Hundreds of Crimson White papers stolen; editor suspects fraternity pledges

(Story updated at 12:30 pm, 10/19, to include new information from a university spokesman and a statement from the university police.)

ALABAMA — In what one former student editor called “a tradition as old as time” on Twitter, at least two possible fraternity pledges at the University of Alabama are suspected of stealing hundreds of copies of the student newspaper.

Sean Landry, editor-in-chief of the Crimson White, said he saw two male students each carrying what appeared to be a stack of one or two bundles. The bundles contain 100 copies, so Landry said he suspects between 300-400 copies were stolen — “though I can’t say for certain that there weren’t more.”

While he said he can’t positively identify the two men as fraternity pledges, he suspects they were because they were wearing the “typical pledge attire,” which is almost like a uniform for University of Alabama pledges, he said — a polo shirt, jeans and a particular brand of sneakers.

A university spokesman said the theft was estimated at about 150 copies of the newspaper. They were stolen Thursday afternoon from racks at Morgan Hall, the English department. 

Landry said he suspects the thefts were because of an editorial cartoon that criticized hazing on campus — featuring a man in a batting stance with a bat, saying, “Welcome to the brotherhood” — and also possibly an editorial about a lack of civic engagement on campus.

That editorial referenced the Machine, a secret society of select fraternity and sorority members who exert influence in student and local politics. The Machine recently made national headlines for pressuring a sorority to not support one of its sisters in her bid for homecoming queen and to instead support the Machine-backed candidate.

“This kind of takeover of democracy on any level — from your middle school class president to the President of the United States — is antithetical to freedom, and that’s why we students at The University of Alabama need to learn to actually stand for what we want to see happen in the world instead of letting people steal our power,” columnist Kyle Simpson wrote.

Landry said he filed a police report Thursday afternoon. According to the University of Alabama police department, police will “follow up on all credible, available leads to try and identify those responsible.” 

The first three issues of the Crimson White per student are free, and any other papers are $1, meaning the theft likely cost at least $300. Landry said the paper is not interested in pressing charges, but would pursue action with the student judicial board if the culprits were positively identified.

He said this is the first newspaper theft he remembers, but he said previous Crimson White editors have said this has happened before.

This is the fifth college newspaper theft reported in 2015. The Student Press Law Center maintains a database of thefts across the country.

Contact SPLC staff writer Madeline Will at 202-833-4614 or by email.