UF administrators have demanded the Alligator remove 19 of its orange newspaper racks from some of the most visible parts of campus.
On July 3 the Alligator received an email from Amy Hass, UF associate vice president, stating the racks must be removed by Aug. 15.
During Fall 2009, administrators proposed to UF’s Board of Trustees a rule that would prohibit distribution of all publications on campus unless approved by the UF vice president for business affairs, according to information provided by Alligator attorney Thomas Julin.
UF didn’t contact the Alligator about the change, and the Board approved it Dec. 11, 2009. The change was published but not sent to the Alligator.
Around the same time, a plan was drafted to remove privately owned news racks and to replace them with modular racks. Publishers who wished to continue distribution on campus would have to sign a licensing agreement and lease space in the university-owned black modular racks.
UF did eventually notify the Alligator and other publishers of the plan in Fall 2010, after the university bought several of the modular racks and started placing them on campus.
Alligator representatives objected, noting the change could hurt distribution and that the lease is an unfair tax on free speech.
A particular problem Julin identified is the power of the vice president of business affairs to determine how and where publications may distribute on campus. The rule does not contain clear criteria preventing censorship, which Julin said violates the First Amendment.
During a July 2011 meeting between Alligator representatives and UF administrators, administrators denied the plan would hurt readership or violate rights, but they allowed the Alligator to conduct an impact study.
The Alligator collected data on the orange racks during Fall 2011, and replaced five with university-owned modular racks in Spring 2012 to measure differences in distribution.
At the end of the Spring semester, the Alligator presented its data to retired professor David Denslow at the UF Bureau of Economic and Business Research and asked him to determine if the change to modular racks would negatively impact distribution.
On July 3, before Denslow could finish his analysis, UF advised the Alligator it would continue with its plan to replace 19 orange news racks with university-owned modular racks, regardless of the unfinished study.
“We’re disappointed that the university has been unwilling to wait for the results of a serious study of the actions it proposes,” Julin said.
UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said the university wants to move forward and is willing to work with the Alligator.
“The door is open,” she said.
The Alligator launched a campaign against the changes today at alligator.org/savetheracks.
Contact Erin Jester at email@example.com.