Altweekly gets a sober judgment

A South Carolina university keeps alcohol, and an altweekly, at bay

Attention Coastal Carolina University students: Readling a local altweekly might drive you to drink.

Authorities at Coastal Carolina University, in South Carolina, denied on-campus distribution to altweekly newspaper The Weekly Surge on August 19 because they believe its articles and adverts promote drinking.

The Surge had been distributed since its 2006 founding at CCU, albeit informally, but when its staff approached the university about expanding the paper’s reach, CCU responded by booting it off campus.

“Several of the articles were about fixing cocktails and reviewing happy hours,” CCU’s vice president of student affairs, Debbie Conner, told Myrtle Beach Online. “That’s not something we want to promote to our students.”

But Kent Kimes, editor of the Surge, is baffled by the decision. Yes, the Surge features articles and ads about drinking and nightlife—the paper serves Myrtle Beach, a fabled resort town—but that’s hardly all it covers. “We broke it down. I have four regular columns that feature alcohol, and they rotate, so there is a different column each week,” Kimes said over the phone. There’s Beerman, which covers Myrtle Beach’s burgeoning craft beer industry; Lush Life, which is largely about cocktails; Happy Hour Heaven, which highlights cheap food and drink; and Hot Pour, a Q&A with a local bartender. The Surge also runs columns on music and movies, and reports on local news—a recent cover story was about prostate cancer.

Kimes also thought that the paper was on good terms with CCU. “I personally have been to their journalism classes several times,” he said. He has given presentations to students, as well as helped them place articles in the Surge. A few CCU professors have even written for the paper in the past, including Colin Foote Burch, an English lecturer who took to Twitter to express his dismay at what he saw as university censorship:

Coastal Carolina University may be sheltering its (predominantly under-21) student body from the Weekly Surge but insists it has not banned the paper and does not have a policy on censorship.

“To clarify, Coastal Carolina University did not ‘ban’ the Weekly Surge,” said university spokeswoman Martha Hunn in an email. “Students are free to read any publications they choose on campus. However, the University’s solicitation policy does not allow businesses to distribute non-University sponsored literature on campus without approval from the Office of University Communication.”

If CCU is seriously suggesting that the Weekly Surge could create a Pavlovian response in students, compelling them to seek out the nearest bar upon sight of anything remotely alcohol-related, it’s a pity officials there didn’t take a closer look at some of the “approved literature” that has been handed out to students. A recent university-sponsored calendar contained adverts for local businesses, including one from the Surge encouraging readers to “Look for new issues every Thursday in racks around campus!”

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Edirin Oputu is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @EdirinOputu Tags: , ,