First Amendment Advocacy Committee

updated 2-1-2016

CMA members who perform their duties in compliance with CMA's Code of Ethical Behavior, and who find themselves punished as a result, may request an investigation from CMA’s First Amendment Advocacy Program. Trained CMA advocates will investigate their cases in an objective manner to determine whether college administrators have sought to punish an adviser for student media content or otherwise sought to control content through adviser intimidation in a way that squelches students’ rights to free speech and free press.

Any adviser can contact a representative of the program for a confidential consultation. If the adviser requests an official inquiry, a CMA investigator will proceed to interview—by phone and, if needed, in person—college administrators, students and other relevant stakeholders. Each CMA investigation is designed to be thorough, accurate, deliberate, objective and beneficial to the cause of ethical advising at the institution. Frequently, disputes arise among advisers and administrators because of misunderstandings about the adviser’s role in promoting and defending an independent and vigorous student press, so CMA advocates will seek to educate and mediate between adviser and administrators to reduce tensions and help return an educator to his or her advising position in those cases where an adviser has been removed.

If mediation fails—that is, if an investigation shows that an adviser has been punished, removed, reassigned or otherwise maligned by college authorities primarily for carrying out his or her duties in an ethical manner, and if these officials refuse to take steps to remedy the situation, thereby flouting the very concept of a free student press and the basic tenets of ethical media advising—the CMA investigator will issue a full report of findings to the CMA board of directors, which could vote to censure the institution. In the event of a censure, local and national news outlets will be alerted in order to draw attention to the case. The decision to censure is never made impulsively, for it represents the board of directors’ formal condemnation of an institution as oppressive to students’ rights of free expression and hostile toward those professionals it employs to advise the student press. If a censured institution works diligently to enact changes in practice, policy or personnel that lead to an improved and professional working environment, the CMA board could later vote to lift the censure.

To contact the committee, submit this form

Download our policy here.