Student Newspaper Sex Issue Disappears Across Campus

Hundreds of copies of a student newspaper’s sex issue quickly went missing last month from newsstands across campus.  Editors suspect their disappearance was due to an organized theft carried out in response to the racier-than-usual material.

As the Student Press Law Center reportsThe Ottawa Campus is the biweekly student paper at Ottawa University in Kansas, a conservative private school boasting a “Christ-centered community of grace which integrates faith, learning and life.” The sex issue was a Campus first, and included a cover image that apparently struck some at the school as overly sexualized.

According to the SPLC: “The cover art of the sex issue portrayed naked Barbie and Ken dolls posed in a provocative position in front of a well-known university building. [The newspaper’s editor] said the cover was intended to show students that the issue was directed towards them, and was generally well received by the students, but several administrators and faculty members seemed angered by the photo and content of the issue.”

After its Friday afternoon distribution, staffers quickly came across empty stands in numerous high-traffic spots, including the library, student union, and field house. The newspaper’s editor in chief confirmed that the campus is so small a single person or group of people could have stolen the copies “within a matter of minutes.” She estimates roughly half of the 1,200-copy print run was taken.

The school is conducting an “internal investigation” into the alleged theft but seems more concerned about the sexual content that sparked it.  OU’s vice president and provost: “I think that we’re looking to prevent what we might consider to be material printed in the newspaper that’s inappropriate. We are looking to ensure that we’ve established a policy that is adopted by our board of trustees.”

In an editorial addressing the incident, The Washburn Review, the student newspaper at Washburn University, noted:

“The newspaper had received complaints from faculty, but having the papers lifted from the stands crosses a line.  Had the information been offensive and not factual, there might be a fair argument. However, despite raising eyebrows, the information could be of service to the students of the university. . . . Private universities seem to have a different set of rules regarding freedom of the press. . . . A school with a religious affiliation has a set of standards it’s often held to, but students should also be free to speak about subjects that may be considered offensive in order to help inform and educate students. The fact that stories also discussed the practice of not having sexual intercourse may lean the argument in the favor of the Campus staff.”

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