The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the University of California San Diego after administrators and the student government cut funding for the student press in retaliation for a controversial article published by the satirical paper, The Koala.
The ACLU’s legal filing quotes extensively from university officials’ correspondence and Bias Incident Report Forms submitted by offended students, providing insight into the attitudes toward free speech on UCSD’s campus.
Last November, The Koala poked fun at PC culture in an article entitled “UCSD Unveils New Dangerous Space on Campus,” using racial epithets and mocking trigger warnings and safe spaces. It discusses the creation of a so-called “dangerous space” to accommodate “individuals who do not like feeling safe . . . continuing the university’s theme of inclusion and equality.”
That was, apparently, the final straw for administrators who had long been fed up with The Koala, which liberally sprinkles foul, scatological, sexual, and racial language in its satire.
Even before the dangerous spaces article, the university’s vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion wrote to a colleague about how a recent issue of The Koala “crosses the ‘free speech’ line and I’d like to explore ways we can do something about it,” adding, “I know it’s a delicate undertaking.”
The ACLU’s legal filing also quotes extensively from the Bias Incident Report Forms, submitted to the college by students aghast at The Koala’s article.
“[The publication] propagates insensitive mindsets with its sexist and racist comments masked under cruel humor,” one complaint said. “Screen works to make sure that there is no propagation of these attitudes.”
Another complaint demanded the university “immediately take the initiative to end any hate speech, actions or crimes that offend any groups represented on this campus.”
Another one claimed that the most recent issue of The Koala “is ruining the campus climate and making me and other students feel unsafe at this university.”
The Bias Response Incident Reports apparently prompted action, with one administrator noting, “we do not typically receive so many reports regarding single issue.” Ultimately, the student government responded by ending funding for all printed student media, though it continues to pay for other forms of speech, including forums and events with speakers.
The ACLU argues that “however offensive or outrageous it may have been, the article remains protected speech on topical issues of public concern, including but not necessarily limited to the nature, purpose, and appropriateness of trigger warnings and safe spaces on college and university campuses.”
A district court has scheduled a hearing on the case on July 18, where it will consider the ACLU’s motion for a preliminary injunction.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum and the Steamboat Institute.