UCSD student government freezes funds for campus media

Budgetary reaction follows airing of racial slur on student television channel

CALIFORNIA -- The Associated Students of University of California San Diego (ASUCSD) has frozen funding for all student-funded media after an outcry over statements broadcast on the Student Run Television (SRTV) channel.

The Koala, a humor magazine on campus, broadcast the program on SRTV that led to the funding freeze. The program featured Koala Editor-in-Chief Kris Gregorian, said Simone Wilson, editor-in-chief of the UCSD student newspaper The Guardian.

Gregorian used a racial slur during a program that featured discussion of a recent off campus "racial stereotype party" called the "Compton Cookout," Wilson said. The Facebook page for the party said it was "in honor of Black History Month," she said, adding that news of the party incited much anger among black students on campus.

After revoking the charter for SRTV on Feb. 18, Utsav Gupta, the president of the Associated Students of University of California San Diego (ASUCSD), which allocates money from student fees, froze funds Feb. 19 for all student media funded through the organization.

"The Koala was not properly authorized to display content on SRTV. We are in the process of determining how the program was aired." Gupta wrote in a statement on a university Web site called 'Battle the Hate.' "In the meantime, as authorized by the ASUCSD Standing Rules, I have revoked the SRTV Charter for review."

Brenda Madriz Montes, editor-in-chief of The Left Coast Post, one of the UCSD publications affected by the funding freeze, said that although SRTV was the student medium in question, all other student media organizations will suffer the consequences of the funding freeze.

"A lot of us feel that it is unfair and that our own freedom of speech is being infringed by this whole thing," Montes said.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said the ASUCSD should not be able to freeze all media groups' funding based solely on the content of one.

"They're entitled to receive their funding unless there is a justification that has nothing to do with content," LoMonte said. "But it seems pretty clearly acknowledged that this is all about content."

The funds will be frozen until a committee of students, faculty and any interested UCSD community member establishes a new set of speech guidelines, Gupta wrote in his statement. The first meeting of this group is scheduled for tonight.

"We must develop effective policies to ensure that our fees do not go to the support the hateful speech that targets members of our community," Gupta wrote. "I ask that those media organizations that did nothing wrong and are unfairly affected to be patient until we can resolve this situation."

Gupta could not be reached for comment by press time.

Wilson said The Guardian is "self-sufficient" in terms of funding, and therefore unaffected by the freeze and able to continue coverage of the issues as they unfold. The Koala, she said, has so much support that cutting its university funding will not stop it from publishing, adding that an issue is expected to be published within the next few days.

"For every person that shouts about shutting down The Koala, there are 10 other people that love it," Wilson said.

The Koala, Montes said, is known as an "equal opportunity offender" that often includes racist jokes. She also believes one goal of the new speech codes would be to get rid of the Koala.

"[The Koala is] ready to fight this to the death," Wilson said.

Koala Editor-in-Chief Kris Gregorian could not be reached for comment by press time.

California, news, The Koala, University of California San Diego