“The Koala is really really really, super duper sorry that previous members, none of whom any current staff members know, were reckless with the office space in Aztec Center, a building which no longer exists.”
This is an excerpt from the apology that the Koala – San Diego State’s alternative student-run newspaper – tendered to Associated Students as part of its sanction to become a student organization again.
The Koala lost its student organization status about five years ago after an incident involving Koala staff members urinating in the elevators of the old Aztec Center. When a student organization is in violation of the Student Organization Code of Conduct, Student Life & Leadership can impose various sanctions on it.
An apology was demanded by A.S. in February 2010, as a part of its resolution against an article about rape in The Koala, condemning it for inciting rape and “diagramming how to rape, when to rape, who to rape and how to get away with raping a woman.”
The apology is one of the two sanctions The Koala has to fulfill before applying to be a student organization again. The second sanction is 100 hours of community service, which the Koala has to track with SLL. Randy Timm, director of SLL, emphasized the Koala will not automatically return to being a student organization after fulfilling these sanctions. It will have to apply again and then it will be decided whether it can become a student organization.
However, Erik Luchsinger, a junior at SDSU and the business director at The Koala, is confident the Koala will become a student organization again by next semester. Luchsinger, who will then become the president of The Koala, is unfazed by the 100 hours of community service. “Because we have several people, we can probably do 5-10 hours each. We can get it done in a day,” he said.
Luchsinger is very enthusiastic about the opportunities for publicity being a student organization will provide the Koala.
“As a student organization, The Koala will be able to set up tables to distribute our newspapers, put pamphlets in all the offices. Maybe we will even get an office. It will make things easier for us. And it’s kinda sticking it to the school a little bit,” Luchsinger said.
A Koala member who wanted to be identified only as Francis said, “We will have a much bigger presence on campus by being a student organization. We can be on the website too, so people will be able to look us up. We will have a wider reach.”
A decision by SLL to make The Koala a student organization again would certainly meet with some backlash.
“In the past, A.S. council has not supported the actions of The Koala, especially an article they published regarding rape. A.S. council passed a resolution against this article and spoke against The Koala’s acts of discrimination and reinforcement of negative stereotypes.” A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Krista Parker said
One of the most vocal critics of the Koala is Kit Bacon Gressitt at California State University, San Marcos. When the Koala started publishing at CSUSM last January, Gressitt and other students tried to prevent it from succeeding by going after the local businesses that advertised with The Koala. Gressitt is also the founder of the website calloutthekoala.com, which updates a list of businesses that advertise with The Koala as part of its efforts to stop the newspaper. Gressitt said when she read about SDSU giving The Koala a chance to regain its student organization status, she emailed several professors and student organizations. She did not hear back from most, and the few who responded had never heard of The Koala.
“Most people blow if off by saying it is just a bunch of sophomores running it but it is actually an established for-profit business,” Gressitt said. “The Koala was established at University of California, San Diego long back and before it became so heinous. It is shocking that a university would consider it now.”
The Koala, however, has made sure everything is in place to become a student organization, including having a faculty adviser. Both Luchsinger and Francis stressed The Koala doesn’t need SDSU’s money to publish the paper, but they want to distribute the newspaper on campus and have no plans to revamp or revise The Koala’s image.
“We have been lucky to be self-sustainable without the help of the school for several years now, pretty much ever since we started,” Francis said. “We are an organization that publishes 5,000 issues per month. The readers we have now will not like it if we change after becoming a student organization.
“We’ll be the same,” Luchsinger said, “Except we will be more in your face.”