Update: Using Freedom of Speech to Embrace the Inclusive Spirit

Message to the USC Community

From: Michael W. Quick, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

September 16, 2018

On Friday, I wrote to you about recent online allegations regarding a USC graduate student. Since that time, new information has become available that we are processing, investigating, and substantiating with the assistance of law enforcement. While we are guided by our unwavering fidelity to free speech, it is also true that we do not tolerate threatening or intimidating conduct, or any other behavior that jeopardizes the safety of our community.  Although it is not possible to communicate the specifics of each case due to privacy laws, I want you to know that in this case the student in question will not be on our campuses for the foreseeable future as we continue our investigation.

Even if the investigation concludes that what has happened here is constitutionally-protected speech, it does not mean that it does not have tangible impact. Hate speech, by nature, is dehumanizing, degrading, toxic, and vile, and it leaves people feeling unsafe, unheard, afraid, and anxious. These feelings are only exacerbated by the proliferation of active shooter tragedies across the landscape of American secondary and higher education, and the development of other significant challenges regarding public safety that confront colleges and universities.

A number of you have reached out to me to express concerns about the disruption that these allegations present to our academic and business processes, and the emotional turmoil they create for our campus climate. As provost, my most important responsibility is the safety of our community and we will never compromise your security.

I want to reassure you that we are constantly and rigorously managing, assessing, and mitigating threat. Indeed, over the last year, we have developed comprehensive new threat assessment resources and protocols led by USC’s Chief Threat Assessment Officer and threat assessment team, in collaboration with USC’s Department of Public Safety, and in consultation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Threat Management Unit. Our goal is for everyone on our campuses to feel welcome and protected, so that each of us can thrive and flourish in all that we do.

As we ensure that our campuses remain safe and secure, we all benefit from the vigilance of our university community to inform us of hateful speech and conduct on campus. I strongly encourage anyone who has witnessed or experienced an incident of bias or discrimination on our campuses to report it so that we can appropriately investigate and respond.

Cc: Wanda Austin
Academic Senate
Academic Deans
President’s Cabinet
Provost’s Cabinet