Appeals court rules Rutgers violated policy over alumni ad

NEW JERSEY ‘ A state appellate court ruled in August that Rutgers Magazine, an official employee-edited publication of Rutgers University, violated the First Amendment rights of an alumni group when it refused to print its advertisement.

The court said the university had the right to refuse issue-oriented ads but in this case, the editors engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

In 1998, the magazine refused to run a Rutgers 1000 Alumni Council advertisement opposing the schools participation in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Big East Conference.

The court said that the school failed to follow its own unwritten policy of not accepting issue-oriented ads when editors allowed an advertisement for Big East ticket sales to run in the magazine.

In September, the appellate court ordered Rutgers University to pay the American Civil Liberties Union, the group that represented the alumni group, an additional $10,000 in attorney fees. A trial court had already ordered the university to pay the ACLU $77,000.

The appeals court also denied the university’s motion for reconsideration and clarification of its August decision. Rutgers University will not appeal the latest decision.

Attorneys for the magazine said that the student press should not be affected by the court’s decision because student editors are not state actors and thus have ultimate editorial discretion when deciding which advertisements to accept.