The MQ has existed, in one form or another, since the mid-1980s. In that time, as you’d imagine, some stories from the organization’s past have survived despite the inherently transient nature of a newspaper staffed by college students.
The most famous of these stories is without a doubt the “Great Funding Freeze of 2010,” in which the AS President froze all media funding in response to the Koala’s Compton Cookout-related drivel on Triton TV. As a freshman, I was eagerly told about how the valiant MQ’ers of that era valiantly defended the paper against the oppressive incompetence of student government; showing up to AS meetings, slamming the president in the very paper he sought to cut off, and finally prevailing as the funding was restored, and the MQ returned to normal. We even made a T-shirt to commemorate that tumultuous quarter; it depicts a baby dinosaur breaking out of an egg, with the caption, “Satire finds a way.” For the last three years, that T-shirt and the stories that accompanied it have been all that remained of that uncertain time in our history.
Until last week, that is.
Late Wednesday night, I was informed that the nightmare scenario of six years ago was once again playing out. The news came not from AS, but from a member of MCC, who felt that, perhaps, I would be interested in knowing that the student organization I run had just lost roughly a third of its funding for the remaining year. I received no such courtesy from AS; no notification of a vote, no invitation to the meeting. The only thing I did receive from them was a very generic email, informing me that “A.S. is no longer offering new funding allocations for print media,” and kindly suggesting other possible sources of funding that I could investigate myself.
Now before I go any further down the “poor MQ” route, I should clarify that I absolutely understand AS’s motivation behind this decision. While I have not actually read the issue of the Koala that started this whole mess (more out of principle than anything at this point), I’m led to understand that it contained some truly vile and downright threatening language, and made a mockery of a very important movement on college campuses across the nation to establish safe spaces for marginalized communities. I sympathize with, and share, the desire of many UCSD students to try to prevent that kind of vitriol from circulating on campus.
But here’s the thing: This decision will fail to achieve that. The Koala has already proven that they’re perfectly capable of functioning without help from AS, and all indications are that they will continue to do so. Indeed, their Editor-in-Chief told the Student Press Law Center that they’ve managed to raise $1000 (already surpassing their quarterly allocation from AS), as well as securing multiple advertising contracts. So it seems pretty clear that they’ll continue to be a presence on campus, and if anything, will be emboldened by the opposition they now face.
Contrast this to the other four student media organizations that have been cut off. While the MQ actually sold advertising at one time, we haven’t done so for about 10 years. The editors and staff of the MQ joined so that they could produce satire, not run a business. And while we certainly haven’t exhausted all of our potential avenues to cover this shortfall, if we can’t, our print run will drop from 7 issues per year to 4, a decrease of almost half. It seems logical that the other three organizations could face similarly hard choices, especially without the backing of a college council.
The logical end result of this decision, then, could very well be that the Koala’s influence over the arena of student-produced media actually increases. In essence, while AS is trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater, what they’re really doing is just throwing the baby out.
So even though I applaud the students who voiced their strong opposition to the continued support of disgustingly hateful media, I believe AS’s decision was the wrong one to address the serious concerns many members of the UCSD community have about the campus climate. I truly believe that the answer to speech and media that we find offensive is more speech and media rather than less; rather than attempting to suppress it. I believe that is more effective and more empowering to actively argue against viewpoints that we think are misguided and harmful, rather than trying to stifle the conversation altogether. In short, I believe that a UCSD campus without vibrant student media is a worse alternative than the status quo, and one that could be easily realized if this course continues.
I know that I am a biased source of information on this issue. I’ve been a member of the MQ for more than three years now, and there are very few things that I’ve ever been so passionate about. The MQ has given me the best friends I’ve ever had, and an unbelievable opportunity to use humor and language to make my voice heard. In short, I can’t imagine my life at this university without the MQ, and I think most if not all of my fellow staff would say the same. So of course, when our ability to print is threatened, I see no choice other than defending it in any way that I can.
But I hope my perspective on this issue has at least prompted you to think about it in a new way. And if you’re concerned about the future of the MQ and other student media on campus, I encourage you to make your voice heard. The Associated Students are theoretically our representatives; make them act like it. Because while I wasn’t involved in how this whole thing started, I intend to have a voice in how it ends. I hope you’ll do the same.