Catholic University police are investigating why more than 2,000 issues of The Tower, Catholic University’s student newspaper, were stolen and disposed of across their campus last Friday. The paper’s staff believes the incident may be related to an ongoing homosexuality debate on its pages.
Vandals tore up numerous issues of the paper and left them in front of The Tower’s office, Editor in Chief Justine Garbarino said. Tower staffers believe the vandalism occurred between 5:45 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday evening, she added.
“We’re just a little frustrated right now,” Garbarino said, “We want something to be done. We don’t want this to happen again – that’s what we’re trying to prevent in the future.”
Cheryl Pendergast, assistant director of Catholic’s Department of Public Safety, said her department is conducting an investigation.
“We need to bring some closure to this,” Pendergast said. “And we need to let the campus community know: Read the paper, but don’t take them.”
Garbarino said she thinks the perpetrators were one or more students frustrated with an ongoing debate in the Tower’s opinion section.
“There’s been a debate going on in our opinion pages about homosexuality and things like that,” Garbarino said. “It’s been getting pretty heated . I think someone just got fed up with it and took their anger out by trashing the newspaper.”
A March 3 article by Tower columnist Michael Rubin that commented on gay rights and actor Sean Penn’s Oscar victory for his role in the movie “Milk” prompted the debate, Garbarino said. Rubin’s column, which called same-sex physical relations a “corruption” of same-sex friendship, prompted letters to the editor and responses to those letters in the ensuing month.
Subsequent letters included “Opinion Articles About Gays are Equal to Hate Speech” and “Acceptance of Homosexual Behavior Directly Opposed to Scripture.”
“The Tower is proud to offer students a place to debate opinions,” Garbarino said, “but we believe that most would agree theft is an inappropriate way to express their disagreement.”
The paper wants to pursue the perpetrators for violations of both Catholic’s Code of Student Conduct and D.C. law, Garbarino said, and have launched their own investigation.
Garbarino said she spoke to witnesses of the newspaper trashing Friday night and Sunday, and Tower staff used a description of a likely perpetrator’s grade, major and physical characteristics to find them through Facebook.
They reported their findings to the investigator working on the case. Garbarino would not release the individual’s name, but referred to her as female.
The paper’s staff, though, worries too much time will elapse and the perpetrators will escape punishment, Garbarino said.
“We want to let them do their job. That’s probably the best thing that can happen,” Garbarino said of the Department of Public Safety. “We don’t want to rush them, but it’s kind of an urgent matter, and we don’t want someone to get away with this.”