TRENTON, N.J. — A southern New Jersey community college is receiving more criticism from national journalism groups, and facing litigation, over its removal of the faculty adviser of a student newspaper.
Last week, College Media Advisers, the 800-member national organization serving faculty and staff advisers to the nation's college media, censured Ocean County College for its decision to remove Karen Bosley, who served as adviser of the Viking News for 35 years.
The advisers group says the censure serves as a warning to potential faculty, as well as students, that the college fails to value free speech and a free student press on its campus.
"CMA cannot tolerate the tactic of removing the publication adviser for the purpose of instituting more control of constitutionally protected student content," CMA President Lance Speere said in a statement.
CMA's censure comes a week after the Society of Professional Journalists released a task force report that called for Bosley's reinstatement, even as it acknowledged that she resisted efforts to modernize the newspaper.
The college's board of trustees in December voted against renewing Bosley's contract as adviser, which expires in June. Bosley, a professor of humanities, fine arts and media studies, was also reassigned from teaching journalism to teaching English.
Bosley said on May 19 that she still planned to file an age discrimination lawsuit against the college.
Earlier this month, three of Bosley's students sued the college and college officials in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, calling her removal an act of retaliation to institute administration control of student newspaper content. The lawsuit seeks Bosley's reinstatement and measures to prevent further retaliation against the newspaper.
Bosley, student editors and others at Ocean County College say her removal is in retaliation for stories and opinion pieces that have been critical of college President Jon Larson and his administration.
College officials have said Bosley's removal is a result of her job performance, not the content of the newspaper.
Bosley said she had been encouraged by the support of the journalism groups.
"I'm sorry that the situation degenerated to that point and I'm glad that College Media Advisers is standing firm in its commitment to First Amendment rights for students on the campus," Bosley said.
Tara Kelly, vice president of college advancement, said the fundamental issue was the need to improve the Viking News and make it "one of the premier college newspapers in the country."
"But we disagree that Karen Bosley is the right person for that job," Kelly said.