Every student and employee of Troy University is entitled to one free copy of the Tropolitan. However, sometimes students remove multiple copies, which not only limits somebody else’s access to the newspaper but also classifies as thievery.
One of the more notable cases occurred in February 2010 when hundreds of copies of the newspaper were removed from newsstands by members of a certain sorority. This was done in an attempt to reduce visibility of a story published in that issue concerning a case of violence within that sorority.
A very similar incident occurred in September 2017, when a male student removed stacks of the Tropolitan from different distribution points because there was an unfavorable news story about his fraternity. This paper featured a story about an investigation into conduct violations within the said fraternity.
“It appears to be, people don’t like the stories that are posted on that paper; they want to take them out of circulation, so they steal our papers,” said Steve Stewart, an assistant professor of journalism and adviser of the Tropolitan from August 2009 to December 2018.
These cases, according to Stewart, were handled through campus police, Dean Reeves and his office.
According to University Detective James Taylor, there have been around three to four reported cases of the Tropolitan being stolen in the last six years. Most of these cases have been resolved in-house.
Cases are resolved in-house or through prosecution depending on the severity or the wishes of the victim. In these cases, student services and a board of faculty meet with the student and decide what actions to take. This can include probation, suspension or community service.
For the 2010 case, the organization involved was required to pay for reprinting the Trop, which came out the next day with a story about what had happened. The 2017 case was treated as an individual’s actions.
“People possibly disagree with something (in the newspaper), and they would take (removing the Trop) as a means to take action,” Taylor said. “But the truth remains the same.”
Stewart said the controversy all comes down to a matter of free speech.
“(Critics) have free speech just like journalists do,” he said. “What I would object to is trying to stifle someone else’s speech, and that is what happens when you try to steal newspapers.”
Stewart encouraged students to think before they act.
“If you have a complaint, if you think something has been misrepresented, the solution is to speak out,” he said.