University of Southern California

Location: Los Angeles, California
Type: Private
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Speech Code Rating

University of Southern California 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

Due Process Rating

Non-Sexual Misconduct

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D

Sexual Misconduct

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D

  • SCampus: Free Expression and Dissent- Guidelines for Campus Demonstrations

    Speech Code Rating: Red
    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: November 28, 2018

    All student members of the university community have the right to hold a demonstration (including, but not limited to, a rally, gathering, protest, parade, procession, or hosting of a guest speaker) on campus, subject to and consistent with the guidelines stated in this Section, and the approval of the Director ... Read More
  • USC Student Computer Use Policy

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: November 27, 2018

    As in all interactions within the University community, engaging in electronic communications brings with it the obligation to do so with respect to the recipients of the message. While the University encourages the exchange and debate of values and ideas, it is expected that this exchange will reflect the high ethi... Read More
  • SCampus: Free Expression and Dissent- Reasonable Time, Place and Manner

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: November 27, 2018

    Coercive disruption is construed to include any activity which, contrary to law: … Contains “fighting words” where (a) the speech, considered objectively, is abusive and insulting rather than a communication of ideas and (b) it is actually used in an abusive manner in a situation that presents an a... Read More
  • Student Support and Advocacy: Bias Incidents and Hate Incidents and Crimes

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: November 27, 2018

    The USC Bias Assessment Response and Support Team receives reports of bias and hate incidents, assesses the incidents and coordinates the response to the incidents for the University community. The response includes supporting those impacted within the community and informing the community about the nature of the in... Read More
  • Student Support and Advocacy: USC Principles of Community

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: November 27, 2018

    We want to make explicit our expectations regarding the behavior of each member of our community. As adults, we are responsible for our behavior and are fully accountable for our actions. We each must take responsibility for our awareness of racism, sexism, ageism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and ot... Read More
  • Student Misconduct – Sexual, Interpersonal and Protected Class Misconduct

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 27, 2018

    No student may commit harassment based on a protected characteristic. Harassment is verbal or physical conduct based on a protected characteristic which: (a) Creates a hostile environment. A “hostile environment” exists when such conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it unreasonably (i) interf... Read More
  • SCampus: General Policy Statements- Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: November 27, 2018

    Every member of the academic community shall enjoy the rights of free speech, peaceful assembly and the right of petition. Read More
  • SCampus: Free Expression and Dissent- Policy

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: November 27, 2018

    The University of Southern California is committed to fostering a learning environment where free inquiry and expression are encouraged and celebrated and for which all its members share responsibility. Dissent (defined as disagreement, a difference of opinion, or thinking differently from others) is an integral asp... Read More

Policies are rated on their inclusion of 10 due process safeguards. Each policy may receive 2 points for fully including that safeguard, 1 point for partial inclusion, and 0 points for no meaningful inclusion. Most, but not all, institutions have separate policies for sexual misconduct and all other misconduct. See FIRE’s Spotlight on Due Process report for more information.

Grades

Non-Sexual Misconduct

D
7/20
  • Presumption of innocence
  • Adequate and timely notice
  • Adequate time to prepare
  • Conflicts of interest prohibited
  • Right to challenge fact-finders
  • Access to all evidence
  • Right to face accuser and witness
  • Active participation of counsel
  • Meaningful right to appeal
  • Expulsion must be unanimous

Sexual Misconduct

D
7/20
  • Presumption of innocence
  • Adequate and timely notice
  • Adequate time to prepare
  • Conflicts of interest prohibited
  • Right to challenge fact-finders
  • Access to all evidence
  • Right to face accuser and witness
  • Active participation of counsel
  • Meaningful right to appeal
  • Expulsion must be unanimous
  • The evidence is clear and convincing: universities’ approaches to Title IX are broken

    July 26, 2019

    On Jan. 2, 2017, University of Southern California student-athlete Matt Boermeester walked onto the football field to attempt what would ultimately become the game-winning field goal in USC’s 52-49 victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Four months later, he found himself expelled from school following a Title IX investigation into his alleged domestic… Read more

  • Deferred recruitment: The latest blemish to student organizational rights

    June 26, 2019

    For years, college administrations across the country have restricted student organizational rights on campus. Whereas the percentage of schools with severely restrictive policies for individual rights such as free speech has fallen sharply over the last decade, administrators at public schools seem to have forgotten their obligation to uphold the constitutional rights of student organizations…. Read more

  • California appellate court revives Greek orgs’ suit over USC’s deferred recruiting policy

    May 9, 2019

    A California appellate court has reinstated the lawsuit brought by several University of Southern California fraternities and a sorority over USC’s restrictions on their recruiting practices. The May 1 ruling allows the Greek organizations to argue that USC’s pledging restrictions violate their expressive associational rights under California state law. The decision involves the Leonard Law,… Read more

  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Southern California

    January 9, 2019

     Each of the over 450 colleges and universities in FIRE’s Spotlight database is updated annually for a reason — policies frequently change from year to year, and not always for the better. During a recent update of the University of Southern California’s entry, we found that the school changed a policy over the summer… Read more

  • University of Southern California bars student journalists from recording public forum about “transparent” search for new president [UPDATED]

    September 14, 2018

    Yesterday, the University of Southern California (USC) held a “listening session” with members of the committee formed to consider candidates to replace the university’s former president, who resigned under a cloud of scandals. The university has repeatedly emphasized its commitment to a transparent process. In glaring contradiction of that commitment, however, the university first sought… Read more

  • Speech Code Countdown: Most of America’s ‘Best Colleges’ Restrict Speech

    October 5, 2016

    U.S. News & World Report recently released its annual rankings of the “Best Colleges” for 2017. The rankings are based on a multitude of “indicators of academic excellence” that prospective students use to narrow down their college application lists, including graduation and retention rate, financial resources, the institution’s reputation, and student selectivity. But U.S. News’… Read more

  • Due Process Legal Update: More Students’ Lawsuits Move Forward

    April 11, 2016

    Since OCR issued its April 4, 2011, “Dear Colleague” letter, more than 90 students have brought lawsuits alleging they were denied a fair hearing in campus sexual assault proceedings. When I wrote my first update on how these lawsuits were faring, I characterized them as an “uphill battle” for plaintiffs. While the atmosphere for these… Read more

  • Yiannopoulos Invitation Leads USC Student Government to Strip Senator of Stipend

    March 31, 2016

    University of Southern California (USC) student senator Ellenhorn defeated an attempt to impeach him for his role in arranging a campus lecture featuring Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart’s controversial tech editor, but was stripped of his final stipend payment by a 9–2 vote by his fellow student senators. Ellenhorn faced three impeachment charges as result of inviting… Read more

  • USC Student’s Pro-Life Display Vandalized, Still Leads to Discussion

    January 24, 2014

    It’s a story as familiar as it is frustrating: students censoring other students by destroying their displays on campus. The College Fix reports that on Tuesday, University of Southern California (USC) student and USC Students For Life President Lisa Ebiner Gavit caught two of her peers in the act as they were ripping up her display consisting of four posters and… Read more

  • ‘Daily Trojan’ Highlights USC’s ‘Red Light’ Policies

    October 10, 2012

    The University of Southern California’s (USC’s) student newspaper, the Daily Trojan, recently published an article discussing the school’s "red light" rating for speech codes from FIRE and its effect on campus discourse. In particular, the school’s prohibition of "fighting words" and "insulting" speech makes USC’s speech codes some of the worst in California, a state… Read more

  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Southern California

    January 9, 2012

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for January 2012: the University of Southern California (USC). USC’s policy on “Advertising, Promotion, and Literature Distribution” prohibits the posting or distribution of any printed materials that contain “derogatory language or material that is aimed at harming a specific person or an organization’s reputation.” This policy prohibits… Read more

  • Discussion at USC Ignores Serious Free Speech Concerns on Campus

    March 14, 2011

    Rachel Bracker of the University of Southern California’s (USC’s) student newspaper the Daily Trojan reported on a “campus conversation” on “free speech,” held at USC last Tuesday and led in part by University Counsel Stephen Yamaguchi. Unfortunately, Bracker’s report suggests that many students left disappointed because they still didn’t possess a clear understanding of their free… Read more

  • The Danger of Policies

    March 28, 2007

    A year ago, FIRE became involved in a case at the University of Southern California when a performer and later protestors were censored for speaking and displaying the word ‘fuck.’ Ironically, the performer and students were silenced while standing in USC’s free speech zone. Not only did USC maintain a free speech zone policy, but… Read more

  • USC Blocks Election of Editor-in-Chief

    December 6, 2006

    Today, eighteen college newspapers published editorials protesting USC Vice President Michael L. Jackson’s decision to block the re-election of the current editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan, USC’s student newspaper. Zach Fox, current editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan, was elected by the newspaper’s staff to serve next semester as editor-in-chief, but USC Vice President for Student… Read more

  • Silence Speaks Volumes at NYU

    May 24, 2006

    New York University prides itself on being a “private university in the public service,” but talk is cheap—that is, when it isn’t silenced altogether. Despite the lofty aspirations of the school’s motto, in late March NYU decided that certain types of speech on campus just aren’t entitled to the core First Amendment protections relied upon… Read more

  • USC Prof’s Topless Photos Raise Eyebrows

    May 11, 2006

    The University of Southern California recently came to FIRE’s attention when it shut down a play and a protest because of the use of profanity. FIRE wrote USC in protest, and to its credit, USC wrote back that the censorship was not authorized, saying, “Please know that the university does not in any way endorse… Read more

  • The Need for Vigilance

    April 11, 2006

    FIRE’s Spotlight: The Campus Freedom Resource details written restrictions on speech at colleges and universities across the country. Yet we at FIRE often see administrators stray from official policy and censor students with unwritten policies or arbitrary actions. Therefore, students must be vigilant not only about the written policies governing speech on campus but also… Read more

  • Victory for Freedom of Speech at the University of Southern California

    April 10, 2006

    LOS ANGELES, April 10, 2006—The University of Southern California (USC) has publicly reaffirmed its commitment to freedom of speech and repudiated two instances of censorship. USC’s renewed embrace of liberty came after the intervention of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “We are impressed with USC’s response,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “While… Read more