The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the University at California at San Diego (UCSD) for defunding a student publication that offended UCSD students.
The Koala, a satirical student publication that has been published at UCSD since 1982, ran a piece entitled “USCD Unveils New Dangerous Space On Campus” which satirized trigger warnings and safe spaces. “Too long have trigger warnings plagued the airwaves. Too long has the no-blacks rule been removed from our campus. Too long have students not been free to offend their hypersensitive peers,” the piece read.
The edition attracted criticism from a host of campus constituencies. “We, the UC San Diego administration, strongly denounce the Koala publication and the offensive and hurtful language it chooses to publish,” an open letter to the university from senior administrators read. “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.”
Within a week, USCD’s student government, which finances The Koala, defunded all student publications.
The ACLU alledges this action runs afoul of the First Amendment.
“The student government violated the First Amendment in two ways,” a statement from the ACLU read. “First, it targeted the student press by stripping it of revenue that remains available to support other student speech. Second, it retaliated against the editorial viewpoint of The Koala, an action that is not immunized by inflicting collateral damage on all student media.”
Although the organization expressed sympathy with those offended, it asserted The Koala piece was “classic protected speech.”
“Trauma is real,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU in San Diego and Imperial Counties, “but censorship is not the cure, because it inevitably blows back on those it purports to protect.”
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