California Students Complain that Student Newspaper the Koala Harasses

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KGTV reported on a lawsuit filed against newspaper the Koala. (Credit: KGTV-ABC10/10 News, screenshot)

StinkyJournalism wrote in February about student-run newspaper the Koala, which published a graphic doctored photo and headline criticizing a student.  The Koala is a tabloid newspaper published at San Diego State, UC San Diego and most recently Cal State San Marcos, according to the North County Times.  The North County Times noted that the Koala “publishes sexually explicit and sometimes violent content, including articles extolling rape, assault and sex with underage girls.”

In February, The Koala at UC San Diego called a female student government member a “fat wh-re” and a “thick-necked uppity skank,” among other things.  The student said she thought the doctored photo and crude story were “retaliation for her decision to cut funding to the newspaper.” At the time, her mother was reportedly “seeking … legal redress.”

In mid-November, between “10 to 15 students” including Jennifer Meneray complained to the U.S.. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights over the Koala‘s publication at Cal State San Marcos, arguing that the newspaper “creates a hostile learning environment,” the North County Times reported. A September issue of the Koala included a doctored photo of Meneray “superimposed on a pornographic photo.” According to Jezebel, Meneray decided not to take legal action.

The North County Times
reported that the Koala’s publication and distribution interferes with education because the newspaper can “harass students ‘to the point where their equal access to education and programs at CSUSM has been impaired.'”

The complaint reads, according to the North County Times, that “CSUSM’s open support for the distribution of The Koala on campus is the antithesis of what federal law requires from a university when it becomes aware of prohibited harassment of students with protected class status,”

According to The North County Times, university spokesperson Margaret Lutz Chantung commented that “the university doesn’t endorse the Koala’s content”, however, its publication is permitted under the First Amendment.

The North County Times reported that New England Law Boston adjunct professor Wendy Murphy distinguished between “legal speech and illegal harassment” when describing the Koala’s publication.  Murphy “advised the students on their complaint,” according to the North County Times and commented:

“There’s no such thing as free speech when we’re talking about harassment. Harassment is not protected speech.”

In March, we wrote about Student Press Law Center’s Frank LoMonte’s comments on free speech protections. LoMonte noted that “As a general matter, even highly offensive, insulting and hateful speech is protected by the First Amendment as long as it does not cross the line into actually harassing or threatening identifiable individuals.”

KGTV-ABC10/10 News reported that Cal State University San Marcos (CSUSM) students have previously petitioned for the newspaper to be closed.  According to Channel10, “Though the content may be protected, its manner of circulation may not be.”

KGTV-ABC10/10 News cited CSUSM student Melina Rodriguez as describing the content. “The Koala’ [newspaper] condones rape [and] domestic violence.  It condones drugs [and] drugging women at parties. It gives you specific instructions on how to do so.”

Hat Tip: Editor and Publisher

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California Students Complain that Student Newspaper the Koala Harasses

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