The Independent Florida Alligator and the University of Florida are in a war over words.
The dispute centers on how the newspaper is circulated on campus. UF administrators want all publications to use all-purpose racks for rent administered by the university. The Alligator wants to keep its own racks.
The Alligator, independent of the university and distributed free, is at risk of losing 19 of its orange racks next month. Staff members have set up a website called “Save the Racks” and the newspaper ran an editorial Thursday calling a license fee for common racks an “improper tax on speech.”
University spokesman Steve Orlando says safety is the reason to rein in racks. They are scheduled to be removed and replaced on Aug. 15.
“Newspaper racks can become projectiles in bad weather conditions,” he said.
With more than 400 racks on campus belonging to 20 different publishers, he said, downsizing was the logical choice.
Alligator staff members say taking away customized racks will hurt circulation.
“If we’re not visible, we can’t serve the campus,” said Managing Editor Erin Jester. “It baffles me that an administration would want to censor a publication that serves its students.”
To rent out a full-space in one of the university-owned racks would cost each publication $100 per year, per rack. University administration has offered The Alligator and the other publications on-campus a $300 credit for each rack they replace, allowing three years of free distribution.
Branding was another concern that was addressed, Orlando said. The Alligator would be allowed to place its logo on the modular racks so readers can identify the paper.
“It’s in our best interest to have a vibrant active student newspaper on campus,” Orlando said. “We have not told them they can’t circulate on campus.”
The Independent Florida Alligator currently has 70 racks on campus and 350 in Gainesville.
“I’m concerned about our independence because we’ve maintained a good relationship with the University of Florida,” said Editor Clare Lennon. “But at the same time, our duty is to our students.”