Koala critics cross with shredding antics on Library Walk

    Life on this campus is getting more and more surreal to this writer. Coming across a table comically festooned with far more “”stop the hate”” signs than environmentally justifiable, one had to question whether the paper shredder sitting on top of it was another joke played upon the campus community by the members of The Koala.

    After all, what could be a better stunt to pull on distribution day than shredding one’s own newspapers? After duly establishing the facts of who exactly was manning the table, it became abundantly clear that the people with the shredder clearly meant business.

    Although they did not seem disposed to disrupt distribution of the Koala itself, the Thurgood Marshall College students who took it upon themselves to run that table have finally done what repeated beatings and four years of reading the Koala have not: offended this writer.

    A shredder really has no place on any university campus. While it might be a tad hypocritical to get up in arms about other people getting up in arms, the Marshall students really have crossed the line.

    A side note to the shredders: If your shredder was meant to provoke debate and to draw attention to your cause, as a symbolic tool rather than a real disruption of any kind, congratulations. You have reduced yourselves to the level of the Koala in shock value.

    There is a clear difference between criticizing a publication for its content by speaking out or writing against it and actively destroying published material. No doubt these bright young Marshall shredders have lost the distinction between the two in today’s poisoned and partisan political environment. This writer will guarantee the reader that someone out there will read this article as condoning the Koala’s actions. In truth, he finds them disruptive, unnecessary and immature, but this is not salient to the point.

    In either case, the symbolism of a shredder is rather disturbing for anyone who respects freedom of thought. Yes, the Koala is crude and offensive, but at what point do the operators of a shredder arbitrarily decide what deserves to be shredded? Should we shred Mein Kampf, despite its obvious academic value? Or should we shred this article, for depicting the shredders as immature hypocrites?

    In a civilized university environment, there really cannot be any substitute to the basic principle that all thought and speech have an equal right of expression. The difference here from the real world is that we should be intelligent and mature enough to give attention to what needs to be said and to ignore the garbage. If something does offend our sensibilities enough, we should write and speak out in protest, not destroy the publication in question.

    While the best way to deal with this kind of attention-seeking idiocy (both the shredder and the Koala) is probably just to ignore it, this vitriol can perhaps be justified because at least the Koala has acknowledged its own attention-seeking demagoguery, while the Marshall shredder operators have yet to show that much wisdom.

    In all honesty, this writer believes that while there are people who are fighting to make the campus a better place for just motives, anyone who would resort to these sorts of shock tactics is posing amoral ambition as self-righteous indignation. Follow me, and we will cleanse this campus of the vile stench of hate! (That a mocking tone is implied should be obvious.) Great. Why don’t you put on some anti-hate armbands while you’re at it, and burn the next issue of the Koala on May 10?

    On the other hand, maybe not all of us are immune to bouts of shocking, self-righteous indignation every now and again.

    It really is too bad the self-righteous rant had to go first, because the initial topic for this week, the MyUCSD portal, really needs student publicity to get some decent input (though that is assuming anyone reads this column ‹ or this newspaper ‹ anyway). MyUCSD is an ambitious project of the school administration to replace the venerable StudentLink portal with a new online page featuring not only class schedules, billing and registration, but also all sorts of goodies to help UCSD students stay abreast of campus news and events.

    The site is really in the most embryonic state of development ‹ at least, that is what is implied by the somewhat noncommittal responses given by Dr. Darlene Willis, putative lead on MyUCSD.

    While the newly re-christened (and patently unofficial) www.sduncensored.com aims to provide an online forum for UCSD students to interact meaningfully and trade information on classes and social events, a number of sites have attempted to provide such venues, notably www.ucsdprofessor.com (for CAPE-like reviews by individual students), and the UCSD Livejournal community (for, well, for something).

    None of the sites have really become effective at their task ‹though not for lack of tacking up flyers all over campus ‹ because none of them have hit critical mass. While a few hundred UCSD students might drop in every now and again, there just is not enough activity on any of these sites to warrant constant observation or ubiquitous involvement. Unfortunately, unless students have a reason to go the Web page, they just will never find out about it.

    As a result, it seems the only effective way to connect students to each other online is through a large and visible integration with online services students have to use such as registration, scheduling and the like. While the immediate goal is to provide Web-based information and services to complement the in-person services planned for the student academic services complex, Dr. Willis says that the portal is expected to move toward becoming an online community for students. As the topic above will show, however, the liabilities of freeing students to voice anything they like may be a bit much for a site that will ostensibly be owned and under the control of the university. Dr. Willis maintains that Sixth College’s experience with the issue, in its online chat forum, may prove to be valuable.

    However, it remains to be seen whether the entire Koala debacle will get replayed out on the university forums. This writer has his money on an on-line ruckus online sooner or later, rather than any successful initial balance between free speech, university property and needlessly provocative comments, but perhaps that’s just being pessimistic.

    In any case, a plan to integrate everything a student needs to find online from the university can only be a good thing, even without forums. As it is, undergraduates go from Web boards to Webmail, to StudentLink, to the catalog, to individual course pages, without any coherent organization. The fact that the search function at www.ucsd.edu is worth as much as a Cotixan burrito does not help either (this writer’s trick instead: http://www.google.com/ucsd).

    Above and beyond this, though, the portal seems to be a blank slate. While what the administration is actually willing to undertake is anyone’s guess, they seem pretty keen on soliciting student input. Dr. Willis maintains that they will have a Web-based survey soon enough that they hope all UCSD students will complete (although many of us will be gone once the site is live).

    With any luck, students will remember all the time they have wasted on Livejournal, Friendster and various message boards, and they will pressure the university for a means to socialize with each other online. We all know the UCSD socializing is certainly not happening offline.

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