SAN DIEGO (CN) — The Koala, a satirical student newspaper whose motto is “The Worst in Collegiate Journalism Since 1982!” claims the University of California San Diego cut its funding to punish it for its speech.
The Koala, primarily distributed on the UC San Diego campus, is one of several publications supported by the Associated Students of UCSD. It regularly satirizes issues involving ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and even people with disabilities.
Its content has drawn complaints for years, but it’s managed to survive. But administrators’ decision last year cut all funding to student publications may have killed it, unless The Koala can win what it has proclaimed “the trial of the fucking century.”
Its Monday complaint in Federal Court seeks an injunction against UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, Associated Students of UCSD President Dominick Suvonnasupa, the Associated Students of UCSD Financial Controller Tristan Britt.
“There are two core issues: freedom of the press and freedom of speech,” The Koala’s attorney David Loy said. “The university violated both by discriminating against the student press and discriminating against the viewpoint of one student newspaper.”
UCSD communications director Christine Clark said the university does not comment on pending litigation.
In response to an emailed request for comment, The Koala staff responded: “Drink more beer.”
Attorney Loy, with the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said the ACLU took the Koala’s case because of the speech and free press issues, and that the case is clearly laid out in emails and online reports.
The college has tried to shut down The Koala before. In 2002, it tried to revoke its registration as a student organization after a member took photos of another student organization’s meeting and made fun of it.
In 2010, all student print media were suspended after The Koala broadcast an invitation for an event called “The Compton Cookout,” and asked participants to wear chains, cheap clothes and be loud. Women were told to dress up like “ghetto chicks.” That stirred outrage among the African-American community on campus.
E-mail threads cited in the complaint reveal a discussion between administrators on how to quash the paper, dating back to the 2010 incident.
The Koala’s Nov. 15, 2016 story, “UCSD Unveils New Dangerous Space on Campus” uncorked a new flood of complaints and a renewed effort to stop it.
The story mocked UCSD’s new “safe spaces” where students allegedly are excused from restrictions on insensitivity.
The predictably offensive story reported: “Located in the center of Library Walk, the new Dangerous Space is the ideal place for students to do whatever the hell they want,” then quoted a fictitious “Asian nerd,” F. Yu, who enjoyed necrophilia.
In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, perhaps, the complaint cites 15 student complaints against the Koala, including: “Knowing that my school is funding such a heinous magazine is not okay and I stand by my fellow students to get it off this campus. Please cease funding for this awful publication.”
And: “I would like to see UCSD dismantle The Koala immediately.”
And: “Pull the funds, and make them turn to personal donations if they way to continue this nonsense. They have the UC stamp/icon on the paper. UCSD already has a bad racial climate and this is an obvious contributor that can be eradicated.”
And: “I would like the University to shut down the koala newspaper and the creators of the newspaper should be punished by their college deans.”
Two days after the “Dangerous Space” story was published, Chancellor Khosla and other top administrators denounced The Koala “profoundly repugnant, repulsive, attacking and cruel.” The UC San Diego Associated Student Council quickly decided to cut funding to all student-run publications.
Another UCSD student newspaper, The Guardian, reported that Associated Student Council President Dominick Suvonnasuna said the administrators’ attack had no bearing on the Student Council’s quick decision to cut funding, that it was a coincidence.
The Koala doubts that.
“However offensive or outrageous it may have been, the article remains protected free speech on topical issues of public concern,” the complaint states.
The Koala wants the university enjoined from refusing to provide funding for campus publications or “otherwise interfering” with the First Amendment, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.
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