University of South Florida

Location: Tampa, Florida
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 […]

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  • 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 […]

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Red Light Policies

Yellow Light Policies
  • USF System Policies and Procedures Manual: Sexual Misconduct/Sexual Harassment (Including Sexual Violence) 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    The following actions are prohibited: 1. Sexual harassment, including sexual violence, by or between any faculty member, staff, or student, including individuals of the same sex, in all academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic, and other programs of the University, whether those programs take place in University facilities, at a class or training program sponsored by the University at another location, or elsewhere.

    Examples of prohibited conduct include, but are not limited to:

    1. Requesting or coercing sexual intercourse or sexual favors, or attempting to or actually engaging in a sexual assault or sexual battery.
    2. Inappropriate and unwelcome sexual attention or touching, including–but not limited to–leering, patting, fondling, pinching, and attempted or actual kissing.
    3. Making actual or implied threats to impede or interfere with employment or educational opportunities or benefits for failing to agree to or engage in sexual activity.
    4. Making actual or implied promises of an employment or educational opportunity or benefit in exchange for sexual activity.
    5. Inferring or displaying favoritism that benefits or adversely affects another based on sexual involvement or a sexual relationship.
    6. Making sexually explicit or suggestive gestures or sounds.

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

    Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: a. Submission to such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s employment or educational experience; b. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or educational decisions affecting that individual; or c. 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. This may include off-campus acts of sexual harassment, including sexual violence, that have effects on campus which may contribute to a sexually hostile environment.

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  • Division of Student Affairs: Commitment to Honor 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience

    By joining this community, each member is expected to accept and live these commitments. … I resolve to respect the dignity and intrinsic value of all persons.

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  • USF System Policies and Procedures Manual: Diversity and Equal Opportunity- Discrimination and Harassment 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    A. The Following Actions Are Prohibited: 1. Discrimination and/or harassment by any USF System employee or student against any individual(s) or group(s) within the USF System.

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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 […]

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  • 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 […]

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  • 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 […]

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  • 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.

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  • 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 […]

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  • 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. […]

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  • 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 […]

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