Trustees at a southern New Jersey community college have agreed to permanently reinstate a student newspaper faculty adviser whose removal had sparked protests from journalism groups and even criticism from a federal judge.
The reinstatement was part of a settlement announced last week by the Ocean County College Board of Trustees and student journalists who had sued the school. It also calls for the creation of a new student media advisory board at the college in Toms River.
The students had filed a lawsuit last summer, several months after the trustees voted against renewing the contract of Karen Bosley, who at the time had been the adviser of the college’s Viking News for 35 years.
The suit claimed administration officials had violated their First Amendment rights, claiming her removal was retaliation for stories and opinion pieces that were critical of college President Jon Larson and his administration.
The school denied those allegations, saying Bosley’s removal was a result of her job performance, not the content of the newspaper.
However, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in July that allowed Bosley to return as adviser this past fall, saying her removal would have a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression.
Bosley said she was pleased that the matter has been resolved.
“I’m delighted to have been restored (as adviser), delighted to have a strong First Amendment statement and very proud of my students for waging this battle,” she said. Bosley was in Washington on Thursday night, where she spoke at the National Press Club during a dinner for the Arlington, Va.-based Student Press Law Center, which helped the students with the lawsuit.
Alberto Morales, a former news and photography editor at the newspaper and one of the students involved in the suit, said he could not discuss the settlement at length.
However, Morales said he was “very pleased” that it included a statement in which the school said it supports “the free speech rights of students and employees and a student press free from prior review, prior restraint, or censorship.”
“Before this, that was not stated at the school, and people kind of wanted to hear them say something like that,” said Morales, now a sophomore at Indiana University and a staffer with the Indiana Daily Student, an independent newspaper based at the school in Bloomington.
“I’m glad we fought for that, and I hope it will be a model for other colleges nationwide,” Morales said. “We had a great leader and a great mentor in Karen Bosley.”
– Associated Press
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