The Independent Florida Alligator is going to federal court to fight against the University of Florida’s decision to remove 19 of the newspaper’s signature orange racks from the campus.
The UF Board of Trustees wants to replace them with its own generic racks for a monthly fee, and allow the university to decide where the free newspaper is distributed on campus.
The newspaper’s nonprofit owner, Campus Communications Inc., had set up a study run by a university economics professor to analyze the economic burden and impact on readership the new racks would have on the newspaper.
Now, the study has been cut short. The racks will be removed next Wednesday, according to a notice given by UF’s general counsel Wednesday afternoon.
The newspaper’s attorney, who is a UF graduate and a former editor-in-chief of the paper, filed a complaint and an emergency motion to stop the removal of the racks Wednesday night.
UF adopted a rule to regulate printed material on campus in 2009, with little controversy from Gainesville publishers. But the regulation is a challenge to the First Amendment, said Tom Julin, the Miami attorney who is representing the paper.
“The rule is so vague that it could be used to censor the contents of the paper,” he said.
The letter from the UF vice president of business affairs and the university’s general counsel stated: “We want to assure you and your clients that the University will not regulate, or attempt by any means to regulate, the viewpoints expressed in the Alligator.”
The university said it would waive the fees and licensing agreements. It also stated the university was “open to The Alligator placing a placard in the windows of the racks” for branding.
Still Julin said the newspaper is taking its case to court.
University spokeswoman Janine Sikes said the administration was “perplexed” by the possibility of a lawsuit.
“They have refused to share with us any alternative language, which we have asked for two years,” Sikes said.
The Alligator, founded in 1906, has been independent from the university since 1973.
“Here we are now 40 years later. It is a very frightening proposition,” Julin said.
University of Florida’s General Counsel Amy Hass and UF Vice President of Business Affairs Curtis Reynolds did not immediately return calls from the Miami Herald Thursday afternoon.