Recent University Messages
Resources, Reassurances, and Answers to Help You Navigate USC during these Times.
In times of national and international conflict, we receive a variety of questions from students, parents, faculty, staff, and others about resources available from the university, as well as concerns you may have about our campus climate and how the university responds to issues arising from these conflicts.
We have consolidated many informational and support resources on this page. We have also added information and insights that pertain to what is happening on our campuses – and what you may be seeing or reading about on other campuses – that may not be happening here. Please note: We continue to assess situations in real-time and enhance these resources whenever necessary and wherever needed.
Living Our Values; Understanding Laws Governing Speech in the U.S. and California.
USC is an open and thriving community of 80,000 students, faculty, and staff across our two campuses; thousands of visitors come to our campuses, hospitals, and other facilities every day. We strive to communicate and to uphold our values and our expectations of behavior on campus and in the classroom to keep USC safe and welcoming.
Yet in the 24/7 social media and news cycles, we understand that information and often disinformation can spread and scale rapidly. We know we can’t control everything and everyone, especially across our campuses and hospitals bustling with students, faculty, and staff, and thousands of visitors, each day — and an online world out of control. But we can assure you, we won’t let up for a moment.
Knowing the facts and understanding relevant laws that govern our nation and the state of California can help you make more sense of what you may be reading about what is occurring – and not occurring – on our campuses today.
Where We Are Today at USC
We know that fear, hate speech, and acts of antisemitism are taking place at alarming levels across the world. To be clear – we reject hate speech and antisemitism in any form at USC. We are fortunate that much of what is being reported elsewhere is not occurring at USC, and we will work tirelessly to keep it that way. Our teams are acting around the clock to keep our campuses and our students safe. Some of what you see online (for example, social media posts purporting to represent USC-sanctioned organizations or statements) is false, but we know it is still upsetting. We’re doing our best to respond when we learn of such things, even though we can’t monitor social media or take down all offensive postings.
We also want you to know that USC takes threats of violence and harassment extremely seriously. We work closely with law enforcement, as well as our threat office and other university offices to address them to the fullest extent possible under the law. As of now, we have received very few such reports since October 7, but please know we investigate all of them. Many extremely offensive and disturbing statements are protected by the U.S. Constitution, which private universities like USC are required to uphold under the California Leonard Law.
Federal and state privacy laws also prohibit us from releasing personal facts (for example, individual names and other identifying details) of any case. That doesn’t mean we can’t take any actions, and we do, but the privacy laws also stop us from sharing details. We also don’t have legal rights to enforce our campus-wide poster policies (which generally prohibit posters), or policies about marches taking place off our campuses, even when they are directly adjacent to our campus.
We also want to reassure you that we are taking many measures to increase safety. This includes increasing security patrols and safety measures and enhancing mental health and academic support services for all our students. We are working nonstop to help students so that they can continue to go to class, athletic events, and other gatherings, feeling supported and in a safe environment.
Key Areas of Interest with Helpful Links for More Information
Safety: The safety and well-being of everyone on our campus is our top priority. Since October 7, we have put in place enhanced safety measures throughout our campuses.
Whenever needed, we have added security personnel and will continue to do so. USC’s Department of Public Safety has worked around the clock to monitor any potential activities or threats and proactively manage our preparedness and response. DPS is always on standby to help and are able to respond quickly. Anyone who is concerned about their safety should contact the Department of Public Safety or visit the Safety at USC website. If you are not familiar with USC’s approach to providing the highest level of campus security, please watch this brief video.
Academic Accommodations: We always make academic accommodations available to students, and we double down on these efforts during catastrophic and highly disruptive times. If you are a student seeking these accommodations, you should contact your instructors and advisors and/or Campus Support & Intervention to develop a plan tailored for you. The university provost and each of our deans understand the importance of supporting you and have urged our faculty to be as flexible as possible during these challenging times.
Mental Health and Wellness: One of the first things we always do is expand our support for mental health and wellness. If you are a student, faculty, or staff member needing assistance, you should immediately contact Campus Support & Intervention (there are 24-hour hotlines), the WorkWell Center (for faculty, staff, and post-docs), or the Ombuds Office. This is one of our top priorities, and if you feel you need help, we urge you to reach out to the appropriate office.
Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation are prohitbited: Harassment, discrimination, and retaliation of any kind are not tolerated on our campuses. Please refer to the university’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation and notice of non-discrimination for more information about protected characteristics – including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.
Reporting Concerns: We want you to report any type of concern as this is a vitally important part of a positive and healthy campus culture. Information about the various ways reports may be made is available on the USC Report & Response website. This website also provides a comprehensive list of confidential and support resources available to our community. Reports can include harassment, discrimination, and retaliation – including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, threatening behavior or misconduct, retaliation, and other incidents of concern. All reports are taken seriously and will receive a prompt and equitable response that prioritizes care, support, and safety, as well as available resolution options.
Federal Actions to Address Antisemitism and Islamophobia on University Campuses: On October 30, the federal government announced new actions to address antisemitism on college campuses. The White House, Department of Education (DOE), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plan to issue formal guidelines. Here is what we know and encourage you to learn more about:
- The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) will be updating its discrimination complaint form to include language stating that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits antisemitism and Islamophobia, and related forms of discrimination, and will expedite investigations and complaints. The DOE is also planning to hold technical assistance webinars to provide students with information on how to file an OCR complaint.
- On November 7, OCR issued the Dear Colleague Letter: Discrimination, including Harassment, based on Shared Ancestry or Ethnic Characteristics outlining these obligations under Title VI.
- The DOJ and DHS are dedicating 125 protective security advisers and 100 cybersecurity advisers to proactively work with schools and universities to address their needs for cyber threats and online harassment. The Justice Department’s Community Relations Service is also expanding support of Jewish, Muslim, Arab, and other impacted communities on campuses across the nation.
- The United States Senate passed a bipartisan resolution by unanimous consent denouncing antisemitism at institutions of higher education and encourages college and university leaders and administrators to voice their opposition to antisemitism on campus, which we have done on multiple occasions.
- On November 7, OCR issued the Dear Colleague Letter: Discrimination, including Harassment, based on Shared Ancestry or Ethnic Characteristics.
Free Speech Resources: Especially in times of conflict, we receive many questions regarding the university’s free speech policies, rights, and processes. For information about free speech on our campuses, we encourage you to review USC’s free speech policy, visit the Freedom of Expression website, and watch the following video presentations.
- Office of Culture, Ethics and Compliance Free Speech and Academic Freedom Overview (February 14, 2023): https://vimeo.com/798932847
- Office of Culture, Ethics and Compliance Free Speech and Academic Freedom Conversation (February 28, 2023): https://vimeo.com/803260733
- Office of Culture, Ethics and Compliance Free Speech and Academic Freedom Faculty Panel (October 19, 2023): https://vimeo.com/876608168
Leonard Law Unique to California Private Universities: Many of you who are new to our campuses or California may be unaware of the Leonard Law, which holds private universities – such as USC – to the same strict standards as public universities when it comes to students’ freedom of speech. As a result, the university may not discipline a student for engaging in speech or other communications protected by the First Amendment. This may extend to banners, chants, slogans, symbols, and other speech that many members of our community find offensive.
Verify Online Content Integrity: We realize there are a lot of videos circulating that are designed to provoke a strong response. We have also seen that many of these videos have been edited or manipulated to distort the actual words and actions that occurred, or that individuals in the video are misidentified. Please be responsible in confirming the authenticity of the videos before recirculating material that is factually inaccurate. Perpetuating false information or implicating innocent people can have tremendous negative impact on the community and the individuals themselves. Integrity and accountability are core components of USC’s Unifying Values; let’s all do our part to live up to those values.
On November 17, we launched our website on freedom of expression. We designed this site to help everyone better understand free speech at USC. There is a lot of information there. It’s geared to helping you understand, for example, how most hateful speech is actually legally protected, even though it may run counter to our values.
This site also provides information for reporting incidents of all types, and we encourage you to do so. Again, all reports, without exception, submitted to The Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX (EEO-TIX), the Department of Public Safety, and the Office of Threat Assessment and Management are promptly evaluated and reviewed by USC subject matter experts through a collaborative and coordinated multi-campus stakeholder process.
Posting Flyers: The university has a policy about posting flyers. It is on page 117 of the USC Student Handbook. This pertains to everyone, regardless of your affiliation with the university.
All postings or flyers – regardless of their content – are prohibited in, and will be removed from, the following areas, among others: trees and hedges, buildings (including glass windows, doors, walls, and columns), elevators, Tommy Trojan and all other statues, trash and recycling cans, all lamp posts, fences, utility poles, parking lots and structures, fountains (including drinking fountains), on cars, bicycles, or other individual property, and freestanding advertisements such as signs on stands, sandwich boards, and other displays.
You have likely seen and may continue to see social media postings of flyers that have been placed in and/or removed from areas that appear to be on our campuses but in fact are immediately off our campus. Please note: USC has neither the authority nor the jurisdiction to prevent or protect flyers not on our campuses.
Student Commitment and Unifying Values: In 2022, our students helped create the Student Commitment. This is the commitment that is shared with all students when they become USC Trojans – essentially, to act with integrity in the pursuit of excellence; to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion; to promote the well-being of ourselves and others; to engage in open communication; and to be accountable for living our Unifying Values and helping to make USC the best place it can be.
If you are a student who has questions about this commitment or what it stands for in times of trouble, please review its meaning and consider its importance in today’s context. You can visit the following pages to learn more about the Student Commitment and our Unifying Values.
Group Gatherings or Events: We receive many questions regarding group gatherings and events. For many of you, demonstrations may be something new or an avenue for you to show solidarity with an organization or cause. It is very important for you to understand the framework for safe demonstrations. Our policies regarding demonstrations, counter-protesting, and something that you may be unfamiliar with – the heckler’s veto – is found in Student Life’s webpage on student activism.
As stated in the Student Handbook, “Students and student organizations shall be free to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them and to express opinion publicly and privately. They shall be free to support causes by all orderly means, which do not disrupt or substantially interfere with the regular and essential operations and activities of the university since such disruption or substantial interference violates the responsible exercise of free inquiry and expression. Students and organizations shall make it clear to the academic and larger communities that in their public expression they speak only for themselves.”
It is important to note that no student or student group represents or speaks on behalf of the university or its leadership.
Faculty and Departmental Statements: Our Faculty Handbook affirms both the right of faculty to speak on controversial topics, as well as the obligation to clarify that they are stating their personal views and not speaking on behalf of the university, a school, or an academic department.
As stated in the Introduction to the 2022 Faculty Handbook: “Faculty members of the University have the same rights and responsibilities of free speech, thought, and action as all American citizens. In their exercise of that right, faculty members have the special responsibility to make clear that they are stating their personal views and are not speaking on behalf of the University.”
In addition, USC’s policy does not allow use of the university’s logos, graphics, or websites to express political positions. As stated in the Faculty Handbook, faculty members must be clear that they are not institutional representatives (3-G), avoid any conduct that would appear to commit the university to an endorsement of a political position (3-H(5)), and be mindful when they speak or write as citizens to indicate that they are not speaking for the university, given that the public may judge the university by their statements (3-B(1)(a)).
All of these principles apply to groups of faculty members, as well as individuals, who should be clear that they are speaking for themselves and not speaking for the university or a department or school.
USC Policies on Releasing Names: Federal and state privacy laws protect the identities of students, faculty, and staff who may be named in reports and complaints. All complaints are followed up on or investigated appropriately.
While we sometimes receive requests for personal details, including the identities of those involved and sanctions, we are legally bound to withhold this information. We take seriously allegations and complaints of misconduct, and we abide by the laws protecting confidentiality. We have other ways of notifying our community about incidents, including a daily crime log, timely warning notices, and community safety advisories.
Doxxing: Doxxing refers to deliberately harassing and targeting individuals by publicly sharing their personal information because they have a different viewpoint. Doxxing is antithetical to our values, the Student Commitment, and our commitment to respectful, civil discourse on our campuses.
Doxxing by members of our community will not be tolerated. We have a threat assessment team that evaluates and monitors safety issues on an ongoing basis and ensures community members are connected to support resources, from counseling to help with classes, as well as personal and online safety planning.
If you are concerned that you are being doxxed, please contact the USC Office of Threat Assessment and Management right away.
Additional resources and links will be posted here when there is new information to disseminate.
Recent University Media Statements: From time to time, we will post media statements about activities at USC.
“Online video clips of Professor Strauss – some of which appear to have been edited in misleading ways – have been widely shared on social media, generating millions of online global engagements and comments, many of them quite alarming. There also have been reports in the media and in social media that he has been placed on administrative leave. That is not the case. After reviewing the overwhelming volume and types of comments, the university directed him to teach his two remaining classes online and to remain off campus as a precautionary measure until classes are finished this term. These measures were designed to minimize disruption in the classroom and to ensure a safe environment for both him and students. All of the restrictions previously placed on Professor Strauss have now been lifted. He has in no way been disciplined or punished for engaging in protected speech. For details about the university’s formal processes for handling all reports, please see USC’s Network of Informational and Support Resources in Times of Conflict.” 11/27/23 [updated 12/2/2023]