Journalism educators pass resolutions supporting First Amendment rights for students

CALIFORNIA — The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication passed aresolution censuring Ocean CountyCollege in New Jersey for terminating the adviser of the school’s studentnewspaper.

AEJMC also passed aresolution generally supporting the FirstAmendment rights of students and student newspaper advisers. Both resolutionswere passed Aug. 4 at the organization’s convention in SanFrancisco.

The censure of Ocean County College follows a decision bythe college’s board of trustees in December not to renew student newspaperadviser Karen Bosley’s contract. The decision, seen by many student pressadvocates as an act of censorship, led to alawsuit filed in May by studentsrequesting that Bosley be reinstated.

A federal district court issueda preliminary injunction July 26reinstating Bosley. The preliminary injunction is a decision that will allowBosley to continue to advise the student newspaper while the lawsuit isunderway.

In addition to censuring the college, the AEJMC resolutionalso calls on Bosley’s reinstatement both as adviser and as a journalismprofessor — the college has also reassigned her to teaching Englishcourses.

The more general resolution calls for the maintenance ofstudent newspaper advisers’ rights and condemns requiring advisers toreview content prior to publication or in any way determine student newspapercontent.

The resolution says AEJMC will communicate theassociation’s concern about student press censorship to the AccreditingCouncil for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications and urge ”thatsuch behavior be given special consideration in accreditationdecisions.”

”A threat to accreditation is a powerfulweapon in the fight against censorship,” said Mark Goodman, executivedirector of the Student Press Law Center. ”This resolution should havesome schools very nervous.”

The resolution also pledges topublicize all examples of ”bad faith among colleges and universitiesrespecting the First Amendment in curricula and extra-curricular activitiesthrough member publications and through press releases to themedia.”

Barbara Reed, a journalism and media studies associateprofessor at Rutgers University at New Brunswick/Piscataway, sponsored theresolutions.

AEJMC President Sharon Dunwoody said the resolutionsstem from the organization’s concern for protecting the rights of thestudents they teach.

”Although professional journalismorganizations are also being very supportive of this particular set of issues,this is in an educational setting and in some ways journalism educators are evenmore relevant,” said Dunwoody, who is a professor of journalism and mediastudies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

”I think wehave to practice what we preach in the classroom,” shesaid.