The University of California, San Diego has a vibrant alternative student media. The roster is expansive, and includes undergraduate research journals, fashion magazines and competing humor magazines.
But now, in an effort to silence one of the list’s more vulgar components, the school has threatened to topple the entire enterprise.
The Associated Students council, UCSD’s student government, with its $2.3 million annual budget, voted Nov. 18 to defund student media publications. Nine publications last year had received a total of $14,000 in funding from the student government.
“Ultimately, council decided that our money was better spent somewhere else,” said Daniel Juarez, associate vice president of equity, diversity and inclusion in an email statement.
Allegations of censorship have abounded, in large part because the vote came only a few days after UCSD administration publicly condemned the Koala, a partially student government-funded humor publication for being “profoundly repugnant, repulsive, attacking and cruel.”
To be sure, the Koala is no stranger to controversy, often publishing racist, bigoted or sexually explicit material under the protection of satire. Recently the magazine ran an article mocking the concept of safe space.
But regardless of personal opinion on the nature of Koala’s content, student government cannot use its authority to restrict the Koala’s freedom of press or endanger the financial well-being of other student publications.
Even without student government funding, the Koala will survive. Gabe Cohen, editor in chief of the publication, said the publication has already raised $1,000 since the council’s vote. Its annual budget is less than $3,000 a year, Cohen said.
Academic publications are still able to receive funding from the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. However, this still leaves non-academic publications vulnerable.
Andrew Deneris, editor in chief of the Muir Quarterly satire publication, said because of the cut in funding, his publication will publish only four times a year rather than seven.
“MQ is sort of a way for people to escape from school,” Deneris said. “What it’s taking away is half of those times where we are all working together.”
If ASUCSD is to be believed, that time could be better spent somewhere else.
The loss is a shame. Student media brings voice from communities often neglected in mainstream media. It brings opportunities for students to publish and share their ideas and opinions.
If the council’s decision holds, it prevents all student media publications from receiving funding from the student government. Starting a new cultural publication, akin to newsmagazines at UCLA, would be much tougher without financial support from the student government.
Not only that, but so far, this decision seems entirely arbitrary. As of now, there have been no plans for what to do with that money. In any case, it would be difficult to say that the $14,000 – which represents a scant half-percent of ASUCSD’s budget – would do as much good in other places as it would supporting student media publications.
There’s a need to have a real debate over the merits of offensive language on campus, even when it comes packaged as satire. But to punish a litany of other news sources and creative outlets because of ideological contentions with one publication is childish, if not abusive.
In other words, you can’t cut off the nose to spite the face.