Students steal campus newspapers

November 15, 2007

After two students were caught with bundles of The Nicholls Worth last Thursday, the University discovered that several other students had removed newspapers from campus.

James Stewart, head of the Department of Mass Communication, said he saw two young men carrying bundles of newspapers on campus, and when he confronted the students they claimed to be taking the newspapers to the library.

Stewart said after questioning the students about who requested the newspapers, students could not come up with a name and admitted to taking the bundles because of a story on the front page regarding the arrest and charging of a fellow fraternity member.

Aaron M. Davis, 18, a freshman from Des Allemands, who was charged with the alleged rape of a student at La Maison du Bayou on-campus apartments, is an Associate of Theta Xi fraternity.

Stewart immediately ordered the two men to return the newspapers, which he said they did. Stewart reported the incident to Student Judicial Officer Tommy Ponson and Cleveland Hill, interim dean of Student Life.

Ponson said the students were contacted and asked to bring the newspapers to his office.

Ponson said no count was taken of the returned papers, and he said he told the students to return the papers to their original locations.

“No one went with them to return the papers,” Ponson said. “We took them on their word.”

Ponson also said there was no follow up to see if students actually returned the newspapers.

Along with the two students who were caught, Ponson said four other students were involved. Of the six, four are Theta Xi fraternity members and two are non-sorority women.

The Nicholls Worth is currently forming a complaint to submit to the University against the students involved and the newspaper will ensure the case goes through the proper University Judicial Procedures, Stephen Hermann, director of student publications said.

While it may seem as if The Nicholls Worth is a free publication, it is not. Students pay a subscription each semester in their fees. The cost of each paper is 50 cents.

Eugene Dial, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, said the University is considering the newspaper thefts an offense against free speech.

“Certainly we consider it serious,” Dial said. "After violence against people, this is most serious."

Hermann said after the incident, The Nicholls Worth contacted student rights organizations including The Student Press Law Center and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

These organizations’ Web sites state that college newspaper theft, including confiscating and destroying newspapers, is an issue facing college publications that results in direct censorship and loss of the free marketplace of ideas.

“Newspaper theft is the ultimate form of censorship. Because of that, the press has to take this seriously so that this doesn’t happen again,” Mike Hiestand, Interim director of the Student Press Law Center, said. “Hopefully this is a warning to others that this will not be tolerated.”

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