On July 19, the Alligator started its Save The Racks campaign in an effort to stop the UF administration from removing 19 of our orange racks from campus and replacing them with black university-owned modular racks similar to those on Turlington Plaza. To use these racks, the Alligator would have to sign a licensing agreement and pay a fee to the university.
In our editorial last week, we argued that this change could hurt the ability of the Alligator to serve the students of UF.
Since then, our efforts have been covered by various news outlets and student press organizations such as The Miami Herald and the Student Press Law Center.
This coverage has revealed a few reasons provided by the university about why they feel it is necessary to make this change.
UF spokesman Steve Orlando told the Student Press Law Center that administrators' primary concerns were safety and aesthetics. "Every time we have a tropical storm or hurricane, we have to get the racks off campus," he told the SPLC. The university worries that the "racks could become dangerous projectiles in a storm."
The Alligator has offered to comply with whatever safety standards are necessary to secure our racks, including weighing them down. However, we have not been told what these "standards" are. The Alligator has also previously offered to remove the racks in the event of a hurricane or tropical storm.
This "storm" argument is also absurd given that hurricanes rarely pop up overnight. We are usually given ample warning, during which we can remove the racks.
Clearly, these safety concerns are just attempts to get around the main reason for the move: aesthetics and control. Orlando told the SPLC the administration thinks our current racks "didn't blend in with the historic look of the campus."
But does this concern for aesthetics really constitute enough of a compelling interest for a public institution like UF to not only control the distribution of a student paper on campus, but also charge us to $100 per unit each year to distribute it? Considering that we provide a free and vital service to the university community, we cannot see any valid interest in the administration's pursuits.
Again, this change could create a loss of visibility on campus for the Alligator, hurting our readership and reducing our advertising revenue. A loss of revenue will lead to fewer papers and fewer pages.
As a result, the UF community will receive less information focused on it.
The administration has tried to appease our concerns, telling us we can put a measly orange 2-by-11-inch sign in each of our modular units with our brand on it.
Well, at least people with good vision will still be able to locate us on campus.