University of Southern Mississippi

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 5th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of Southern Mississippi 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.

This school does not have any cases at this time.

Red Light Policies

  • Residence Life Handbook: Southern Miss Standard 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience

    Choosing to join the Southern Miss community obligates each member to support these precepts … A respect for language that is appropriate, never obscene, and neither demeans nor intimidates.

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  • Residence Life Handbook: Community Living- Language Issues 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility

    Freedom of speech does not absolve a student of the responsibility to respect other individuals. Therefore, disruptive profanity, statements of intolerance or verbal intimidation will not be supported and will be subject to disciplinary action.All residents will be expected to maintain a sense of civility toward each other and the staff. Hate speech will not be tolerated and will be subject to judicial action.

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  • Student Handbook: Free Speech and Assembly 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    A.      The University has established high visibility areas on campus in order to facilitate robust debate and the free exchange of ideas.  These “free speech zones” may be used by any person, including non-students and other campus guests:

    a.       Weathersby Lawn
    b.      Union Plaza
    c.       Shoemaker Square
    d.      Kennard-Washington Lawn
    e.       Centennial Lawn

    B.       These may be used without permission from the University so long as the area has not been previously reserved or scheduled for a particular function, no sound amplification is used, no structure is erected, and the participants do not violate other University policies.

    C.        Demonstrations or protests sponsored by a student organization must be registered with the Office of Student Activities. If a student organization desires to demonstrate in “free speech zones” or if the student organization intends to advertise for an event or anticipates an event that may draw a large crowd or impede pedestrian or vehicular traffic or will involve a parade, march or other similar activity, the University requires the student organization to complete an event form through the Office of Student Activities at least ONE month in advance of the activity. The Office of Student Activities will work with the organization to meet the request or find a suitable time and location that balances the rights of the student organization with the rights of others and the University’s educational mission. Should an outside group or individual student wish to conduct an organized demonstration or to demonstrate in areas other than the “free speech zones”, the group should seek the sponsorship of a registered student organization.


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Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: The Creed at Southern Miss 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience

    I will exhibit behavior and choose language that demonstrates respect for fellow members of the Southern Miss community. …

    I commit to exhibiting civil behavior, demonstrating responsible citizenry, and doing my part to achieve a positive and secure living and learning environment for all.

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  • Student Handbook: Student Rights and Responsibilities – Prohibited Conduct 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility

    Lewd, indecent, or obscene conduct, including expression of profanity, which exceeds the normal standards of decency prevailing in the general Hattiesburg community at large.

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  • Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Assault, and Sexual Harassment Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature and can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as sexual assault or acts of sexual violence.

    Sexual harassment becomes unlawful under Title IX and/or Title VII when it creates a hostile environment where the harassing conduct  is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive so that it unreasonably interferes with, denies or limits an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s work environment, educational programs and/or activities based on sex.

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Green Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Technology Policies 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    The following activities are strictly prohibited, without exception: … Using a Southern Miss computing asset to actively engage in procuring or transmitting material in violation of sexual harassment or hostile workplace laws in the user’s local jurisdiction. … Sending email messages, including “junk mail/SPAM” or other advertising material, to individuals who did not specifically request such material (email spam). … Any form of harassment via email, telephone, or paging; whether through language, frequency, or size of messages.

    » Read More

  • Faculty Handbook: Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    This policy applies to all faculty, staff, employees, students, and student-employees with respect to activities occurring on any University property and University-related activities occurring off-campus, including University programs outside the United States.

    Harassment is defined as conduct, based upon a person’s race, religion, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status, that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic or work performance or creating an intimidating or hostile environment for employment, education, on-campus living, or participation in a University activity.

    Types of behavior that may be considered as evidence of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

    Direct propositions of a sexual nature.

    Subtle pressure for sexual activity.

    Unnecessary or unwelcome physical contact.

    Physical interference with work or academics.

    Remarks of a sexual nature about a person’s clothing or body.

    Remarks relating to sexual activity or concerning previous sexual experience.

    Obscene or harassing messages sent via computer or left on an answering machine or voice mail.

    A pattern of sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes, or anecdotes, whether made orally, in writing, or through electronic media.

    A display of graphic sexual material (not legitimately related to the subject matter of a course) in a context where others are not free to avoid the display.

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  • Student Handbook: Anti-Bullying Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies

    It is the policy of the University that no student, faculty or staff member should be subjected to bullying or harassing behavior by any other student, faculty or staff member.  Furthermore, no person should engage in any act of reprisal or retaliation against a victim, witness or anyone with information about an act of bullying or harassing behavior.


    “Bullying or harassing behavior” is defined as any pattern of gestures or written, electronic or verbal communications, or any physical act or any threatening communication, or any act reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, that takes place on any property owned or controlled by The University of Southern Mississippi, or during any activity in whatever place sponsored by, directed or controlled by The University of Southern Mississippi, and that also fulfills one of the following conditions:

    •   Places a student, faculty or staff member in actual and reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property

    •   Creates or is certain to create a hostile environment by substantially interfering with or impairing a student’seducational performance, opportunities or benefits

    “Hostile environment” is defined as the condition wherein the victim subjectively views the conduct as bullying or harassing behavior and the conduct is objectively severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would agree it is bullying or harassing behavior.

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  • Alabama, Mississippi Colleges Cited For Free Speech Infringement Policies

    March 6, 2015

    By Johnny Kampis at CULLMAN, Ala. — At Athens State University in Alabama, students can’t transmit online anything deemed “threatening,” annoying” or “offensive.” At the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, student organizations must register with the Office of Student Activities a month in advance before conducting protests or demonstrations. These policies earned those schools a “red light” rating this year from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which issues an annual report examining free speech on the nation’s college campuses. Seventy percent of colleges and universities in Alabama and Mississippi examined by the Philadelphia-based FIRE received red light ratings — 10 […]

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  • Discipline of Southern Mississippi Band Members Raises Possible Free Speech Concerns

    March 21, 2012

    The Associated Press reports that the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has taken disciplinary action against five members of the university’s pep band for chanting “Where’s your green card” at Kansas State University basketball player Angel Rodriguez while he shot free throws during a game against USM last week. The university confirmed in a statement issued yesterday that “[t]he students have had their pep band scholarships revoked, have been removed from the band, and will be required to complete a two-hour cultural sensitivity training course this week.” University sports teams and bands are not independent from the university in the […]

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  • In Mississippi, ‘The Clarion-Ledger’ Reports on Dangers of State Colleges’ Speech Codes

    August 16, 2010

    In today’s edition of The Clarion-Ledger, the Jackson, Mississippi newspaper reports on speech codes maintained at public colleges statewide. Spurred by FIRE’s recent victory at nearby Hinds Community College, reporter Elizabeth Crisp writes: Students at Mississippi universities may have to watch what they say more than those in other states because of policies that free-speech advocates say are oppressive. At Ole Miss, someone could theoretically get in trouble for sending an e-mail about how much they “hate” rival Mississippi State. Jackson State students could be punished for unsolicited flirting. Speaking freely outside so-called “free-speech zones” on most of the campuses […]

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