Fraternity member accused of stealing 250 papers, asking students to help him

MISSOURI — Throughout the day on Thursday, an estimated 250 copies of the student newspaper at Northwest Missouri State University went missing.

“They started disappearing from the racks around 11 o’clock. We’ve replaced some in racks since then, and then gone back by [the racks] an hour later and the papers will be gone again,” said Steven Chappell, adviser of the Northwest Missourian.

The disappearing papers first came to the attention of the Missourian after a student stole a stack of 50 papers in front of a distribution table. Chappell said every Thursday, the weekly paper is handed out in the student union. The paper has a circulation of 4,500.

“A student just ran by the distribution, grabbed a bundle off of the table in the union that we usually have the papers sitting on and out the back door of the union,” he said.

The student was identified by those who witnessed the incident as a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. The front page of this week’s Missourian displays a prominent story about university sanctions against the fraternity following allegations of sexual assaults at TKE’s house. The Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter president did not respond to a request for comment by the Student Press Law Center.

After the initial theft from the distribution table, students began telling the staff members manning the table that papers were also taken from the racks.

“We even had students stopping by and saying, ‘hey, I remember a TKE just asked me if I’d help them collect all the papers today,’” Chappell said.

This isn’t the first incident with TKE and the student newspaper. “We had another instance of this last year with the TKEs taking papers and tearing them at a basketball game because they didn’t like what [the paper] reported,” said Missourian editor-in-chief James Henderson.

Chappell and the paper’s editors notified the campus police of the theft on Thursday night. The stolen papers are valued at $100.

“Our campus police told us last night they would need either (1) an eyewitness who could identify someone by name or (2) video or photographic evidence of the papers being removed for them to take action. They did, however, step up patrols in high-traffic areas of our distribution,” Chappell said in an email.

This is the seventh reported newspaper theft in 2015. The SPLC tracks thefts across the country and offers resources for student editors.

Contact SPLC staff writer Corey Conner at (202) 974-6317 or by email.