University of Southern California: Unlawful Restrictions on Spontaneous Student Expression


University of Southern California

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Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

In 2019, FIRE warned USC that its “Free Expression and Dissent” policy improperly restricts student expression, imposing an approval process requiring students to receive official approval weeks before they can engage in expressive activities in open, outdoor areas of campus. The policy effectively bans all spontaneous expressive activity, including demonstrations. After FIRE first wrote to USC, pointing out that students were required to give two weeks’ notice, USC agreed to change the policy. In January 2020, after the policy was still being enforced, we wrote again, pointing out that the period had been extended to five weeks. FIRE wrote again in July 2020 after the policy was extended to eight weeks due to COVID-19. FIRE wrote once more in July 2023 to point out that while the “Free Expression and Dissent” policy was revised appropriately to encourage reservations, the “Outdoor Venues” policy still requires six weeks notice and approval from seven different departments. We urged USC to revise this “Outdoor Venues” policy to be consistent with its “Free Expression and Dissent” policy.