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October 6, 2015

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Policy prevents UNLV student paper from accepting ad criticizing congressman


Steve Marcus

Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV) responds to a question during a town hall meeting with constituents at Pacific Pines Senior Apartments in Henderson Tuesday, Feb.19, 2013.

Click to enlarge photo

An issue of The Rebel Yell, UNLV's student newspaper.

UNLV's student newspaper this week rejected a left-leaning political advertisement against Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., citing a university policy for student-funded publications to refuse political and religious advertisements.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running advertisements in student newspapers across the country to drum up youth activism around the student debt debate on Capitol Hill.

Unless Congress acts, interest rates on the federal Stafford loan are set to double — from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent — on July 1.

While both parties are against the rate hike, they have not been able to find a compromise to halt it. A two-year extension of the current interest rate is expected to cost taxpayers about $9 billion.

The Democratic political action committee, which supports House Democrats, announced its intentions last week to place advertisements in six college newspapers to alert students that their congressional representative was "poised to allow their student loan rates to double by the end of June."

Along with UNLV, those schools included California State San Bernardino, University of Minnesota, Florida State University, the University of Illinois and Clark College in Washington.

"This should be a wakeup call for the students of UNLV. Congressman Heck is on a path to double your interest rates," the committee's draft press release said. "College students absolutely need to know that Congressman Heck is about to make school more expensive."

The Rebel Yell initially began price negotiations with the committee to advertise in the paper but later informed the committee it could not accept the ad due to UNLV's "advertising and sponsorship" policies, according to the paper's business manager, Savannah Baltera.

"We're not 100 percent self-supporting because we receive funding from (UNLV's) student life funding committee," Baltera said. "We can't run the ad."

UNLV's policy does not allow university publications to accept advertisements from religious or political organizations.

"Advertising must be viewpoint neutral," UNLV's policy states.

University publications also must refuse advertisements for alcohol, tobacco and drug paraphernalia; products produced by child labor; those that promote "high-risk ventures"; those that use racist or sexist themes or stereotypes; and those that sell sex as a product, even by implication.

Upon learning of UNLV's policy, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dropped its advertisement to "respect the university's policies," said Matt Inzeo, the committee's western region spokesman.

Although their advertisement won't be running, Inzeo said he hoped its message about Heck and the student loan rate debate would reach UNLV students.

"We think it's extremely important for Congress to keep interest rates low," Inzeo said. "We wanted (UNLV students) to sit up and take notice."

Greg Lemon, spokesman for Heck, pushed back against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's proposed advertisement.

Lemon argued Heck was working with other House Republicans on a proposal that would link student loan rates to financial markets — in particular the 10-year U.S. Treasury note.

Although President Barack Obama's proposal also pegs student loan interest rates to markets, House Democrats have criticized the GOP proposal, arguing it would raise student loan interest rates even higher, to 8.5 percent.

"Congressman Heck has recently supported legislation to prevent a doubling of the student loan interest rate," Lemon said. "He is actively working to address the real issue that is hurting students and families across the Las Vegas Valley: the skyrocketing costs of a college education."

Editor’s note: Sun staff writer Paul Takahashi sits as a voting member on the Rebel Yell Advisory Board, which sets general policies and direction for the student paper.

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