SAAC chair alleges 'Koala' harassment

Declaring UCSD a hostile environment for minorities, Student Affirmative Action Committee Chairman Ernesto Martinez blasted The Koala and UCSD administration in a series of e-mails to campus officials, alleging harassment by members of The Koala and administration inaction.

Lyon Liew
Guardian

Images of Martinez — a vocal critic of The Koala — appear extensively in the publication’s online edition, which was posted Nov. 27. At press time the issue could be downloaded at http://www.thekoala.org. Koala Editor in Chief George Liddle said the printed edition will hit UCSD racks Friday.

In the online edition one of the 12 photos of Martinez is titled “”Ernesto Martinez’s Ugly Mug,”” and its caption states that every time there is a joke in the publication involving Martinez, a photo of his head will be placed next to it “”so as to assist him in cutting out the articles for distribution to all of the student councils.””

Also appearing is the text of a letter from Martinez to Liddle, with typographical and grammatical errors underlined by The Koala. Following the letter is a response from Koala editors criticizing Martinez’s English, among other things.

Martinez said The Koala’s content has been indicative of ignorance that is not uncommon at UCSD.

“”When you have diversity being attacked; when you have diversity being laughed at; when you have people taking advantage of the First Amendment; it goes to show how this university is,”” he said.

Liddle said The Koala’s use of the Martinez photos has nothing to do with Martinez’s race or ethnicity.

“”This has nothing to do with the race of Ernesto Martinez,”” Liddle said. “”We have nothing against him except for the fact that he is calling us racists, and we are not. The fact is, the charges he is bringing against The Koala are ridiculous.””

Martinez said he never called for The Koala to be censored, only that it be more sensitive to underrepresented UCSD students, staff and faculty.

“”The ideal outcome is for The Koala to really see itself, and educate itself,”” he said. “”I am in favor of The Koala respecting people. That’s what I’m in favor of.””

Martinez said the administration has been unresponsive to his complaints regarding The Koala.

“”I was very disappointed with the lack of support I got from UCSD administration,”” he said. “”This university claims to uphold diversity, yet there was no response to this attack on diversity.””

Referring to the issue on The Koala Web site, Martinez again e-mailed UCSD administration Nov. 28 informing them of The Koala’s newest issue.

“”Forget my image, now look at all the overt racism they have on [their] paper — and UCSD will let this happen? Thanks for the support, I’ve never been so proud of being from the University of California, San Diego,”” stated Martinez in the e-mail that was addressed to UCSD Chancellor Robert C. Dynes, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph Watson, and Director of Student Policies and Judicial Affairs Nicholas Aguilar, among others.

Aguilar said the administration will not censor any student publication unless local, state or federal law is broken.

“”Student media is funded by A.S., and the administration takes no position,”” said Aguilar, prior to the posting of the newest online Koala. “”Content is entirely the [publication’s] responsibility.””

Dynes responded with a condemnation of The Koala’s newest issue.

“”The Koala’s record of offensiveness toward women and underrepresented groups has sunk to a new low,”” Dynes said. “”While such hateful speech may be protected by the First Amendment, it is a clear violation of our UCSD Principles of Community and our goal of a hate-free campus.””

Before the latest Koala was posted, Martinez stated in an e-mail to administration that members of The Koala disrupted a Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan meeting and took photographs of him.

“”The only open Chicana/o space on this campus was interrupted by this group only to try and somehow retaliate against the statements I made,”” Martinez stated. “”It was a rather disturbing event, and honestly, I am feeling harassed.””

Liddle said he thinks that Martinez’s reaction to The Koala this year is not representative of the UCSD student body.

“”His life experiences growing up have appeared to make him hypersensitive to race issues,”” Liddle said.

MEChA Chair Viviana Avitia said The Koala inaccurately portrays UCSD, and that it could discourage underrepresented students from enrolling.

“”If I were a high school student on a tour and I saw The Koala, I would definitely scratch UCSD off my list,”” Avitia said.

Dynes apologized to Martinez on behalf the “”campus community”” and himself, and that hateful speech erodes the campus environment.

“”I want to commend Ernesto on the maturity and dignity he has shown during this unfortunate incident,”” Dynes stated. “”I hope the staff of Koala might attain that same maturity and dignity.””

Liddle said he welcomes criticism and discussion of Koala content, but that he disagrees with some of the things he has heard said about the First Amendment.

“”I think any discussion of freedom of speech is good,”” Liddle said. “”That’s what freedom of speech is all about. But people always say, ‘I’m all for freedom of speech, but …’ but there’s nothing you can put after that ‘but.'””

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