Campus Speech | Censorship | Offensive Speech | Public Forum

University of California, San Diego Reaches Settlement with Satirical Student Publication

University of California Student
Screenshot of the website for The Koala, a satirical student newspaper at University of California, San Diego.

A satirical student newspaper at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), will no longer be excluded from campus activity funding following a settlement agreement announced on September 10th.

In 2015, the University’s student government passed legislation eliminating media as one of the student organization categories that receive campus activity funding. The legislation was introduced just days after The Koala, a satirical student-run newspaper, had published a controversial piece about safe spaces.

Previous story: Appeals Court Rules that University Violated Satirical Publications’ First Amendment Rights

With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego, the newspaper sued the school in 2016, arguing that the legislation violated the First Amendment’s free press and free speech clause. Though the legislation applied uniformly to all press groups, the ACLU argued that the legislation was intended to punish The Kola for publishing an offensive article. 

“There are two core issues: freedom of the press and freedom of speech. The university violated both by discriminating against the student press and discriminating against the viewpoint of one student newspaper,” The Koala’s attorney David Loy told Courthouse News Service at the time the suit was filed. Loy is the Legal Director of the ACLU of San Diego. 

A trial court initially dismissed the lawsuit in 2018, but it was revived in 2019 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the university could not open a limited public forum and then “redefine its scope in response to speech it disfavors.” 

The parties reached a settlement when the case returned to trial court. The agreement requires USCD to pay The Koala $150,000 in attorney fees, plus an additional $12,500 to cover the costs of publishing the newspaper. 

In an announcement on the ACLU’s website, Loy said he was happy with the agreement. 

“We’re pleased the university agreed to a resolution that respects the First Amendment principles upheld by the Ninth Circuit and allows the student press to continue to flourish. This settlement protects student media from censorship at UCSD, and the Ninth Circuit’s ruling creates a precedent that will help protect student speech across the country,” Loy said.

ACLU Settlement