A public university’s alumni magazine violated the First Amendment rights of an alumni group when it refused to print an ad submitted by the group criticizing school officials for placing too much emphasis on athletics, a New Jersey state superior court ruled March 13.
Rutgers University Magazine said it refused to run the ad sponsored by the Rutgers Alumni Council 1000 because it violated its policy against publishing advocacy advertising. The ad, which featured Rutgers alumnus Milton Friedman, urged the university to reduce athletic funding and sharpen its focus on academics.
Although Judge Joseph Messina did not issue a written opinion in the case, he agreed with all of the Rutgers Alumni Council’s findings of fact and conclusions of law, according to Grayson Barber, the council’s attorney.
Peter Skolnik, who represented Rutgers University, said he believes the judge’s decision does not recognize that “the government does have some rights to control speech in reasonable matters,” and called the precedent set by the case “dangerous.”
Skolnik also said the university has not yet decided whether it will appeal the decision.
SPLC SENSE: It is important to note that this case in no way changes existing law that allows student editors of student publications to refuse advertising for almost any reason. The key difference in this case, which the court recognized, is that the Rutgers Alumni Magazine was an official publication of the university whose editorial staff were paid school employees. The editorial director of the magazine, for example, was also the university