UF teases students for stealing top 5 college banners – Orlando Sentinel

Gainesville — After stealing a campus top 5 banner for the second year in a row to honor its national ranking among public colleges, the University of Florida appears to be scoffing at the theft.

A new TikTok posted by the university on its official account teased the banner theft and reminded students that a $150 replica could be purchased at the university bookstore. In the video, marked with a public service announcement, a university officer and a student hold a large banner in a mock tug-of-war and stare at the ominous soundtrack.

“I’m taking it,” she said.

“Don’t do it,” UF official Delfino Moncivais responded.

“I’m doing it,” she said.

“Please don’t,” he said.

“I need it.”

“Go to the bookstore and get a copy,” Monchiwa said.

“Okay, thanks,” the student said as the two walked towards the bookstore.

The TikTok post comes a year after thieves stole the top 5 banners. So far, at least 14 of the 19 banners have disappeared on campus in the days that U.S. News & World Report ranked UF tied for No. 5 among public universities.

Last year, the school said 40 of the 75 banners were reported within a month, costing about $3,000. The thieves also stole the banners in previous years, as UF had made the magazine’s top 10 list.

The thefts have always been a cat-and-mouse game between colleges and students: After schools installed locking devices at the top and bottom to protect each banner, students began cutting them with scissors or ripping them above and below the locks.

Michelle Castano, a journalism student from Weston, Florida, noticed a banner near the student union had been ripped off.

“Now, whenever we rank, it seems to have become a tradition,” she said. “I don’t think it was malicious behavior, it was more of a college prank. I think they did it as an exclusive souvenir that no one else had.”

Last year, the campus newspaper The Independent Crocodile quoted a witness who said he saw a classmate climb a light pole on Stadium Road around 2 a.m. and cut down a banner while two others stood guard.

Spokesman Steve Orlando said the university understands students are enthusiastic but is concerned for their safety.

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“It’s dangerous to climb up and tear it down,” Orlando said. “It’s not cheap to replace either.”

However, he added, “It’s something we might have to look forward to.”

The university planned to hang more banners, but abandoned those plans due to recent thunderstorms — and they could also be stolen. Orlando acknowledged that tracking down thieves and pursuing criminal charges is not a priority for the university.

One of the top facilities executives, Mark Helms, also admitted that the locks did not deter theft.

“It’s not going to work if the students are constantly grabbing the ladder and cutting it with scissors,” Helms said. “I see, all right. I was young and I understood why someone would do this.”

The university last year estimated the cost of the stolen banners at $73 each. It’s unclear why the school is selling them in bookstores this year for $150.

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service at the University of Florida School of Journalism and Communication.Journalists can be contacted etritto@ufl.edu. You can donate to support our students here.

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