By Elizabeth Nowrouz
A Virginia judge this month overturned legislation that made it illegal for college publications to advertise alcohol, on the grounds that the law was in violation of the students’ right to free speech.
The law banned alcohol sales ads as well as mentions of alcohol-related activities such as “happy hours” from being printed in school newspapers.
In 2006, a lawsuit was filed by the Americans for Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), stating that the ban was illogical and unfair. This suit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of the Collegiate Times and the Cavalier Daily, the students newspapers of Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia.
According to the ACLU, the legislation was put into action in an effort to deter underage drinking, but no legitimate statistics have been brought forth to prove any connection between alcohol-related ads and underage alcohol consumption.
“I really do think this whole issue is about free speech,” said Roy H. Smith, UMW professor of psychology. “That said, the impact of alcohol in student publications is minimal, so I don’t see any huge effect on actual alcohol abuse on campus.”
The judge ruling in the case cited the lack of verifiable evidence and took into consideration the money lost by these papers for having to limit their advertisements. According to the April 1 issue of the Washington Post, the judge stated that many of the students reading these publications were of legal drinking age already, and all would see the same sort of advertisements in other publications.