Ga. college students ordered to apologize, reimburse for stolen newspapers

GEORGIA — Twostudents at Georgia College and State University were sanctioned March 15 afterdumping about 460 copies of the student newspaper in February.

Melissa Thomas and James “Tom” Stockman were caught on asecurity camera with stacks of newspapers in hand. After newspaper staffmembers identified them, the two were referred to the Student Judicial Board,comprised of five students and two non-voting faculty members.

The board ordered the students to reimburse the newspaper atotal of $257 and submit a letter of apology to the newspaper staff. If thoseconditions are not met by April 13, suspension or expulsion could follow.

Thomas and Stockman could not be reached for comment.

Bobbi Otis, editor in chief of The Colonnade student newspaper, said one of the culprits wasfriends with Juan Rodriguez, the subject of the paper’s Feb. 24 centerpiecestory.Rodriguez allegedly signed for a FedEx package of one pound of marijuana theprevious week.

Otis said the paper’s distribution bins were suspiciouslyempty, so staffers asked campus security officers to look at security camerafootage.

GCSU spokesman Bruce Harshbarger declined to comment, citingstudent confidentiality. He instead provided a letter the university sent toThomas and Stockman.

The pair admitted to taking the newspapers, according to theletter.

Andrew Whittaker, student government attorney general, saidthe two students believed the paper inaccurately reported on the marijuanacharge, and were trying to protect Rodriguez. He said Thomas and Stockman sawthe act as a form of protest. Whittaker administered the judicial board hearingbut recused himself from deliberation because he had personal relationshipswith Colonnade staffers.

Paul Jahr, associate vice president of student affairs,explains in the letter that the judicial board opted to find the students inviolation of a code of conduct prohibition against “acts that violate local,state or federal laws — or appropriate conduct.” The board did not find them inviolation of the code’s theft provision.

“As Attorney General (Whittaker) shared with you at theclose of your hearing,” Jahr wrote, “your honesty and recognition of theinappropriateness of your actions aided in the board’s decision to revise thecharge.”

The Colonnadetypically has issues left on the racks at the end of the week, Whittaker said.He said that may have tilted the decision not to sanction Thomas and Stockmanfurther.