Adviser Bosley settles case with Ocean County College

NEW JERSEY — Ocean County College will pay reinstated newspaper adviser Karen Bosley $90,000 and return her to teaching journalism classes to settle a lawsuit she filed when the school took away her classes and refused to renew her contract as adviser in December 2005, Bosley said in an e-mail.

The agreement was reached earlier this month also calls for Bosley to teach two English classes, rather than the introduction to communications courses she had taught and hoped to gain back through the lawsuit.

“I am happy to have the travesty in human dealings this case represents finished,” Bosley said in a statement. “I am relieved the lawsuit is over, the three Viking News former editors and I have been vindicated and I have back both the advisership and my journalism classes.”

Bosley, who had served as adviser to the Viking News for 35 years until she was removed and is also a former member of the Student Press Law Center Board of Directors, said the New Jersey public school’s actions were detrimental to journalism and education at the school.

“In all of these maneuverings, as in almost everything else, sadly, the very last consideration is the welfare of students,” Bosley said. “From the very beginning, student expression angered and embarrassed the college’s leadership, and the actions against me resulted. All the journalism groups who investigated the college said this. Students, sound educational principles and the First Amendment were trampled.”

Bosley’s lawsuit was filed in federal district court in June 2006 against college President Jon Larson and several top administrators, whom it accused of violating Bosley’s First Amendment rights and discriminating against her on the basis of age.

“I believe the censorship has been largely through intimidation — not by saying ‘Oh, you can’t publish that’ — but through intimidation of the students and retaliation against me because I don’t tell the students they can’t publish it,” Bosley said in 2006.

Bosley has said she thinks she was terminated as the newspaper’s adviser because of stories published by the newspaper that criticized the college’s president and his administration, but said the reasons she was given were that the newspaper contained too many editing mistakes and that she had requested Macintosh computers for the newspaper.

Among other things, the newspaper in 2000 criticized Larson’s presidential inauguration gala, which cost the school $78,000, and his hiring of a consultant to change the school logo. The newspaper also ran a story and editorial in November 2004 that criticized Larson’s decision to change a school “activity time” as inconvenient for students and alleged that the change was made with little input from them.

When reassigned to teach English instead of journalism workshops, Bosley said she thought the motivation behind that action was to discredit her and pressure her into leaving the school.

“The reassignment I think is twofold,” Bosley said in June 2006. “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.”

Bosley regained her position as adviser in June when Ocean County College settled a lawsuit filed by several of her students, who said her removal was an act of censorship by intimidation.

The students were granted a preliminary injunction in July 2006 that temporarily reinstated Bosley to her former position as adviser.

“Granting such an injunction is an extraordinary measure that should only be done in limited circumstances,” but in this case, “it is clear that such a retaliatory removal would, nonetheless, have an impermissibly chilling effect on the paper’s student editors’ freedom of expression in future issues of the paper, and inflict irreparable harm on the Plaintiffs,” Judge Stanley R. Chesler wrote in his opinion.

College Media Advisers and the Society of Professional Journalists had both issued reports in 2006 calling for Bosley’s reinstatement as adviser.

Spokespeople at Ocean County College could not be reached before press time. The Student Press Law Center was unable to obtain a copy of the settlement before press time.