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Campus Free Speech

Academic Freedom Alliance Protests USC Prof's Ban from Campus

University of Southern California appears to ignore its own policy to remove professor from campus over alleged speech


The Academic Freedom Alliance today released a letter sent to the University of Southern California over its suspension of Professor John Strauss. Professor Strauss briefly exchanged words with pro-Palestinian protesters on campus. There is a factual dispute over what exactly was said, but in any version of the exchange Professor Strauss engaged in lawfully protected political speech in a public space on campus.

From the letter:

Even if the words falsely attributed to Professor Strauss in the Trojans for Palestine video had in fact been articulated by him in the context of a public political rally, they are fully within the bounds of protected First Amendment speech and within the scope of protected speech under the university's policies. Private speech on controversial social and political topics can sometimes be heated, ill-tempered, ill-considered, and broadly offensive. We do not hold such speech to the standards that we would properly expect from speech in the classroom or from scholarly research. The video in question does not portray Professor Strauss as issuing a genuine threat to any individual nor as engaging in any harassing conduct. Of course, it is contested whether Professor Strauss even issued those words, and the words he and other witnesses assert that he actually said are even further from the line that would separate protected from unprotected speech. There is no proper investigation to be conducted as to whether Professor Strauss behaved contrary to university policy in a manner that might merit discipline. To the extent that any investigation might be justified to establish the facts of what happened at the rally, it could be concluded extremely quickly and would not justify an administrative leave.

The full letter can be found here.

Local news coverage here.