University of California at San Diego: Unconstitutional Defunding of Student Media

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of California, San Diego

On November 18, 2015, in response to a controversial article by satirical student newspaper The Koala, administrators at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) publically condemned the paper’s “offensive and hurtful” language. The same day, the UCSD student government voted to strip funding from all student press organizations, an unconstitutional action aimed specifically at censoring The Koala. This is the second time since 2010 that UCSD student government has tried to defund student media in reaction to The Koala; on the previous occasion, the student government ultimately restored funding. FIRE and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, both of which also wrote to UCSD concerning the 2010 case, have written to UCSD’s administration and student government demanding they restore the student media organizations’ lost funding.

  • Student Newspaper that Mocked ‘Safe Spaces’ Sues Public University for Defunding it

    June 2, 2016

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix Think that “bias incident reports” can’t do any real damage to the people named in them?… Read more here.

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  • ACLU sues UCSD over Koala Funding

    June 1, 2016

    By Gary Warth at The San Diego Union-Tribune  SAN DIEGO — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit claiming UC San Diego and the Associated Students Council violated the First Amendment rights of the satirical newspaper The Koala and other campus publications by cutting their funding last year… Read more here.

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  • Controversial Koala Humor Magazine Prints New Issue Despite Losing Funding in Targeted Cut

    December 22, 2015

    By Madeline Will at Student Press Law Center The controversial Koala student humor publication has printed a new issue after raising $1,000 in a crowdfunding campaign after its funding — along with 12 other student media outlets’ — was eliminated in a broad-stroke measure motivated by the magazine’s notorious shock-value humor. The Koala had published an article in November containing racial slurs, which prompted a statement from University of California-San Diego administrators that denounced the magazine for the “offensive and hurtful language it chooses to publish.” The statement called on UCSD students, faculty, staff and community members to “join us […]

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  • FIRE files amici brief in Koala’s appeal of UCSD funding cut

    August 3, 2017

    Today, FIRE and the Cato Institute filed an amici curiae brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, requesting that the federal appellate court review and reverse a district court’s dismissal of Koala v. Khosla, in which the long-running humor publication The Koala sought to reverse a funding cut by the University of California, San Diego. If permitted to stand, the district court’s ruling could undermine college students’ speech rights in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State. This was not UCSD’s first attempt at de-funding The Koala. Having been reminded by […]

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  • In flawed opinion, district court dismisses The Koala’s lawsuit

    March 3, 2017

    A federal judge dismissed a student humor publication’s lawsuit against the University of California, San Diego on Wednesday in an opinion that is remarkable primarily for how consistently it misinterprets law and precedent. If you have followed FIRE’s work, you are already familiar with The Koala (tagline: “The Worst in Collegiate Journalism Since 1982!”), a student publication that specializes in humor that many people find tasteless and offensive. In modern vernacular, one might describe The Koala as “trolling” the campus community for more than three decades, although the publication has been around longer than that term has been used. In […]

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  • Court Denies Preliminary Injunction for Defunded Satirical Newspaper at UC San Diego

    November 14, 2016

    Earlier this month, a federal district court in California denied a preliminary injunction request and dismissed the First Amendment claims of a satirical student newspaper at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) that was stripped of funding last year after publishing a controversial article. The newspaper, The Koala, is represented by the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, and filed suit in May 2016 after seeing its funding cut in a vote by the UCSD student government that eliminated student activity fee funding for all student print outlets. As FIRE reported last year, the November 18, 2015, defunding […]

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  • As ‘The Koala’ Files Lawsuit Against University of California, San Diego, Public Records Reveal Administration’s Censorship

    June 1, 2016

    Last November, a student-run satirical newspaper at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), The Koala, was one of thirteen student publications whose funding was cut by the UCSD student government—just days after The Koala published an article satirizing “safe spaces.” At the time, Dominick Suvonnasupa, president of the UCSD student government, claimed that “the vote was not about The Koala, but was only about addressing the most efficient use of student funds.” That claim was dubious at best, and now Suvonnasupa—along with UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla—is being sued by The Koala, represented by the ACLU of San Diego & […]

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  • Student Newspaper’s First Amendment Lawsuit Against University of Kansas Administrators Is Important Reminder about Need to Check Student Government Power

    February 10, 2016

    On February 5, the University Daily Kansan filed a lawsuit against two administrators of the University of Kansas (KU), alleging that the administrators failed to intervene when the student government slashed funding to the Kansan over an editorial criticizing the results of a student government election. The Kansan story begins in April 2014, when a slate of candidates for student government positions were declared ineligible the night before the election, resulting in two students who received a minority of votes—Morgan Said and Miranda Wagner—being elected to office. In response, the Kansan published an editorial by attorney and professor Mark Johnson […]

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  • FIRE to UC San Diego: Reverse Unconstitutional Defunding of Student Media

    December 18, 2015

    This week, FIRE sent a letter to the Chancellor of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and its student government president, urging the reversal of a recent student council vote to yank funding from all student print media outlets. The vote came the same day UCSD administrators condemned the humor publication The Koala in response to an article mocking the concept of “safe spaces” and using racial slurs. Apparently aware that they could not lawfully target The Koala by itself, student council members attempted an end-run around the First Amendment by simply taking away all of its funding to […]

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