Mass Disposal of Bullet Copies Prompts Police Investigation
By RYAN MARR
UMW police have re-opened an investigation into a previously closed vandalism case regarding the mass removal of the Oct. 9 Bullet from Woodard Campus Center.
Shortly after the Bullet’s printer delivered the nearly 3,000 copies of that week’s newspaper to the back of Campus Center, someone took most of the papers and threw them into a nearby dumpster.
The incident occurred on Thursday, Oct. 9, sometime between 10:30 a.m. and early afternoon. The papers were discovered by a Bullet editor and the Bullet’s adviser later in the day.
Last week, university police reported that housekeeping supervisors told them that housekeeping workers at Campus Center accidentally threw the papers into the dumpster.
However, housekeeping supervisors disputed that report and said they had never told police that any workers were responsible.
The renewed police investigation will include interviews with housekeeping workers, food service employees at the Eagle’s Nest, and Willard Hall residents, according to Rick Hurley, executive vice-president of administration and finance.
“The administration cares deeply about the Bullet and the student community. We are making this investigation a high priority,” Hurley said.
Bullet Associate Editor Susannah Clark and faculty adviser Steve Watkins said when they discovered the missing stacks of undistributed Bullet copies, the papers were lying under several bags of trash in a dumpster located behind Campus Center.
According to Watkins, the papers were unsalvageable. Bullet Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Nowrouz said the value of the trashed papers—approximately 90 percent of that week’s publication—was approximately $1,200.
Clark reported the incident to University Police later that evening and was told that the police would open an investigation.
UMW Police Sergeant Wallace Janish, who conducted the investigation, reported that Housekeeping Supervisor Janet Scott informed him at 6 p.m. on Oct. 10 that housekeeping workers threw the
papers into the dumpster after being told to clean up the area where the newspapers were located.
According to Clark, there were still several stacks of back issues in the area that had remained untouched.
On Oct. 15 University President Judy Hample issued an apology statement in an e-mail to Bullet editors extending the administration’s condolences for “the mistake in communication between supervisor and employees.”
School officials said the case was closed and no charges would be filed.
However, on Oct. 17, Herb Patterson, manager of housekeeping services, and Scott said that they gave no such statement to university police and that they had no evidence to suggest that housekeeping threw out the papers by mistake. They said they had no idea why campus police attributed the statements to them in the police report.
Patterson said no university housekeeping workers are assigned to Campus Center, and that cleaning duties there are handled by an outside contractor.
“I checked with the contractors, and their managers reported that housekeeping actually assisted the Bullet staff by bringing the papers inside the Campus Center and never touched them again,” Patterson said.
Janish declined to comment on the discrepancies in the police report. Watkins said university officials told him they would discuss the discrepancies with the officer.
LT Services, who are contracted to provide housekeeping services at the Campus Center, have not returned repeated requests for comment.
Susan Knick, assistant vice president for Public Safety and Community Services, said since the Bullet is provided free to students, the school won’t file any criminal charges against whoever took the papers.
Front page articles in the issue included stories about the recent sexual assault in the UMW parking deck, the low number of minority students enrolled at the university, student complaints about restrictive rules in the dorms, and a student who discovered a cockroach in his Eagle’s Nest sandwich.
Nowrouz declined to speculate about whom she thinks might have taken the papers, but said she hoped that the incident was an honest mistake.
“I feel terrible for the writers and editors who put so much of their time in to these stories, some of which are no longer timely and cannot be reprinted,” Nowrouz said. “The community has a right to know what’s going on.”
Hurley has encouraged anyone with any information regarding the incident to come forward to campus police.
“I’ve stressed to police that if this was accidental, no punishment will be initiated,” he said.