Alcohol Ads Not Allowed in Campus Newspapers in Virginia

Happy hour is not allowed yet for college newspapers in Virginia- at least within their advertising.  One of the strangest student press restrictions has been upheld by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The majority ruling confirms the validity of a law severely restricting the rights of student newspapers at Virginia colleges and universities to publish alcohol advertisements. As the Student Press Law Center reports, “Virginia Administrative Code Section 5-20-40 states college newspapers cannot print advertisements for beer, wine or mixed beverages unless the ads are ‘in reference to a dining establishment’ and can only include words such as ‘beer,’ ‘mixed drink,’ ‘cocktail’ and ‘wine.’ Mentions of a ‘happy hour’ or specific drink specials are prohibited.’

My take: The 4th Circuit judges need a cocktail- and a primer on basic free press principles. This convoluted law was apparently enacted to lessen the likelihood of underage or binge drinking by students. Seriously Va. lawmakers, sober up. Students drink, sometimes a lot at one time and sometimes before it’s legal- and it’s not because of alcohol ads or happy hour specials containing certain wording in a student newspaper.

Students enrolled at respected higher education institutions should be trusted to discern that a newspaper ad promoting drinking does not mean they must drink. Campus papers need advertisers now more than ever, including from establishments that, gasp, sell alcohol. If student publications are allowed to write about it, they should be allowed to have advertisements for it.

2 Responses to “Alcohol Ads Not Allowed in Campus Newspapers in Virginia”
  1. Bryan Murley says:

    I hope the plaintiffs appeal this to the full appeals court, and if necessary, the SCOTUS.

  2. Michael Westendorf says:

    Judging by the contents of the statues, independent papers should be fine. It says that a “college newspaper” is one “that is prepared, edited or published primarily by students at such institution” among other requirements. Truly independent publications that have a distinct legal and physical separation from the university seem to be exempt.

    In any case, horrible ruling.