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 Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.

At present, FIRE has not been involved in any cases at this school.
Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: The Creed at Southern Miss

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience
    Last updated: November 8, 2016

    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

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: November 8, 2016

    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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  • Definitions of Sexual Misconduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 8, 2016

    Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.  Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, behavior that is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive 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, and is based on power differentials (quid pro quo), the creation of a hostile environment, or retaliation.

    Whether particular physical, visual, or verbal conduct constitutes harassment in violation of this policy will depend upon all of the facts and circumstances involved, the context in which the conduct occurred, and the frequency, severity and pattern of the conduct.

    Not all workplace or educational conduct that may be described as “harassment” affects the terms, conditions or privileges of employment or education.  For example, a mere utterance of an ethnic, gender-based or racial epithet which creates offensive feelings in an employee or student would not normally affect the terms and conditions of their employment or education.

    Hostile environment sexual harassment includes any situation in which there is harassing conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive and objectively offensive that it alters the conditions of employment or limits, interferes with or denies educational benefits or opportunities, from both a subjective (the alleged victim’s) and an objective (reasonable person’s) viewpoint.

    » Read More

Green Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Technology Policies

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: November 8, 2016

    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

  • Residence Life Handbook: Southern Miss Standard

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: November 8, 2016

    The Southern Miss Standard was developed to embody the values we hope residents possess. At the same time, the University is strongly committed to freedom of expression. Consequently, these principles do not constitute University policy and are not intended to interfere in any way with a resident’s personal freedoms. We hope, however, that residents will voluntarily endorse these common principles, thereby contributing to the traditions and scholarly heritage left by those who preceded them, and will thus leave Southern Miss a better place for those who follow. We encourage residents to demonstrate respect, integrity and compassion in every facet of their University life, thus ensuring the success of each resident. Our community will be our strength as each resident values and appreciates scholarship, service and involvement, and assumes an active role in our society.

    Implicit within the Southern Miss Standard is:

    • A respect for the hall environment and university property;

    • A respect for language that is appropriate, never obscene, and neither demeans nor intimidates.

    • A respect for the level of noise at all times and an understanding of how personal noise levels affect others in the community;

    • A respect for the academic community and a commitment to the academic principles of scholarly study and class attendance;

    • A respect for the differences that exist among residents and a commitment to know the members of the floor/hall;

    • A respect for the staff of the hall and compliance to all policies and procedures;

    • A respect and adherence to the principles of truth and honesty; and

    • A respect for all safety measures and the adherence to safety practices.

    » Read More

  • Faculty Handbook: Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 8, 2016

    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.


    » Read More

  • Student Handbook: Free Speech and Assembly

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: November 8, 2016

    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:

    1. Weathersby Lawn
    2. Union Plaza
    3. Shoemaker Square
    4. Kennard-Washington Lawn
    5. Centennial Lawn

    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.

    If a student organization desires to demonstrate in an area of campus outside of the “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 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. The purpose of this policy is not to designate University streets and common areas as a public forum or to accommodate demonstrations or protests by those who are not part of the University community (non-students and other campus guests). Rather, the purpose of this policy is to promote and facilitate student expression while allowing the University to make any necessary arrangements (such as arranging parade route, providing security) to assure such activities do not interfere with the University’s mission and operations or with the rights of others.

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  • Student Handbook: Anti-Bullying Policy

    Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies
    Last updated: November 8, 2016

    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.

    » Read More

  • 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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