University of South Carolina Columbia

Location: Columbia, South Carolina
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 4th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of South Carolina Columbia 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 Carolina: Mandated Orthodoxy in the Classroom

    June 15, 2004

    FIRE protested University of South Carolina Professor Lynn Weber’s imposition of a political litmus test in order to succeed in “Women’s Studies 797: Seminar in Women’s Studies,” which was required of students who sought to earn a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies. Professor Weber’s “Guidelines for Classroom Discussion” required students to “acknowledge that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other institutionalized forms of oppression exist” and agree that “we are all systematically taught misinformation about our own group and about members of other groups.” The guidelines amounted to a loyalty oath to the professor’s ideology. USC President Andrew A. Sorensen defended them, […]

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Red Light Policies

  • The Carolinian Creed 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience

    As a Carolinian, this introduction submits that membership in the Carolina Community is not without its obligations. It is assumed or understood that joining is evidence of a subscription to certain ideals and an agreement to strive for the level of achievement and virtue suggested by the following: … I will respect the dignity of all persons; A commitment to this ideal is inconsistent with behaviors which compromise or demean the dignity of individuals or groups, including hazing, most forms of intimidating, taunting, teasing, baiting, ridiculing, insulting, harassing, and discrimination… I will demonstrate concern for others, their feelings, and their need for conditions which support their work and development; A commitment to this ideal is a pledge to be compassionate and considerate, to avoid behaviors which are insensitive, inhospitable, or which unjustly or arbitrarily inhibit other’s ability to feel safe or welcomed in their pursuit of appropriate academic goals… Allegiance to these ideals obligates each Carolinian to refrain from and discourage behaviors which threaten the freedom and respect every individual deserves.

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  • Office of Equal Opportunity Programs: Sexual Harassment: What It Is … What To Do About It … 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Behaviors that are considered as sexual harassment include:

    * unwelcome sexual advances.
    * requests for sexual favors.
    * language, graphic material, or physical conduct commonly understood to be of a sexual nature.
    * demeaning sexist remarks.
    * other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

    Such behaviors are especially offensive when: 1. it is either implied or clearly stated that submission to or rejection of the behavior will affect or is a term or condition of, the individual’s employment or educational status, or 2. they create a coercive, hostile or intimidating atmosphere, or interfere with an individual’s academic or work performance.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Code of Conduct: Abusive Conduct or Sexual Misconduct 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Prohibited behaviors include: … Harassment or conduct (including but not limited to cyber-stalking, cyberbullying, etc.) that creates or attempts to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for another person including action(s) or statement(s) that threaten harm or intimidate a person or any other form of unwanted contact.

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  • Student Non-Discrimination and Non-Harassment Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassment is a specific type of illegal discrimination. It includes conduct (oral, written, graphic, or physical) which is directed against any student or group of students because of or based upon one or more of the characteristics articulated in Section II above, that is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual or group to participate in or benefit from the programs, services, and activities provided by the University. Such harmful conduct may include, but is not limited to, objectionable epithets, demeaning depictions or treatment, and threatened or actual abuse or harm.

    Sexual harassment is a specific type of discrimination which is defined as unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it adversely affects a student’s or student group’s ability to participate in or benefit from the programs and services provided by the University. Examples of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment in violation of this policy include, but are not limited to, the following types of unwelcome and harmful behavior: … Verbal Conduct i. Direct propositions of a sexual nature ii. Sexual innuendos and other sexually suggestive or provocative behavior iii. Repeated, unwanted requests for dates iv. Repeated inappropriate personal comments v. Unwelcome and inappropriate letters, telephone calls, electronic mail, or other communication or gifts vi. Requests for sexual favors.

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  • Campus Solicitation 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    Solicitation is defined as contact for the purpose of: 1. Soliciting funds or sales or demonstrations that may result in sales; 2. Distributing advertising or other materials; 3. Compiling data for surveys, programs, or other purposes; 4. Recruitment of members or support for an organization or cause; 5. Providing educational information sessions (exclusive of formal University of South Carolina academic classes).

    The person-to-person distribution of literature by University or non-University individuals or organizations is restricted to the areas available for solicitation and must be registered and reserved in advance through the Department of Student Life (or designee).

    Solicitation activities are permitted in the following designated areas. A solicitation fee of $29.00 will be assessed when activities are deemed solicitation as described in this policy. a. Specific areas of the Russell House University Union (including the front and back patios, Davis field, Ballroom, meeting rooms, and main lobby). … b. Greene Street (between the gates ONLY and at specified times) c. Pickens Street Bridge (student organizations only) d. Designated areas of the Coliseum walkway (student organizations only) e. Designated areas of academic building lobbies upon the approval of the appropriate academic dean and the Associate Vice President for Student Life (or designee) f. Other designated locations upon the approval of the Associate Vice President for Student Life (or designee) g. Other specifically designated areas formally contracted through the University for the purpose of advertising goods and services to the Carolina community.

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  • Use of University Facilities 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    Any outdoor event held on campus must receive approval by the Director of Student Life. A detailed written request must be submitted two weeks prior to the event.

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  • Professor to Colleges: Summon the Courage to Defend the Constitution

    April 16, 2015

    This week, Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of history and education at New York University, authored an essay for Inside Higher Ed in which he criticizes colleges that have punished students for racist comments. As FIRE has reported, the University of Oklahoma (OU) summarily expelled two members of the now-disbanded chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in March for their participation in a racist chant referring to the lynching of black Americans. Just weeks later, the University of South Carolina (USC) suspended a student who wrote “niggers” on a classroom whiteboard as part of a list of “reasons why USC […]

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  • Colleges Rush to Violate Free Speech, Due Process in Response to Speech Controversies

    April 9, 2015

    PHILADELPHIA, April 9, 2015—In the wake of the University of Oklahoma’s unconstitutional decision to summarily expel students involved in a racist fraternity chant, colleges and universities across the country are in a “race to the bottom” to violate the rights of students at the center of campus controversies involving speech deemed offensive, heedless of either context or the precedent set by censoring unpopular speech. Last week, the University of South Carolina (USC) suspended a student who used a racial slur when writing a list of reasons “why USC WiFi blows” on a white board. Shortly after a photo of the […]

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  • Tornadoes, and Bomb Scares, and Bias! Oh, My!

    January 7, 2011

    The University of South Carolina has a speech code classifying any “negative or unwanted attention” on the basis of “race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin or other differences” as a “critical incident” equivalent to a suicide attempt, sexual assault, student death, fire, bomb threat, or tornado. The Staff Manual for university housing employees has a chapter instructing RAs and other residence hall staff on how to respond to so-called critical incidents. In the case of “bias-related incidents,” staff are instructed to immediately report the incident to the police, regardless of whether it is a physical attack or simply […]

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  • ‘Guidelines for Classroom Discussion’ Still Stifle Free Speech at the University of South Carolina

    November 15, 2007

    Five years ago FIRE criticized the University of South Carolina for the presence of a document titled “Guidelines for Classroom Discussion” in the syllabus of “Women’s Studies 797: Seminar in Women’s Studies,” a required class for a certificate of graduate study in Women’s Studies. The “Guidelines” require that students: 1. Acknowledge that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other institutionalized forms of oppression exist. 2. Acknowledge that one mechanism of institutionalized racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, etc., is that we are all systematically taught misinformation about our own group and about members of other groups. This is true for members of privileged […]

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  • University of South Carolina Mandates Political Indoctrination and Orthodoxy

    May 13, 2002

    May 13, 2002 University of South Carolina Mandates Political Indoctrination and Orthodoxy COLUMBIA, SC—The University of South Carolina (USC), in a required course for a degree-granting program, has adopted “Guidelines for Classroom Discussion” that demand adherence to a narrow set of partisan political assumptions—on pain of being graded poorly for honest disagreement. Although USC is a public institution, bound by the First Amendment, it has created an ideological “loyalty oath” that constitutes a profound threat to both freedom of speech and freedom of conscience in South Carolina and across the country. The course—”Women’s Studies 797: Seminar in Women’s Studies”—is listed […]

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  • FIRE’s Letter to USC President John M. Palms

    April 25, 2002

    April 25, 2002 John M. Palms, President University of South Carolina 206 Osborne Administration Building Columbia, SC 29208 Sent via U.S. Mail and Facsimile (803-777-1220) Dear President Palms, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) unites leaders in the fields of civil rights and civil liberties, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, legal equality, academic freedom, due process, freedom of speech, and conscience on America’s college campuses. Our web page,, will give you a greater sense of our identity and activities. FIRE is profoundly concerned by the threat to […]

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