FLORIDA — For the third time in two years, copies of Stetson University’s student newspaper were stolen.
Late last week, about 100 copies of The Reporter were taken from their boxes in the Carlton Union Building.
“Taking multiple copies and removing them from their distribution sites simply because you disagree with what has been printed is not only petty and childish, but it violates the law,” Reporter editor-in-chief Sarah Dean wrote in an editorial addressing the theft.
Dean believes the papers were stolen because an opinion article discouraging participation in sororities was published at the beginning of sorority rush alongside an article encouraging participation.
The Reporter staff noticed on Friday that all papers were gone from a distribution point in the student union.
“Normally boxes do not even empty by the end of the distribution cycle,” Dean said in an interview. “Furthermore, the paper used for the cover of the box was also taken out, which students normally never do.”
No one has come forward who witnessed the theft taking place and there are no security cameras at that distribution point.
“What lead [the Reporter staff] to believe the missing papers were the result of theft because of content was the reaction to the ‘negative’ opinion article on social media,” Dean said.
One critical post of the paper was deleted, but Dean said she had screenshots of others. She did not share the screenshots with the SPLC.
Dean said Greek life is a “dominant force” on campus. At Stetson, 27 percent of undergraduate women are part of a sorority and 28 percent of undergraduate men are part of a fraternity.
In 2006, a sorority member admitted stealing over 700 copies of the Reporter after an article reported mold problems in her sorority’s house. The sorority paid $1,200 in damages to reprint the stolen newspapers.
More recently, 900 total copies of the newspaper were taken in two different incidents during the 2013-14 academic year. During the fall semester, 600 copies were stolen, with some found in the trash. Student and staff members also reported students removing all the papers from bins around campus in Feb. 2014.
Dean filed a report with the Stetson Public Safety department.
“It is something we are actively investigating,” said Lt. Mike Stacy. “Right now, we’re just kind of watching the areas where we have the newspaper bins and see what happens, then we’ll go from there.”
This is the third newspaper theft reported in 2015. Just last week, more than 1,500 copies of Florida Atlantic University’s student newspaper were stolen by students for an engineering class project. The Student Press Law Center tracks thefts across the country and compiles resources on what editors should do if newspapers are stolen on their campus.
Contact SPLC staff writer Corey Conner at 202-974-6318 or by email.