The Koala v. Khosla

From November 2015 to July 2019
University of California, San Diego (Public college or university)
La Jolla, CA, United States


Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Recognized student group event
  • Incident Political Orientation:
  • Incident Responses:
    Student sanctioned
  • Incident Status:
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


The Koala is a student publication and registered student organization at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). In November 2015, The Koala published an article satirizing the concept of “safe spaces” on UCSD’s campus. Entitled “UCSD Unveils New Dangerous Space on Campus,” the article employed various racial epithets and sexist stereotypes.

Following the article’s publication, UCSD’s student government received multiple complaints about its offensive language. The article also prompted students to file “Bias Incident Report Forms” with UCSD. In the following days, student government introduced the Media Act, which eliminated funding for all print media, including The Koala.

In response, The Koala filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California against various university administrators, alleging that student government’s elimination of funding for all print media violated its First Amendment rights. The district court concluded that The Koala’s claim was barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and in the alternative that the Media Act did not violate the Free Press Clause of the First Amendment because it was viewpoint neutral and applied uniformly to all registered student organizations.

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and vacated the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings, holding that The Koala’s article was “clearly protected” speech and noting the existence of “unusually compelling” charges that the university had acted with discriminatory intent.