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College humor publications stick to ‘politically correct’ jokes as a rule of thumb now

The humor publication at the University of California-Santa Cruz pioneered the next generation of college comedy back in 2010: The Fish Rap Live! voluntarily put its own staffers through “sensitivity training” and put out an “apology issue”

that contained four pages of individual letters of apologies from editors and a list of how they planned to change their content to reflect new values.

This is the new normal in 2016, according to a thoroughly depressing report from the Student Press Law Center that looks at the new values of the next generation of comedy writers:

In the past several years, college comedy outlets have tended to shy away from anything that could be marked sexist or racist, and when student writers do cover topics that could raise hairs, certain conversations about the direction of the comedy happen in the editorial room.

Editors want to know: are we “punching down,” or piling on the underdog? Are we critiquing and adding value to the conversation or perpetuating a stereotype?

RELATED: Student publication that mocked ‘safe spaces’ seen as real target of defunding vote

Some of this is in response to disciplinary actions and yanked funding from student governments – The Koala at UC-San Diego and The Daily Bull at Michigan Tech were recent targets – but some of it comes from the social justice warriors who now run these publications:

The staffs that err on the side of less-inflammatory language said they work to find comedy and comment on topics that will be received well, instead of dismissed as insensitive or offensive.

These include the Brown Noser at Brown University, which always considers “the social consequences of what you’re saying” to avoid “hurting” people. The Fish Rap Live! says it is “accountable” to the “sensitive” students of UC-Santa Cruz for its humor.

The one remaining holdout is The Koala, which retains its “shocking comedy” despite multiple clashes with its administration and student leaders:

The paper’s comedic philosophy, [Editor-in-chief Gabe] Cohen said, is “no holds barred.” They’ll print the n-word nine times in a story just because other comedy papers would find that inappropriate, he said, or dedicate pages of their print edition to graphic nude images of people having sex.

“We’re not here to fight some social justice war,” he said.

What The Koala is fighting for, he said, is the right to free speech.

Read the report.

RELATED: Public university says Title IX trumps the Constitution in punishing satirical publication

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IMAGE: The Koala screenshot

About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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