Racial Slur Leads to Student Media Funding Freeze at UCSD

A “racial state of emergency” has been declared and funding for all school-supported student media has been frozen at the University of California, San Diego in the immediate aftermath of a racist campus event coupled with a televised racist slur.

Late last week, the editor of the Koala, a controversial UCSD student humor newspaper “everyone loves to hate,” used the phrase “ungrateful n***ers” (the derogatory term for African Americans) while speaking on the publication’s campus television program. The on-air n-word stirred student anger already brewing over a controversial campus party, called the “Compton Cookout,” whose main theme was an overt mockery of Black History Month. (One report: “An invitation to the party urged participants to dress and act like ‘ghetto chicks’ by speaking loudly, starting fights and wearing cheap clothes.”)

Apparently the Koala has a history of, ahem, boundary pushing, on air and in print.  As the San Diego Union-Tribune notes, “In years past, Koala TV has been temporarily unplugged at least once for airing pornographic material.  The Koala publication has poked fun at Muslims, Latinos and Asians for years, and has been repeatedly criticized by the administration.”  On its homepage, a current message brazenly makes fun of the brouhaha and the outrage it has sparked, including this faux admonition: “The Koala would like to condemn the organizers of the Compton Cookout. If history has shown us anything, you need more black people at your party to have enough black-on-black violence to actually justify the  name ‘Compton.’   Shame on you.  SHAME.”

The cover of the current Koala issue.

While the UCSD administration attempts to calm an understandably enraged minority student contingent, the student government is irrationally pulling pursestrings- temporarily suspending the school’s student media funding.  Not just funding for the Koala, but 33 student media outlets at the university.

My head cocked to the left in confusion as I read about this action, and I have not yet come across an explanation suitable enough to straighten it back up. As best as I can tell, it seems to be a political maneuver meant to placate angry students by showing their concerns about racism have engendered prompt action, along with being an act of recognition that student media played a part in the current “emergency state.”  As the student government president said, In any game where the players are getting hurt, you hit the pause button.” The problem though is that this pause has terrible free press consequences.

The Guardian, the UCSD student newspaper, which is not funded by the university, penned a fantastic editorial response, noting in part: “Because [the student government president] is aware it’s near impossible to seek immediate alternative funds, he therefore must be aware he is essentially censoring all existing publications. . . . If there’s one thing the American Civil Liberties Union and Vice Chancellor of Student Life Penny Rue (not to mention any good therapist) can agree on, it’s that more speech- not less- is most beneficial to a hurting community.”

Or in other words, to borrow from the Koala‘s current online message: “Shame on you.  SHAME.”

(Note: This is the second free press issue this semester involving UC student governments.  Read about the other one here.)

3 Responses to “Racial Slur Leads to Student Media Funding Freeze at UCSD”
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