University of South Florida

Location: Tampa, Florida
Website: http://www.usf.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 11th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of South Florida has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.

  • University of South Florida: Administrator Confuses Conservatives and Libertarians to Deny Group’s Recognition

    October 15, 2010

    The University of South Florida (USF) denied recognition to the conservative student organization Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), arguing that YAF was too “similar” to the libertarian Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) student group. YAF submitted its Chapter Constitution in April 2010, but Student Programs Coordinator Edna Jones Miller rejected the application several months later because “the purpose of your proposed organization may be fairly similar, if not the same, as another existing organization that is established at the USF Tampa campus” and “no other student organization can exist with the same or similar mission/purpose.” Meanwhile, other student groups with […]

    » Read More
  • University of South Florida: The ‘Heckler’s Veto’

    January 29, 2002

    Computer Science Professor Sami Al-Arian no longer faces termination for his alleged “disruption” of university activities, which FIRE protested through a letter from Alan Charles Kors to University of South Florida (USF) President Judy Genshaft. In the letter, Kors denounced USF’s termination of Professor Al-Arian due to FIRE’s belief that his firing was an example of a “heckler’s veto,” which the letter deemed to be the public outcry against Professor Al-Arian shortly after FoxNews television host Bill O’Reilly’s implication that Professor Al-Arian was sympathetic to terrorists. While Professor Al-Arian is still terminated, USF changed the justification of his firing in […]

    » Read More

Red Light Policies

  • USF System Policies and Procedures Manual: Student Code of Conduct- Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    (4.14) Sexual Harassment – Behavior which falls into any one of sections listed below as 4.14 (a), (b), or (c):
    (4.14)(a) Conduct which may be interpreted as unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.

    » Read More

  • University of South Florida System: Sexual Misconduct/Sexual Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual Harassment (which includes sexual violence) is any of the conduct below: …

    Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: … Such conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to alter the conditions of, or have the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with, an individual’s work or academic performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or educational environment.

    Examples of prohibited conduct include, but are not limited to: … Displaying or telling sexually oriented jokes, statements, photographs, drawings, computer images, web sites, videos, slides, graphics, calendars, cartoons, e-mails or other communications.

    » Read More

  • USF System Policies and Procedures Manual: Diversity and Equal Opportunity- Discrimination and Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Examples of Prohibited Conduct Include, but Are Not Limited To:

    1. Writing or displaying letters, notes, or e-mails which are derogatory toward any individual’s race, color, marital status, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or veteran status.
    2. Making comments, slurs, or jokes which are derogatory toward any individual’s race, color, marital status, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or veteran status.

    4. Making gestures or displaying pictures, cartoons, posters, or magazines which are derogatory toward any individual’s race, color, marital status, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or veteran status.

    » Read More


Yellow Light Policies
Green Light Policies
  • Boston College Students Experience the Benefits of True Civil Debate

    October 7, 2013

    “Civility” is one of the words that sets off alarm bells at FIRE. (No, it’s not because we’re unusually rude.) Many universities have enacted “civility codes,” ostensibly to maintain a respectful and inclusive atmosphere on campus. But, as my colleague Samantha Harris has pointed out, this is often censorship by another name. If you curtail how someone expresses him or herself, you may also restrict the message they can convey. Free speech cannot be subjected to a politeness requirement. As Justice Harlan observed in Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15, 25 (1971): For, while the particular four-letter word being litigated […]

    » Read More
  • USF Student Newspaper Reports on Speech Codes; Administration Defensive

    July 12, 2013

    The University of South Florida’s student newspaper, The Oracle, published a comprehensive story on free speech at USF this week. The article leads off with an example that illustrates a problem all too common on today’s college campuses: Students seek to express themselves on an issue of political or social importance, but instead of helping to facilitate open debate, the university administration throws up roadblocks. As detailed in The Oracle article: When students organized a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Trayvon Martin last February, conflict occurred between the student organizations and university administration over whether a permit for the event […]

    » Read More
  • USF Polytechnic Clears Student of Disciplinary Charges For Sending Critical Emails

    December 16, 2011

    A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the troubles faced by University of South Florida Polytechnic student Michael Nacrelli. To bring you up to speed: Nacrelli, a Student Government senator, faced charges of “disruptive conduct” and “failure to follow instructions” last month following a series of emails criticizing student government on which he copied several of his fellow Senators, in spite of requests from a USF administrator that he not do so. (USF’s newspaper, The Oracle, gives a good rundown.)  Fortunately, as Mary Toothman of The Ledger (Lakeland, Fl.) now writes, USF Polytechnic has cleared him of any potential […]

    » Read More
  • Double Standard at USF Parodied by Mike Adams

    December 1, 2010

    Did the University of South Florida (USF) deny recognition to the Young Pakistani student group because they were too “similar” to the Young Indian student group? Read Mike Adams’ parody of what happened to the conservative Young Americans for Freedom when USF denied recognition to them for being too “similar” to coexist with the libertarian Young Americans for Liberty on campus.

    » Read More
  • University Recognizes Young Americans for Freedom: Conservative and Libertarian Groups Were Too ‘Similar’ to Coexist

    November 30, 2010

    TAMPA, Nov. 30, 2010—The University of South Florida (USF) has reversed its denial of recognition to the conservative Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) student group. USF had argued that YAF was too “similar” to the libertarian Young Americans for Liberty on campus. After USF denied YAF’s application for recognition, YAF came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Let me get this straight: USF recognizes over 60 multicultural groups, no fewer than 20 engineering clubs, and even a group solely devoted to appreciation for Nerf products, but a conservative group was considered too similar to a […]

    » Read More
  • Whose Far Is ‘Too Far’?

    February 15, 2005

    While many agree that Ward Churchill’s academic freedom should be protected, many have also condemned his essay and, outside of his expression, have also condemned him—by questioning and ridiculing his character and ethnic background. Despite others’ negative interpretations of his words and assessment of his competence, Churchill recently received a standing ovation when giving a speech affirming his views and defending his expression at the University of Colorado. In addition, his press release provides his own reaction to the public outcry against him: I am not a “defender” of the September 11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. […]

    » Read More
  • University of South Florida Makes a U-Turn: FIRE and the Case of Sami Al-Arian

    August 30, 2002

    TAMPA, Fla., August 30, 2002—Vindicating FIRE’s position, the University of South Florida (USF) has abandoned its claim that negative reactions to Professor Sami Al-Arian’s otherwise protected speech constituted appropriate grounds to fire him. USF now has set forth charges of sanctionable and criminal behavior against the tenured professor of computer science, against which he now must have the opportunity to defend himself in an appropriate and impartial forum. USF now bears a substantial burden of proving the serious charges it has lodged against its faculty member. On September 26, 2001, Sami Al-Arian, an outspoken Palestinian activist, appeared on the television […]

    » Read More