Binge drinking legislation may lead to censorship
Provision urges colleges to limit alcohol ads
WASHINGTON, D.C. — An amendment to the revised Higher Education Act could cause problems for campus newspaper editors.
Sponsored by Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass., the provision was designed to combat binge drinking on college campuses.
But within the text, it states, “The [educational] institution should adopt policies limiting the advertisement and promotion of alcoholic beverages on campus.”
Susan Peterson, president of the College Newspaper Business and Advertising Managers, said the wording of the provision is unclear, leaving open the possibility that college administrators could use it as justification to ban alcohol advertisements in campus publications.
“It1s gray,” she said. “I1d hate to see it happen, but the interpretation is open to leeway. There can be other things done to teach people to drink responsibly.”
The issue was never considered when the provision was written, said Mark Rooney, press aide for Sen. Biden.
“I don1t know if I can answer that,” he said when asked if the act will affect student publications. “Administrators may try to justify that.”
Rooney also said that it will not be an enforceable law, but rather a “sense of Congress” provision.
“It is a formal statement calling on college administrators to take certain steps to reduce alcohol abuse,” he said.
Rooney added that Biden would never try to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of student newspapers.
Fall 1998, reports