ACLU, UCSD Reach Settlement in First Amendment Case: After 4 Years, Settlement Upholds Free Speech on Campus and Student Newspapers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 10, 2020

CONTACT:
Ed Sifuentes, ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, 619-501-3408, esifuentes@aclusandiego.org

SAN DIEGO – After scoring a victory in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLUF-SDIC) has settled its long-running First Amendment case against University of California, San Diego (UCSD) officials.

The case stems from a November 2015 article published in The Koala, a controversial student newspaper at the university, that satirized “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.” Immediately after the article was published, the UCSD student government disqualified student newspapers from eligibility for campus activity funds available to other student organizations. These funds derive from fees paid by students to support student government and extracurricular activities.

With co-counsel Ryan T. Darby, the ACLUF-SDIC filed suit in 2016 to challenge the disqualification. Last year, the Ninth Circuit reversed an earlier order by the trial court dismissing the case. The Ninth Circuit also held the complaint states a claim that UCSD violated the First Amendment.

When the case returned to the trial court earlier this year, the parties agreed to a settlement that ensures campus activity funds are available to pay for printing student newspapers, including The Koala. The settlement also requires UCSD to pay $150,000 in attorney fees and to provide $12,500 in funding for The Koala.

“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,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

Darby added: “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.”

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Read the settlement documents online here: https://www.aclusandiego.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/2020-09-10-Exh-1-Koala-Settlement-Agreement-FILED.pdf and https://www.aclusandiego.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/2020-09-10-ORD-Koala-Settlement.pdf