By Fine Print Staff
The University of Florida is asking publications to remove private free-standing newspaper boxes, like the one pictured above, to be replaced by UF’s own tiered, modular boxes and will charge publications $50 per year per one newspaper slot.
Last week the Gainesville Sun published an article highlighting the University of Florida’s initiative to remove The Alligator’s signature orange boxes from campus and replace them with black, modular boxes. The article focused on how this initiative will affect The Alligator and its right to unique visibility and control of the paper.
And yes, this will affect The Alligator. But it will also affect every other publication and student at UF.
The UF mandate to eliminate all free-standing private boxes and replace them with UF-sanctioned modular boxes requires that anyone wishing to distribute on campus must purchase space in the modular boxes at $50 per box per year.
This cost will work to stifle free speech, the diversity of voices on campus, and the free flow of information to students.
UF’s College of Journalism and Communications is one of the best journalism schools in the country, so new student publications and projects are not uncommon. But starting a publication is costly, and this UF regulation will present a new obstacle for these fledgling publications. The new cost to be able to distribute on campus will also affect small publications that rely on limited funding for printing and operating costs. These publications are not likely to have a large enough budget, if one exists at all, to afford box distribution on campus with UF’s soon-to-be-implemented fees.
New publications and those with limited income often buy used newspaper boxes to increase distribution at a reasonable, one-time cost to the publication. Those boxes can be painted with free paint and set up for free in line with fellow free-standing newspaper boxes.
Now in order to cover the same ground where those boxes once stood all together in an eye-catching colorful block, it will cost publications a minimum of $1,000 per year for the same distribution space (equivalent to 20 box slots at $50 each) — and as The Alligator points out, only to gain a small anonymous spot.
In addition, putting extra pressure on publications to raise more funds just to distribute on the UF campus could negatively affect the content of those publications and their ability to cover the stories and issues they deem important to readers. As it stands, most free papers, or papers that are not-for-profit, do not have allegiance to organizations, advertisers or board of directors. Because they do not have financial backing from any one of these, they are free to investigate any story, criticize leadership and align with whatever politics they please. Introducing money and legislation to the distribution of student- or locally-produced media on campus is an extreme disservice to UF students. These free-thinking papers, with little to no budget for distribution, are at risk of being thrown off the radar, or at best, drowned out by publications with more funding.
UF students of the past had the privilege of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom to choose and consume from a wide array of voices. Gainesville and UF together were once known as the Berkeley of the South for their radical and progressive ‘60s and ‘70s students who greatly exercised free speech on campus. From radical feminist literature to independent political and local magazines like Moon Magazine and Prairie Fire, past UF students produced exceptional and timeless journalism and political theory that was printed and then yes, distributed, on campus. Now, it looks like UF students of the future will have a limited number of free speech outlets, and those that are left will come with limitations to speech as a result of allegiances to advertisers or other funding sources.
UF is once again putting their financial burdens on the backs of students.
We’ve shown the school that it’s not okay to impose block tuition on students and it’s not okay to get rid of the entire Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) to aid in UF’s financial troubles. Now it’s time to tell them that we will not accept this assault on free speech.
UF students deserve to have a diverse selection of student and local publications to choose from. The decision to tax the distribution of all publications on campus, student-produced or otherwise, will not only eliminate The Alligator’s orange boxes, but it will also risk the elimination of all existing and future publications with a different or independent point of view who struggle just to be in print, let alone distributed on campus.
Keep free speech free!
Editor’s Note: The Fine Print receives a grant twice per year from Campus Progress, a division of the Center for American Progress, for printing and operational costs. This upcoming fall semester we will receive $2,500. However, Campus Progress, as stated on their website here, does “not require students to advance specific views, nor do we [Campus Progress] censor or exercise prior review over sponsored organizations.” All of the Campus Progress grant money goes toward printing costs.