints that theuniversity would like to put on us,” Jurski said.

When asked if the university was taking any steps to prevent newspapers from disappearing, Tyner said, “I think that we’re looking to prevent what we might consider to be material printed in the newspaper that’sinappropriate. We are looking to ensure that we’ve established a policy that isadopted by our board of trustees.”