There was quite a showdown in Luther Bonney last Monday afternoon.
And it didn’t come as a surprise.
Following the theft of at least 1,000 papers the week before, I called the USM Police Department Monday morning to let them know it might happen again.
I knew we were running a story of a sorority being de-recognized that some people weren’t going to like.
At about 1:45 I was awakened in my statistics class by my pager. After a quick phone call I found out that over 1,000 papers had already been taken from the Gorham campus and a few guys were in the process of stealing the Portland papers at that moment.
I expected it to happen, just not in broad daylight.
I ran out of class and straight to Luther Bonney where I saw a small crowd gathering. There I found the police and a few fraternity brothers with stacks of my paper next to them.
As I walked through the door I was immediately told the frat boys weren’t stealing the papers. They wanted to “buy” them.
To be honest, that defense caught me off guard. It was clear that the thieves had a plan in case they were caught.
Some of you may say, ‘How can you buy The Free Press, it’s free?’
It’s true that members of the USM community don’t have to pay for the paper when they pick up a copy to read during lunch or between classes. But the paper is not free.
Earlier in the year it was suggested to me to put a disclaimer in the paper to read, “additional copies of paper: x cents each.”
The statement is supposed to help law enforcement officials put a monetary value on a theft in cases like the one that happened here.
I never thought it would actually be needed, especially at USM where the only feedback I ever get from readers is about parking.
But the fraternity boys thought they could use my protective disclaimer against me.
The truth is they didn’t want to buy the paper. They didn’t want people to read the paper. They were still upset about the Question of the Week from Oct. 22 and the article about the sorority. Instead of writing a letter, or complaining to the administration, or protesting outside the office, they thought they could “buy” all the papers from both campuses and prove their point.
The only point they proved was that they were stupid.
Generally, when “buying” something, it’s a good idea to pay for it before you take it. If you walk into Sears, take a stereo and offer to pay for it when you get caught in the parking lot, that’s what we call theft.
Sure, I was offered money for the bundles of papers that were being taken from Luther Bonney, but there were 500 copies already in the back of their Jeep that they took from the student center.
And there were also 1,000 taken from Gorham and 1,000 taken the week before.
The Police haven’t found out yet if the same three were responsible for all the thefts, but it’s unlikely to say the least that the incidents had nothing to do with each other.
So I’m still waiting for somebody to show up and try to pay me for those copies. But I have a feeling it’s not going to happen.
So I’ve had to change the policy about extra copies. Let me be clear. I want everybody who wants copies of the paper to have them. I’m not trying to make money on selling our paper.
But if you come to me and tell me you want 1,000 copies for your alumni, I have a primary responsibility to the USM students, faculty and staff.
I will sell anyone extra copies at the cost at which I pay to have them printed. I will not lose money and I will not allow papers to be “bought” simply so a few people can prevent the other 11,000 students at USM from reading it’s content.
So please don’t delude yourself that by “buying” the papers you’re doing anyone any favors.
Besides keeping people from reading the paper (a.k.a. restriction of free speech), you’re hurting your fellow students by keeping valuable information from them and the advertisers that spend thousands of dollars every week based on our 3,500 circulation. When you steal half of the papers, you’re cutting also cutting the advertisers’ profits in half. That’s not good for business.
So please read our new policy on the bottom of page 2. And next time you want to “buy” large quantities of papers, please come to me first.