NEW YORK (AP) _ Columbia University's graduate journalism school, faced with criticism for announcing that what Al Gore says in class is off the record, has retracted the policy.

When the former vice president taught his first class at the school on Tuesday, security officers barred professional reporters from the room and the school sent students an e-mail warning them Gore's remarks were ``off the record'' _ meaning they couldn't be reported by the media. The school drew criticism for the decision, which placed its journalism students in an odd situation: privy to information but forbidden to share it.

``Our aim was hardly that restrictive,'' Tom Goldstein, dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, told The New York Times on Thursday.

The students are now allowed to discuss anything said in Gore's class, ``Covering National Affairs in the Information Age,'' with anyone they want, the school said.

The policy change comes after two other schools were Gore is to teach _ Fisk University in Nashville, and Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro _ announced that their classes would be very much on the record.

``It is ultimately self-defeating for the school to believe it can really transform what is inevitably an event fraught with public interest into one purely of private or academic interest,'' said Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment expert who is also a visiting professor at the Columbia School of Journalism.

``I think that while I have some sympathy for whomever framed the policy, at the end of the day it can't work,'' Abrams said.

At the Tennessee schools, his course topic is ``Creating Family-Centered Communities.''