College newspaper adviser sues administrators over loss of position

NEW JERSEY —Six weeks after three students filed alawsuit against administrators atOcean County College for attempting to censor the student newspaper, theiradviser has filed a similar lawsuitagainst the school for removing her from her position at the paper, which shehas held for the past 35 years.

Karen Bosley, the longtime adviser ofthe Viking News at Ocean County Collegein Toms River, N.J., filed the lawsuit June 19 in federal district court. Thelawsuit came after the college removed her as adviser of the newspaper andbarred her from teaching journalism classes. Filed against President Jon Larsonand several other upper-level college administrators at OCC, the lawsuit allegesthat the administrators violated her First Amendment rights and discriminatedagainst her on the basis of her age. Bosley’s lawsuit follows a relatedone filed against administrators in May by threeViking News student editors.

Bosley, whose job as adviser officially ends today, said she thinksshe was removed from her position because the newspaper publishedseveral stories critical of the Larsonadministration. Among other things, the newspaper in 2000 criticizedLarson’s presidential inauguration gala, which cost the school $78,000,and his hiring of a consultant to change a school logo. More recently, anewspaper story and editorial also criticized Larson’s decision to changea school “activity time” as inconvenient for students and allegedthat the change was made with little input from them.

“Ibelieve the censorship has been largely through intimidation – not bysaying ‘Oh you can’t publish that’ – but throughintimidation of the students and retaliation against me because I don’ttell the students they can’t publish it,” said Bosley, who is aformer member of the Student Press Law Center board ofdirectors.

Bosley said the only reasons that administrators gave herfor not renewing her contract were that the newspaper contained too many editingmistakes and that she had requested Macintosh computers for the paper.

Tara Kelly, a college spokeswoman and one of the defendants in thecase, is on vacation until July 5 and could not be reached for comment,according to her assistant. The assistant said no one else at the college couldcomment on the case, and she declined to provide the SPLC with the name of thecollege’s lawyer.

However, Kelly told theSPLC in December, shortly after thecollege’s board of trustees voted to remove Bosley, that thecollege’s actions were not motivated by the newspaper’s coverage ofthe administration.

“We encourage free press. The actions have noretaliatory motivation,” Kelly has said. “We would never make an employmentdecision based on a student action…. We hope with a new adviser [studenteditors] will continue to shine their flashlight on theadministration.”

Jan Kirsten, director of college relations, alsoreferred the SPLC to Kelly and declined to provide the name of thecollege’s lawyer.

“The college does think that it willprevail, but that’s really all I can say,” Kirsten said, decliningfurther comment on the case.

Bosley said that in addition toremoving her as adviser to the VikingNews, the college also reassigned her from teaching journalism classes toteaching English.

“The reassignment I think is twofold,” Bosley said. “One, to try to indicate to the public that I’m not competent to be adviser and teach journalism, and second to make me feel unhappy so I’ll quit.”

Angelo Stio, the lawyer for the studentswho filed a lawsuit against OCC, said a hearing for their motion for a temporaryrestraining order is scheduled for July 17.