Pa. college rethinks ban, allows newspaper to publish ads for bookstores

PENNSYLVANIA — After attempting to prohibit thestudent newspaper from running advertisements from certain booksellers,administrators at Cedar Crest College, a private school, have decided to allow students to publish the newspaper withoutadministrative interference.An advertisement for, anInternet-based discount bookseller, ran in the Feb. 19 edition of TheCrestiad, causing the Allentown school’s administration to worry aboutwhether the advertisement violated the school’s contract with retailbookseller Barnes & Noble.The same day the paper was distributed,Elizabeth Ortiz, the newspaper’s adviser, received a call from a schooladministrator, who told her the newspaper could not continue to publishadvertisements for bookstores other than Barnes & Noble.Ortiz, whois in her first year as an adviser, said she contacted other college mediaadvisers to elicit advice.”If the college gets involved,they’re taking over more than just advertising. A lot of the otheradvisors felt it was about freedom of the press,” Ortiz said.Shesaid that in a newspaper, advertisements are consideredcontent.”If ad content was regulated, what’s to keep therest of the content from being regulated?” Ortiz said. Throughconversations with other advisers and a lawyer, Ortiz was informed that becausethe school is private and has no policies regarding censorship of the newspaper,the school has a right to censor both advertising and editorialcontent.Ortiz said she voiced her concerns about censorship of thestudent newspaper with administrators. She said the school wanted to contact itslawyer to make sure they were not infringing on its contract before respondingto her concerns.”They decided that they would rather not infringeon the rights of the students,” Ortiz said. ”The paper can do whatit would like with advertising and [editorial] content.”Ortiz saidshe did not inform the newspaper staff of the situation because she”didn’t want it to get out of control” before she couldestablish a dialogue with the administration.Ortiz also said she doesnot expect the college to write any new policies about editorial control of thenewspaper.”There aren’t many policies on the books,”Ortiz said. ”There aren’t really a lot of precedents or guidelinesthe paper works within. We always just assumed we were working under the FirstAmendment.”School administrators did not return requests forcomment.