Nice rack

sfgn1

Staying abreast of the news…


On Wednesday, topless women will distribute a gay newspaper at a public university in South Florida.

Why? To defend a free press.

South Florida Gay News is the southeast’s largest weekly gay newspaper, but Florida Atlantic University only allows SFGN to distribute in a single spot on campus.

It’s a metal rack FAU built, which sounds generous until you learn the school banned SFGN from having its own racks. The school says it’s trying to “beautify” the campus by getting rid of ugly newspaper boxes.

That’s fine as far as it goes – those things are ugly – but earlier this month, FAU sent this poorly written email to SFGN editor Jason Parsley

The newspaper racks that was assigned for placing the South Florida Gay News publication were removed from the breezeway for renovation project. At this time we do not have an alternate location. Please suspend the delivery of the magazine until further notice.

Parsley inquired, “Do you have a timeframe on when the project will be complete?”

This is the full text of FAU’s reply: “The project is expected to be finished in May of 2017.”

That’s a long time to renovate a metal box. It’s also illegal, as we’ll see in a moment.

Parsley didn’t give up: “Are there other locations on campus where publications display their products?”

FAU didn’t give in: “Unfortunately the breezeway was the only location. I will let you know if we will identify other locations in the meantime.”

Parsley tried again, but FAU is no longer responding. On his own, he learned FAU also booted a couple other free publications. But they don’t cover news – they’re glorified shoppers – and they didn’t object.

So what’s going on here? I have a theory: FAU is banning several small publications to get to SFGN, and it has nothing to do with being gay.

sfgn2

The naked truth…


Two weeks before FAU ousted Parsley’s newspaper, he wrote this column criticizing his alma mater for violating Florida’s open-meetings law. (Parsley was editor of FAU’s student newspaper in 2007.)

Is FAU retaliating against SFGN? If not, this sure is a coincidence. Which isn’t lost on Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, DC.

“A public university can’t single out certain disfavored publications based on editorial content and give them inferior distribution locations – or none at all – to penalize or restrain unwanted messages,” LoMonte says.

LoMonte says the law is “murky” about public universities being required to distribute off-campus publications. But…

Once a college in fact has made the decision to allow newsracks on campus walkways, then there must be some reasonable justification for deviating from that policy unrelated to the publication’s content, and the speaker must be provided with some reasonable alternative way of reaching the audience.

If FAU is effectively banning the publication from campus, it would have the burden of showing that the decision is both unrelated to the publication’s content and that no alternative location exists, which would be awfully hard to do.

That’s “awfully hard” because only 16 days separate Parsley’s critical column and FAU’s ungrammatical emails. Plus, two daily newspapers aren’t being booted for renovations. LoMonte calls this “circumstantial evidence of a cause-and-effect” – and he says it’s “quite strong.”

So SFGN could sue FAU. And it might. SFGN’s publisher is an attorney who has gone to court over First Amendment issues before – and won. If a lawsuit happens, SMACK will help him apply to SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund.

But that could take months. We have a better, quicker idea.

sfgn3

How to get the circulation going…


If FAU doesn’t back down, SMACK will take off the gloves – and the tops. On Wednesday, volunteers will walk around campus handing out SFGN’s latest issue.

You can see the cover above. It’s about the Go Topless Movement, which seeks equal treatment under the law: If men can walk around bare-chested, why can’t women?

So it only makes sense that topless women will hand out the paper. Luckily, the forecast is sunny and 74 degrees. (This plan wouldn’t work at the University of Vermont.)

We’ll notify local media, and our volunteers will even hand-deliver copies to the office of FAU President John Kelly.

If campus cops arrest our volunteers, SMACK will throw their bail. And if everyone has a good time, we just might do this for every weekly issue of SFGN.

Or FAU can finally reply to Parsley and come up with a solution that won’t take 16 months. But now that we’ve organized all of this, I kind of hope they don’t.

update

Michael Koretzky was FAU’s part-time newspaper adviser from 1998 until 2010, when he was fired. The staff asked him to volunteer, which he still does to this day.

 


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6 Responses to “Nice rack”

  1. Ryan Quintero Says:

    I would prefer that topless women actually were not being arrested on my campus. Florida Atlantic University is a respectable college and if Parsley is an Alumni I believe he can see where I’m coming from.

    Thanks,
    Ryan Quintero

  2. Annonymous Says:

    SFGN is a great paper. I’m not gay but I love seeing it on campus. Makes me feel like the school’s a place that acknowledges the variety inherent in the student body. Then they get rid of it and I suddenly remember I attend FAU.

  3. Richard Francis Gaspar Says:

    Sometimes extreme administrative ignorance forces extreme distribution tactics. I just want to see the photos of Koretzky distributing the papers topless to keep the media attention equally distributed.

    Rick Gaspar
    Adviser, Hillsborough Community College

  4. Annonymous Says:

    FAU has a long history of trying to silence students and ignoring their needs. Respectable is not a word I would use to describe the leadership at this university.

  5. Jonny Says:

    Radical journalists that will do or say anything in the interest of attracting readers is shameful. While I do not support bigotry, the UP has a history of publishing crap in order to create a buzz. Not knowing the content of the SFGN I cannot comment on the particular decision, but I would support the universities decision to clean up on poor journalism, legal or not. Perhaps a group can organize in mass to follow around and take pictures and videos of some (hopefully) really great looking boobies, while all committing to not accept a single newspaper handed out.

  6. Natalee Dane Says:

    Pig…
    FAU’s actions still infringe on individual(s) Freedom of Speech

    oh & SFGN’s bold tactic is themed from one of their past articles

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