Campus Newspaper Accused of Attacking Student Leader

On page two of its current issue, The Koala, a student newspaper at the University of California, San Diego, calls a female student government representative a “fat wh-re” in a bolded headline.

The related article similarly condemns her as a “thick-necked uppity skank” and a “homely unf—able bovine.” Nearby, the layout features a photo of the student crudely doctored to include a cutout of male genitalia spread across her face.

According to local news media, the student believes Koala staffers are taking revenge for her vote to cut the newspaper’s funding.  She said that upon seeing the half-page spread, “[I] just kind of fell apart and called my mom.

She is seeking therapy for the emotional pain the Koala has caused, calling the content obscene, pornographic, and blatant sexual harassment.  Her mother is seeking the article’s removal from the paper’s website and legal redress.  As of last week, her communication with the university had gone unanswered.

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UCSD officials did release a public statement, noting, “The university does not endorse, condone or approve of the material the Koala publishes.  Under the First Amendment, the university is severely limited in the actions it can take in response to content published by students.”

According to one law professor, the published content does not fall within the First Amendment’s purview: “It is not free speech.  It is obscenity.  It’s a criminal act. . . . The picture is not protected by the U.S. Constitution.”

A San Diego broadcast news outlet’s attempt to interview the Koala‘s top editor was rebuffed due to a disagreement over alcohol and journalism ethics.  “Late Wednesday, [the editor] returned a phone call from 10News and refused to do an interview unless 10News gave him a case of beer,” the station reported. “10News did not, because it is 10News’ policy not to pay for interviews, so [the editor] ended the conversation.”

Comments
11 Responses to “Campus Newspaper Accused of Attacking Student Leader”
  1. Pete says:

    Not that this justifies anything but based off their website, if not their ethics alone, this publication should not be classified as a student newspaper. It is clearly of a satirical nature with no news value. A majority of their online content is just as offensive and they should be shut down. They have clearly overstepped the lines of their legal protection.

  2. evan7257 says:

    Satire is just as protected as other speech.

    • Pete says:

      Of course it is, but there is still a point where your speech is no longer protected. Calling someone a wh-re or an unf-uckable bovine, especially to the vast audience that their distribution covers, are forms sexual harassment, libel, and I’m sure she could argue a few more areas. Not to mention the picture. Do you truly believe this is the type of speech our laws were constructed to allow and protect? When your speech brings harm to others you better start preparing a defense.

      • david says:

        Of course all speech is protected short of issues concerning national security, riot incitement, assassination, etc., you bloody idiot. This is what makes this country great. The best way to combat speech we don’t agree with is more speech, not less.

  3. Jacob Zlomke says:

    Pete,

    I may be biased, I’m editor of a satirical newspaper at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (the DailyER Nebraskan), and I do think that satire falls under the classification of student newspaper.

    However, I wouldn’t qualify the Koala as satire. Rather, it’s a humor publication. Satire does serve a purpose and have a value (if executed correctly) that humor doesn’t necessarily possess–it strives to expose flaws in a humorous way where humor strives only to entertain.

    From my own experience, the university is correct that their actions against this instance are severely limited.

    That being said, it’s likely that the Koala doesn’t receive University funding. If so, the university really can’t do anything, and from looking at the Koala’s website, they really don’t care what anyone thinks.

    It’s always interesting to me to see where the line between humor and libel can be drawn. Maybe this case will finally define it, but not likely. Maybe Carli Thomas could have a decent law suit against the publication. Maybe not.

    In any case, it’s a pretty cheap way to get a laugh, and if they respected themselves as a humor publication, they’d find better ways to do so.

    • Jacob Zlomke says:

      Actually, they do receive university funding, so ignore that part.

    • Pete says:

      Jacob,

      I agree that I was wrong to classify the Koala as satire. It is definitely better to call it a humor publication. Satire has strong uses in society and as you have put it, exposes flaws that may otherwise go unmentioned. I tried to note the difference between satires and the Koala by mentioning the lack of value but I did a poor job of that.

      I meant no disrespect by calling satires different from student newspapers. In retrospect I may have made incorrect inferences. I just feel that the article leads you to believe it was a factual journalism newspaper, which would make this story much more shocking. If this story appeared in a student newspaper like The Daily Nebraskan, there would be more defined legal and ethical problems. I meant nothing more to distinguish student newspapers as either journalistic newspapers, satirical newspapers, or humor publications. I hope that clarifies my comment.

      That being said I dont see how this article published in any publication could be fully protected. I dont see how Koala can defend against a sexual harassment lawsuit using 1st Amendment rights. Then again, I haven’t gone through law school yet.

      I didnt mention the university because I did not think the Koala was funded, so the university would have no power in that case. The fact that there are and the university has allowed them to publish such articles may leave the university liable to the same lawsuits Koala could receive.

  4. Dirk says:

    Is it just me, or is that hede a reference to “Mean Girls”?

  5. Ryan says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hustler_Magazine_v._Falwell

    “. . .that the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee prohibits awarding damages to public figures to compensate for emotional distress intentionally inflicted upon them.”

    Good luck

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