Journalism educators pass resolutions supporting First Amendment rights for students

CALIFORNIA -- The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication passed a resolution censuring Ocean County College in New Jersey for terminating the adviser of the school's student newspaper.

AEJMC also passed a resolution generally supporting the First Amendment rights of students and student newspaper advisers. Both resolutions were passed Aug. 4 at the organization's convention in San Francisco.

The censure of Ocean County College follows a decision by the college's board of trustees in December not to renew student newspaper adviser Karen Bosley's contract. The decision, seen by many student press advocates as an act of censorship, led to a lawsuit filed in May by students requesting that Bosley be reinstated.

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

In addition to censuring the college, the AEJMC resolution also calls on Bosley's reinstatement both as adviser and as a journalism professor -- the college has also reassigned her to teaching English courses.

The more general resolution calls for the maintenance of student newspaper advisers' rights and condemns requiring advisers to review content prior to publication or in any way determine student newspaper content.

The resolution says AEJMC will communicate the association's concern about student press censorship to the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications and urge ''that such behavior be given special consideration in accreditation decisions.''

''A threat to accreditation is a powerful weapon in the fight against censorship,'' said Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. ''This resolution should have some schools very nervous.''

The resolution also pledges to publicize all examples of ''bad faith among colleges and universities respecting the First Amendment in curricula and extra-curricular activities through member publications and through press releases to the media.''

Barbara Reed, a journalism and media studies associate professor at Rutgers University at New Brunswick/Piscataway, sponsored the resolutions.

AEJMC President Sharon Dunwoody said the resolutions stem from the organization's concern for protecting the rights of the students they teach.

''Although professional journalism organizations are also being very supportive of this particular set of issues, this is in an educational setting and in some ways journalism educators are even more relevant,'' said Dunwoody, who is a professor of journalism and media studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

''I think we have to practice what we preach in the classroom,'' she said.

California, news