Dear KnightNews.com Readers:
On Monday, UCF officials told our reporters UCF police would be called if we interviewed students over by the row of newspaper stands outside the UCF Student Union, instead of in a small area near the Breezeway, which we have now dubbed UCF’s “Free Press Zone.”
Even though KnightNews.com reporters are tuition paying students at UCF, we were banned from conducting interviews or “doing any media stuff” regarding the election outside of the “Free Press Zone,” while other students were free to ask everyone who walked by to vote — without being restricted to this small zone.
As we reported Monday, SGA and Union officials changed the rules regarding our access multiple times within a matter of minutes, all the while the Central Florida Future was allowed to gather news and photos outside of the “Free Press Zone.” At least one Central Florida Future photographer commented on our first story, however, that officials also later banned him from doing his job outside of the small zone. But that restriction only happened after officials saw us photographing what appeared to be a double standard.
Because of the inconsistency and confusion the officials displayed in applying whatever interpretation of the first amendment they were attempting to apply, KnightNews.com tried clarifying the situation with UCF administrators — but so far they have remained silent.
An e-mail sent to UCF Assistant Vice President of News and Information Grant Heston, UCF Police Chief Richard Beary, UCF General Counsel and Vice President Scott Cole, among others, Monday afternoon politely asking for help resolving the issue was completely ignored by all parties as of early Wednesday morning.
Despite the silent treatment, and overhanging threat that UCF police will arrest us for covering the election outside of the “Free Press Zone,” KnightNews.com reporters have decided to risk being arrested and walk out of the “Free Press Zone” to gather video of the election results at 5 p.m. today. We will let you know if UCF backs down, or if our staff ends up jailed.
The way we were treated also made us wonder: If UCF thinks they can walk all over the media, then how are they treating the average student, who doesn’t have an audience of thousands to expose questionable treatment to?
Well, we want to know. And, we want to be there to fight for you if you or your student group is being abused. The next time you or your organization is being walked all over — e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and see what we can do to help. We want to give a voice to the voiceless.
We don’t mind taking the heat for fighting for you. After all, we have nothing to lose. UCF is already ignoring our request to resolve our dispute about forcing us to work in a “Free Press Zone,” where we have to cover the election next to El Corral workers serving beans and rice — because UCF also bans food that isn’t on a special list from being brought too close to the Union.
Speaking of El Corral, of course we will still make funny videos and continue our positive coverage of UCF’s unique philanthropy events put on by the Greek community and pageants like the recent Miss UCF competition.
But, over the next few weeks, you can also expect to see more in depth and aggressive reporting on students’ rights on KnightNews.com. We will question authority more often and dig deeper for the whole story and hold leaders accountable. You saw us do this when UCF accused the Orlando Sentinel of inaccurately reporting why UCF administrators decided students can’t tailgate in the morning and alumni can. Instead of accepting what UCF’s public relations department told us as fact, we asked the Sentinel reporter if there truly was a mistake — and she stood firmly by her story. Who’s telling the truth? That’s for you to decide.
Our investigative reports will be under a new section called KnightNews.com Fights for You. Under that section, we’ll make a special section called: Our Fight for Free Speech, where we will post every detail of free speech violations on campus.
After just a single Facebook post promoting the new section, we’ve already received an overwhelmingly positive response from you. A very diverse group, from freshmen to alumni living out of the area, has written us or commented on our facebook page expressing outrage over the first amendment restrictions UCF has imposed.
KnightNews.com fan Jason Johnson was so upset, he created this facebook page called “UCF is breaching the First Amendment! Fight back!” Former SDS leader Patrick Decarlo, who has graduated, heard about the controversy down in South Florida, and shared why he thinks UCF has a troubling history of restricting free speech. He also provided us a history of UCF’s First Amendment restrictions and detailed the controversy surrounding it dating back to 2002.
It’s become clear that Our Fight for Free Speech will be complicated and tough. We already got reports that the Young Communist League was confronted by UCF officials for circulating a petition near the Union. And even though KnightNews.com doesn’t have any Communist members, we will investigate it — because we promise to defend free speech no matter what the message, no matter what student group, no matter what news organization you’re with and no matter what SGA side you fall on.
We will scrutinize and expose even the slightest violation of anyone’s First Amendment rights on the new Our Fight for Free Speech section of KnightNews.com. Just e-mail your complaint to email@example.com and be sure to text us immediately at 407-5-tip-ucf if you see UCF police or employees violating someone’s free speech rights, so we can rush over and confront the offending party on camera and post the video under the Our Fight for Free Speech section.
From here on out, KnightNews.com will take our slogan, “From Serious to Hilarious,” to a whole new level. But we can’t do it without your help. We need to hear from you what issues we need to fight for and what we need to expose.
We also want hard working people to join our team to help be the best we can be. If you are ready to dig in to some of these serious issues we will be exploring, or if you want to star in our next music video, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know.
Your KnightNews.com Staff
KnightNews.com: Fighting for You