FLORIDA — Kristen Grau walked by a University Press newspaper stand and knew something wasn’t right. Every copy was gone, even the display piece.
In the trash bin only feet from the stand, Grau found the newspapers under only a few pieces of garbage.
The cover story of this particular issue includes a detailed account of a female student at Florida Atlantic University who alleged the school’s current starting quarterback raped her in December 2018. The woman dropped the charge three days later. The story also reported FAU may have violated federal law during its investigation into the incident.
Grau, managing editor of the Press, and Editor-in-Chief Cameren Boatner went around campus to find more missing issues. Most newstands across campus were entirely empty.
We can’t really say that they trashed it because of the cover story, but one can draw conclusions
Boatner wrote an editorial in response to the newspaper theft where she thanked the person (or persons) who trashed the papers and said she was flattered by the gesture.
“That means someone read the story and expended the extra calories to make sure no one else would. It was a bit lazy, though — the perp trashed the issues in the garbage not even a yard away from the empty news bin. They couldn’t even take the time to recycle,” Boatner wrote.
Her editorial was sarcastic and acknowledged that even though she was “poking fun” at the situation, it was “actually really bad.” The Press estimated that each bin contains about $24.50 worth of newspapers, and with all but three bins being completely empty, the damage adds up to about $450 in lost print.
In a phone interview, Boatner said she had a hunch about why the papers were tossed.
“We can’t really say that they trashed it because of the cover story, but one can draw conclusions,” she said.
The woman who alleged the rape reported the incident to police, but dropped the charges three days later after Robison begged her to tell investigators the sex was consensual, the Press reported. A Title IX lawyer told the Press she believed FAU violated the Clery Act by initially not providing both sides with a written result of the investigation and by having substantive conversation with the accuser before both sides received written notification of the findings.
Robison has started all three games for FAU this season.
This has happened before on controversial stories like this.
This is not the first time the Press has been censored in this manner. In 2016, the publication ran a story on an alleged gang rape at a fraternity-tied party, later finding hundreds of those issues to be stolen or trashed.
The Student Press Law Center reported on incidents in 2010 and 2012 where a combined 5,500 newspapers were swiped.
So when a muckraking story hits the stands, editors at the Press tend to keep a close eye on their stands.
“Ever since this has been published, I’ve kind of been actively looking in the trash because at the UP this has happened before on controversial stories like this,” Grau said.
The Press has reported the incident to police.
SPLC Senior Legal Counsel Mike Hiestand provided the Press with advice moving forward. He said the toughest part of these cases is getting people to realize that stealing a newspaper, even a free one, is a crime.
He hopes FAU takes the matter seriously and makes it clear that something like this should never happen again.
This is harming students because it prevents them from knowing what’s going on and it just does everyone a disservice.
“Newspaper theft is the ultimate form of censorship,” he said. “You don’t get much more effective than taking a newspaper so others can’t read it.”
Boatner and Grau said they want this to be a lesson on why it’s crucial for a student news outlet to be on campus informing students, even if the news is uncomfortable or finds wrongdoing by the university.
“I’m not actually mad about the incident; I would like to let the person know that it’s not okay and it is actually a form of censorship,” Boatner said.
“This is harming students because it prevents them from knowing what’s going on and it just does everyone a disservice,” Grau added. “It costs a lot of money to print the paper.”
SPLC reporter Joe Severino can be reached by email at email@example.com or by calling 202-974-6318. Follow him on Twitter at @jj_severino
Want more stories like this? The Student Press Law Center is a legal and educational nonprofit defending the rights of student journalists. Sign up for our occasional News Roundup.