Yesterday, the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) reported the August 4 decision by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) to censure a community college in New Jersey for violating freedom of the press. Ocean Community College (OCC) has already been censured by the College Media Advisers, Inc. (CMA), a national organization that advocates for best practices among college media outlets.
According to the SPLC, the AEJMC passed the resolution of censure following the OCC Board of Trustees’ December decision not to renew student newspaper advisor Karen Bosley’s contract.
Bosley’s “offense” was allowing the newspaper to print an article critical of the OCC president and administration. AEJMC interpreted the OCC Board of Trustees’ action as censorship. A number of students associated with the newspaper filed a lawsuit against OCC demanding Bosley’s reinstatement. FIRE reported on the Torch a few weeks ago that a federal judge issued an injunction ordering her to be temporarily reinstated as adviser.
In addition to the resolution of censure, the SPLC reported that the AEJMC also passed a more general resolution calling for a regard for student newspaper advisers’ rights and condemning “requiring advisers to review content prior to publication or in any way determine student newspaper content.” The AEJMC also said that they would report press censorship on any campus to the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
“A threat to accreditation is a powerful weapon in the fight against censorship,” said Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “This resolution should have some schools very nervous.”
Freedom of the press is indeed threatened on America’s college campuses. FIRE has been called on to defend press freedom at a number of schools including Craven Community College, Governors State University, Harvard University, LeMoyne University, Stetson University, Suffolk County Community College, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at San Diego, and most recently at Johns Hopkins University.
The resolutions passed by the AEJMC are encouraging. Freedom of the press is an explicit right guaranteed in the First Amendment and it is a positive development for students’ rights that the journalism profession is beginning to hold colleges and universities accountable for that guarantee. Until such rights are secure, FIRE will continue to fight to protect them.