Ocean County College students settle First Amendment lawsuit

NEW JERSEY — A college newspaper adviser removed from her position in December 2005 has been permanently reinstated as part of the settlement of a lawsuit filed by several students who claimed her removal was an act of censorship by intimidation.

Karen Bosley, who had served as adviser to the Viking News at Ocean County College for 35 years until she was removed, continues her lawsuit against the college for taking away journalism classes she had taught at the college. Bosley is also a previous board member of the Student Press Law Center.

According to an article published in the June 7 issue of the Viking News, the settlement states the college “supports the free speech rights of students and employees and a student press free from prior review, prior restraint, or censorship as well as recognizes all student media as limited public forums.”

“I’m very happy with being restored as adviser and extremely happy with the First Amendment statement because it not only protects student journalists and student media workers, but also students in general,” Bosley said.

The settlement also calls for the creation of a Student Media Advisory Board, composed of leaders of campus media organizations and their advisers, representatives from the student body and faculty, and a representative from the local media.

The board’s sole functions, according to the agreement, “are to approve budgets, select editors in chief and radio station managers and act as a resource to the student media.” The agreement also states that the board will not exercise any editorial or content control over the Viking News or other student media.

Bosley was granted a preliminary injunction in July 2006 that temporarily reinstated her to her former position as adviser. She has said she thinks she was terminated as the newspaper’s adviser because articles were published in the Viking News criticizing the college president and his administration.

School administration officials maintain she was not removed in retaliation for what students had printed.

Bosley’s lawsuit came six weeks after three of her students — Alberto Morales, Scott Coppola and Douglas Rush — filed a similar lawsuit in May 2006, which in addition sought to bar the school administration from creating a new Student Media Advisory Board with editorial oversight of student media, changing the newspaper’s computer system and eliminating the student media workshops that Bosley taught.

The students also asked that OCC’s director of student media, Joseph Adellizi, be barred from accessing the Viking News office and from having prior review of the paper’s articles and editorials.

A copy of the settlement could not be obtained before press time.