The College Media Association board of directors has voted to remove its 2006 censure of LeMoyne College after administrative changes ushered in a more supportive environment and have led to more freedoms for The Dolphin student newspaper.

“It is encouraging that more than a decade after the censure, LeMoyne College has become much more supportive of the First Amendment,” CMA President Chris Evans said. “While censuring a school is always unfortunate, witnessing such a positive turnaround is rewarding.

“I hope this trend will continue and that the students will continue to benefit from the freedoms outlined in the First Amendment.”

A censure is CMA’s strongest statement of condemnation for schools that violate the spirit of the First Amendment in dealing with collegiate journalists.

CMA issued its public reprimand of the Jesuit university college after officials, citing “quality issues,” removed the adviser. A CMA investigation indicated that college administrators had removed the adviser in an attempt to better control the content and quality of the student newspaper—a flagrant violation of the First Amendment protections of free press and free speech for LeMoyne’s student journalists.

The adviser, Alan Fischler, said the situation stemmed largely from a college president more concerned with image and power than the rights of students. That president was later removed by the Jesuit hierarchy.

The impetus for the adviser’s removal, Fischler said, was that the newspaper had published articles that did not cast the university and the administration in the most favorable of lights. Fischler’s standing was probably not helped when he penned a column in the newspaper that he described as “highly critical of the administration.”

The newspaper staff chose to go on strike for nearly a year until a new adviser was named.

In July 2017, the vice president for student affairs—as well as a former adviser and the current media adviserasked CMA to remove the censure. The First Amendment Advocacy Committee agreed to conduct a follow-up investigation.

The newest adviser, Glenn Coin, is a professional journalist, and he said while he has had discussions with the administration about the paper, administrators have not tried to control content or institute prior review or restraint.

First Amendment Advocacy Committee Chair Robert Bergland said he is happy the censure seemed to have its intended effect.

“I’m pleased to see the system working, to see positive changes stemming from a bad situation that warranted censure,” Bergland said. “The attitude toward First Amendment principles at LeMoyne is remarkably different than it was a decade ago, and the administrators' respect for their students’ freedom of the press warrants removal of the censure."

Bergland pointed to several positive indicators the committee considered in recommending the removal of censure:

  • The president of the institution at the time of censure, who seemed to be the driving force behind the administrative decision to remove the adviser, is no longer at the school, having been removed as president not long after the censure was put in place
  • The most recent editor-in-chief reported no administrative control over content despite aggressive reporting from the student newspaper that called administrative policy and decisions into question
  • The two faculty members who served as advisers the last seven years likewise reported no pressure from the administration to influence content decisions. The current adviser is an adjunct, and his contract could have easily been not renewed in the wake of the controversial stories being published.
  • Interviews with the administration also showed a respect for the independence of the student newspaper and a desire to take actions to help the newspaper succeed.
  • The student newspaper’s constitution guarantees its editorial independence from both the administration and the faculty adviser.

CMA’s advocacy program, established in 1998, is designed to help mediate issues that arise when advisers are punished in the performance of their duties while following CMA’s code of ethics. CMA is a professional association of more than 750 members representing some 500 colleges and universities across the country.

For more information, please contact CMA headquarters at (212) 297-2195 or at info@collegemedia.org.