When an ad for Hofstra University’s communications schoolappeared in The Pioneer, the student newspaper at LongIsland University’s C.W. Post campus, the school’s provost wasn’t pleased.
The provost complained to the newspaper’s faculty adviser,and since then, the paper has been banned from running ads for other colleges,said Anne Winberry, co-editor of The Pioneer.
The paper had already committed to two more ads fromHofstra, but had to refund the money. Just recently, two more ads came in thatthe paper couldn’t accept.
“We actually have to turn away money,” Winberry said.
Since C.W. Post is a private institution and is not coveredby the protections of the First Amendment, there is little ThePioneer can do legally to combat the policy.
Private universities across the country are cracking down ontheir student media advertising policies — a practice that would likely beconsidered unconstitutional at a public university. Targets are many, fromalcohol to off-campus housing, but perhaps most damaging to newspaper revenuesis the bar on ads for degree programs at competing schools.
“Our student newspaper is a student club. It is fundedthrough the Student Government Association using student activity fees that theuniversity collects,” C.W. Post Provost Paul Forestell wrote in a statement. “Ihave the fiduciary responsibility to make sure those funds are used in waysthat most benefit our students.”
“Running ads from other universities would be a poorbusiness decision on the part of the student newspaper,” Forestell continued.“This is not a free speech or student service issue. Our position is that itdoes not serve our students well to allow others to use the student newspaperto entice our students to go elsewhere.”
Forestell declined to elaborate further.
In following Forestell’s policy, Winberry said the paper hadto pursue other advertising options, which placed a greater burden on the businessdepartment. Hofstra and other universities used to save them the trouble byapproaching the paper for advertising space, not the other way around.
“We accepted, of course,” Winberry said, “because it’s moneybeing generated for us.”
The student newspaper at Connecticut’s Quinnipiac Universityis facing a similar setback, but Chronicle Editor-in-ChiefLenny Neslin seems to have accepted the school’s policy as a fact of life.
“It’s been a pretty weak fight,” Neslin said. “We tried to (fight)it last year, but our adviser talked us out of it. We have bigger battles topush for.”
The policy at Quinnipiac reads, “Advertising (inuniversity-funded student media) that promotes the use of alcoholic beverages,off-campus housing, non-Quinnipiac degree programs, violations of any local,state or federal laws, or University policies is prohibited.”
Neslin said the policy isn’t worth fighting because TheChronicle is making plenty of money despite the ban. QuinnipiacUniversity continues to pay for The Chronicle’s printing —meaning the private university still has a say in newspaper policy.
The Chronicle faculty adviser Lila Carneyreferred interview requests to Quinnipiac spokesman John Morgan before shecould comment. Morgan disregarded requests to speak with Carney, instead askingfor a list of questions via email.
“The university reserves the right to refuse any advertisingin university-owned publications,” wrote Lynn Bushnell, vice president forpublic affairs, in a statement emailed by Morgan.
University officials declined to comment further.
Staffers at The Griffin studentnewspaper at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., said they managed to avoid asimilar proposal in February by Dean of Students Terri Mangione.
Business Manager Kim Nowicki and another staff member satdown with Mangione to discuss her financial concerns with TheGriffin featuring ads promoting other universities’ degree programsand off-campus housing.
“She wanted us to agree to a ‘no-compete clause,’” Nowickisaid, “saying anything that, basically, she deems to be a direct competitor ofthe school, that we would agree not to let them advertise. In return for themoney we would be losing, she would help us find a different source to make upfor that.”
“Direct competitors” included off-campus housing andnon-Canisius degree programs, Nowicki explained. As far as she is aware, TheGriffin has always run those types of ads.
Mangione, however, said she was only trying to inform TheGriffin of the university’s budgetary concerns. She said she nevereven considered a “no-compete clause,” and the paper is safe to run any ads itchooses.
Though he was not present for the initial meeting, facultyadviser Rob Kaiser said Mangione did not mention a “no-compete clause” in alater meeting on the subject between him, Mangione and his supervisor, BarbIrwin.
Last year, the paper made about $15,000 in revenue. Nowickiestimated that about half of that was made off the kinds of ads she claimedMangione wanted to ban.
A similar situation could have occurred last year at BoiseState University, a public school. Administrators, however, put a stop to anyattempt at discouraging the advertising.
Brad Arendt, director of student media, said he wasapproached by a university employee at a freshman orientation event. Shecriticized the paper’s practice of running advertisements for otheruniversities.
“Aren’t we all on the same team?” he recalled being asked.
That employee wasn’t the only person to question thepractice, either. In the end, though, the criticism never escalated pastlower-level administrators.
“I feel so fortunate,” Arendt said.
David Swartzlander, president of the College MediaAssociation and Doane College student media adviser, has experience with this kindof situation. An administrator at the private school in Crete, Neb., tried toblock competing ads about a decade ago.
“Well, that’s advertising,” Swartzlander told theadministrator. “If you want to run an ad for Doane College, this is what itcosts.”
He explained further to the administrator, “We pay some ofthe bills — especially our student-received paychecks — through advertising.”
Once Swartzlander had explained the situation, theadministrator backed off.
Swartzlander’s luck with the situation, though, appears tobe uncommon among student media that face bans on advertising. He said the CMAlistserv, which includes student media advisers around the country, getsinquiries on the subject every couple years.
Advice from a lawyer
Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press LawCenter, said even student journalists at private institutions have options whenfacing new advertising rules.
“So if you’re at a private institution,” LoMonte said,“obviously you can’t invoke the First Amendment, but you can always appeal topractical self-interest.”
Anything that brings in money, he explained, should beviewed positively — even if the money is coming from competition. After all,LoMonte said, more competition is a good thing in the long run.
“If the campus bookstore or the campus housing can’t stackup against the competition,” he added, “then maybe it needs to be improved.”
In past situations, advisers at both public and privateinstitutions have been concerned about their job security. If the paper triedto fight the university’s policies, the advisers could lose their jobs – sothey try to stay out of it.
LoMonte said that’s exactly what advisers should do — butthe student editors shouldn’t give up.
“The adviser can coach the students and teach the studentsprinciples of press freedom,” he said, “but at the end of the day, the adviserhas to sit on the sidelines. The publication belongs, at the end of the day, tothe students, and its continued economic welfare is their responsibility.”
The argument, he said, should be more about “economicreality” than freedom of speech or of the press.
“One of the things that people can learn out of thesesituations is how to use diplomacy where the law offers no recourse,” LoMontesaid. “You very often have to resort to tact and negotiation to get your way.If you succeed on this small stage, it really is great preparation for thebusiness world.”
By Nick Glunt, SPLC staff writer