UF's rack policy under new scrutiny after letter to magazine

Newspaper boxes, including those of the Independent Florida Alligator, are being replaced with new, larger black newspaper boxes outside of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida in Gainesville in this July 16 file photo.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 6:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 6:15 p.m.

The University of Florida's plan requiring outside publications to be distributed in university-owned boxes had raised concerns that the university might later censor those publications.

It looks like the first test case is already here.

Broad Beach Media, publisher of INsite magazine, received a letter Monday from UF stating that its requirements for the boxes include a ban on alcohol advertisements and photos depicting drinking.

Maghan McDowell, editorial director of Broad Beach Media, said that such a requirement conflicts with the business model of INsite. The entertainment magazine runs ads from bars, lists drink specials and runs photos of people in bars.

She said in an email that she hopes the requirement "is a misunderstanding or oversight that can be quickly and easily resolved."

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes suggested that would be the case. She said she and other university officials were unaware of the language in the letter sent to the magazine and that they now would be working on changes.

The university has no plans to prevent publications with alcohol-related ads from being distributed on campus, she said.

"There is no intention to do that," she said.

The Independent Florida Alligator has protested UF's plan to largely remove freestanding newspaper racks, making publications use black, modular units owned by the university. The university also is requiring publications to pay for use of the racks.

The Alligator has fought the effort on its pages, running an edition last week that had a nearly blank front page except for the word "censored." The student newspaper's editor and attorney have argued that the rack removal plan would hurt readership and open the door to censorship.

UF officials portray the effort as being about aesthetic, environmental and safety issues. Freestanding racks pose a safety hazard in major storms, according to the university.

McDowell said the magazine isn't pleased with the move to the modular boxes but said the alcohol issue is a bigger concern. In addition to some alcohol-related ads, she said, the magazine runs ads for the UF performing arts center and other university groups.

"They're not going to target the students that they want to target if we're not allowed on campus," she said.

Contact staff reporter Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or nathan.crabbe@gvillesun.com. For more stories on the University of Florida, visit www.thecampussun.com.

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