Student Newspaper Staff Accuse Members of Local Fraternity of Tossing Newspapers in Trash

They Say It was Prompted By Story of Rape at USF
Posted at 4:50 PM, Oct 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-21 16:50:38-04

Its not everyday a college newspaper has a shocking front page headline. The University of Tampa's student paper, The Minaret, publish a lead story about an alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl at a fraternity house on University of South Florida's campus.

It's big news because the fraternity has a chapter at UT. Someone went to a lot of trouble to try and hide the story from students.

Tess sheets spends one day a week handing out the latest issue of The Minaret. On Thursday, the editor-in-chief heard a conversation that peaked her interest. Three young men talking about the lead story. What she heard left her suspicious.

"I heard them say something about Pi Kappa Phi and 'We need to throw all these away,'" she said.

She says one of the men offered to buy her stack of papers and she refused. Then, her staff started noticing stand after stand left empty.The school checked surveillance cameras and confirmed two men taking a entire stacks of newspapers and trashing them.

"We don't tolerate theft, we certainly don't tolerate silencing of the media," said Eric Cardenas. He's the spokesman for the university.

Newspaper staff say they have a good relationship with the school and the action is not indicative of the student body.

The national chapter of the fraternity, meanwhile, is also reacting to the incident. In a written statement, Justin Angotti who is the Assistant Executive Director of Education & Accountability, said: "Any students found to have been involved in the alleged incident will be held accountable through the fraternity's conduct process."

Assistant Professor of Journalism, David Wheeler, calls this an attempt to censor an important topic. That of sexual assault on campus.

"You have to bring attention to a problem, talk about it, discuss it, make it a part of the conversation and that is how progress happens," he said. "When you try to silence a story, more people are going to be interested in this story. People are coming into our website in droves."

Sheets says the act had a deeper message.

"Choosing to endorse someone who has been alleged of committing sexual assault and that's what it means when they do that," she said.

The student newspaper wants an apology and the $1,300 back it cost to print the papers.

Tampa Police is investigating the incident. The school says they are asking one of the leaders of the UT fraternity to come in and look at the video, to see if they can identify the two men. 

ABC Action News requested the footage. Our request was denied, the school says because it is an active investigation.