Maryland adviser receives award for refusing to censor college newspaper

An embattled college professor and newspaper adviser was presented with the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Key award Feb. 16 in recognition of his “outstanding devotion to the cause of the student press.”

William Lawbaugh, a professor and adviser to the student newspaper at Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmittsburg, Md., received the award for his refusal to censor The Mountain Echo.

“Selecting Dr. Lawbaugh to receive the Gold Key award is an excellent decision on CSPA’s part,” said Carolyn Hakes Dawson, secretary of the Mountain Echo Editors Group, a support group composed of former Mountain Echo editors. “Not only is the award well deserved, but it also sends the strong message to both high school and college newspapers and their advisers to continue to fight the good fight and never back down.”

Lawbaugh has been involved in an ongoing battle with school administrators since February 2000 when he was reprimanded and denied a $3,800 raise for refusing to review the student newspaper prior to publication.

“I feel pretty good about winning this award,” Lawbaugh said. “It’s been almost a year, and I was getting weary. Now I’m re-energized.”

In addition to the penalties already received, Lawbaugh said he is expecting to be denied another pay raise next month.

College Media Advisers, an organization that represents college students and advisers, voted in August to censure Mount St. Mary’s for its treatment of Lawbaugh after conducting an investigation into Lawbaugh’s complaint that he was reprimanded for refusing to censor the student paper.

Along with the Gold Key, Lawbaugh received a certificate which recognized him for “encouragement to the student editors in their several endeavors, service above and beyond the call of delegated duty, leadership in the field of education, and support of the high ideals from which the association has drawn its strength and inspiration.”

Lawbaugh has also received a First Amendment award from the Society of Professional Journalists and a Distinguished Adviser award from CMA.