University bans local newspaper for promoting drinking

August 24, 2013

If students don’t read about alcohol, perhaps they won’t drink it.

That’s the thinking of administrators at Coastal Carolina University, who barred a local newspaper from on-campus distribution due to its alcohol-themed articles and advertisements.

The Weekly Surge — a free, alternative newspaper — promotes underage drinking, argued administrators at the Conway, South Carolina campus.

“I found that most of the articles dealt with conversations about alcohol or drinking and almost all the advertisements were advertisements related to establishments that are serving alcohol,” said Debbie Conner, vice president of student affairs, in a statement.

Such articles could promote underage and binge drinking, and do not meet the university’s educational goals, she said.

The Weekly Surge’s editors accused the university of ignoring its substantial coverage of subjects unrelated to alcohol. Efforts to keep their paper off campus are overbearing, they wrote.

“It sounds like CCU students are not being allowed to think for themselves – which is the opposite of what [we] were taught in college,” wrote the editors.

Robert Shibley, senior vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, sides with the newspaper.

“Banning the newspaper from campus in some sort of attempt to discourage drinking is quixotic,” he said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

CCU is a public university, and bound to follow the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press. But it is also an autonomous non-government institution, complicating the legal issues at stake.

Whether or not CCU is legally obligated to let the newspaper distribute on campus, administrators shouldn’t try to police their students personal habits, said Shibley.

“A university is supposed to be a place where you can discuss anything,” he said

CCU administrators said they may revisit the ban at a future date.

CCU is just eight miles west of Myrtle Beach, a popular spring break location.