College Media Association has decided to remove its 2016 censure of Saint Peter’s University in response to changes at the New Jersey school intended to better protect student press freedoms.

“I am very happy to see the progress Saint Peter’s has made toward ensuring the First Amendment freedoms of students,” CMA President Kelley Lash 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.”

CMA issued its public reprimand of the Jesuit university after a CMA investigation revealed that college officials had shut down the campus newspaper after students printed content that some officials considered too risqué.

The content, published in a Valentine’s Day issue in February 2016, contained discussions of sex that Provost Gerard O’Sullivan deemed “degrading of human intimacy.”

O’Sullivan demanded in writing that the newspaper’s adviser and editors apologize to the university community, and college officials refused to allow students to print the paper for the rest of the spring 2016 semester, according to a report from Chris Evans, chairman of CMA’s First Amendment Advocacy Committee.

College officials also removed faculty member Ernabel Demillo from her position as adviser to the newspaper, The Pauw Wow, according to the report.

Evans said his investigation revealed a culture of intimidation against student journalists and their adviser. It was this hostility to the concepts of free speech and free press that led CMA to issue the censure in fall 2016.

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

Significant changes have occurred since the investigation concluded, Evans said, and a removal of the censure was warranted.

Among the changes:

  • O’Sullivan, the official at the center of events that led to the closure of the student newspaper, no longer has authority over the paper. Those duties have been moved to Vice President Anthony Skevakis, who has pledged to protect students’ First Amendment rights.
  • Current college officials have said that they will not seek to censor stories. Among the events leading to the censure were reports from students that administrators planned to hire non-student staff members to conduct prior review. Those staff members were never hired.
  • After removing the newspaper adviser in spring 2016, Saint Peter’s officials hired a new adviser in fall 2016. Student journalists say that the new adviser respects and defends their right to create and publish their own news stories.
  • Although Saint Peter’s officials prevented students from publishing the paper in spring 2016, they allowed students to begin publishing again in fall 2016.
  • The college administration now offers students the chance to receive academic credit for some of their work with the Pauw Wow.
  • Both students and advisers say that the atmosphere has changed and that they feel confident that their rights will be protected. School officials have said that they are committed to protecting students’ free-press rights.

O’Sullivan—who previously refused to speak with a CMA investigator—did not respond to a recent emailed request for comment.

Skevakis, the college’s vice president for Student Life and Development, said he felt that many of CMA’s initial concerns resulted from misinterpretations of events at the university—a claim that the school’s media advisers and student journalists dispute—and pledged to protect students’ First Amendment rights.

"Saint Peter’s University is pleased that the board of the College Media Association (CMA) has voted to lift the censure on the University,” Skevakis wrote in an email. “We are grateful that we were able to work with the CMA team to resolve any conflicts and misunderstandings to ultimately focus on the greater mission of supporting our students while they are learning at the University and on their path to becoming future media professionals.”

Demillo, who was removed as adviser, was not returned to the job, but she said that she has faith in her replacement, Georgia Kral, to champion students’ rights. Both newspaper advisers said that they felt the censure should be lifted.

"I am proud of the journalism that the staff of The Pauw Wow has produced this year and am looking forward to continued excellence," Kral said.

The Pauw Wow’s new student editor-in-chief, Gabriella Robles, added: “I look forward to my role as editor-in-chief of The Pauw Wow and continuing the tradition of a student-run newspaper that supplies fair and accurate reporting to our community.”

CMA President Lash said she remains concerned that Demillo, a tenured faculty member still employed at Saint Peter’s, was not returned to her position as adviser. Because Kral does not have tenure, she is less protected from being fired or otherwise disciplined.

“Nonetheless,” Lash said, “we take Saint Peter’s officials at their word."

CMA will continue to monitor the situation, and we look forward to continuing a healthy dialogue aimed at ensuring that students have the right to voice their opinions and address issues of importance to the student body.”

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