San Diego ACLU to Sue UCSD on Behalf of the Koala

Associated Students discusses the media defunding during a council meeting on December 2nd, 2015 (Cole Steffensen/ The Triton).

The San Diego ACLU filed a lawsuit today against the officers of UCSD and AS UCSD on accounts of violations of the First Amendment against Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press. The suit names The Koala as the Plaintiff and Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, AS President Dominick Suvonnasupa, and AS Financial Controller Tristan Britt as Defendants.

AS UCSD voted to eliminate funding for all 13 UCSD student-funded media outlets on campus in November, 2015. Many saw the decision as targeting The Koala, a satirical student newspaper. The vote came shortly after a statement signed by Chancellor Khosla, as well as the Executive Vice Chancellor and Vice Chancellors, denouncing The Koala as “profoundly repugnant, repulsive, attacking, and cruel.”

The UC San Diego administration does not provide any financial support for The Koala, and we call on all students, faculty, staff and community members to join us in condemning this publication and other hurtful acts,” read the statement.

The ACLU suit claims that AS UCSD violated the First Amendment by stripping student press organizations of their revenue, despite continuing to financially support other student speech. The suit cites other events funded by AS during the fall of 2015, including Acts 2 Fellowship events to foster “community and Christian values,” as well as several events hosted by cultural organizations. In addition, the suit claims that AS retaliated specifically against the editorial viewpoint of The Koala, and inflicted collateral damage on all student media.

The Koala has had a history of controversial speech and conflict with AS. The paper and its staff have mocked African American students immediately following the Compton Cookout; Haiti, immediately following the earthquake in 2010; and in 2003, published an issue fully dedicated to satirizing Muslims. In addition, The Koala has taken aim at members of AS UCSD, recently pairing pictures of outgoing AS Elected Officials with jokes about rape, among other things.

“Trauma is real,” said David Loy, Legal Director of the ACLU San Diego and Imperial Courts. “But censorship is not the cure, because it inevitably blows back on those it purports to protect.”

After being notified of the ACLU’s press release via a public Facebook post to his wall by San Diego resident and UCSD Alum Daniel Watts, Suvonnasupa took little time to respond:

“Thanks for the update, Daniel. I look forward to addressing this in court.”

This piece was compiled by Gabe Schneider and Aleena Karamally. You can contact them at editor@triton.news and managing@triton.news, respectively.