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Jewish professor fully exonerated after removal for saying ‘Hamas are murderers’

USC professor found fully within First Amendment rights

A Jewish economics professor at the University of Southern California has been cleared of any wrongdoing following a seven-month investigation into comments he made to pro-Palestinian protesters.

Professor John Strauss last November was banned from teaching on campus for the remainder of the fall semester after saying to the student demonstrators: “Hamas are murderers. That’s all they are. Every one should be killed, and I hope they all are.”

An edited version of a recording of Stauss’ comments that went viral on social media omitted his full remarks, prompting some to believe he suggested all Palestinians should be killed.

More than 10 students filed complaints against Strauss alleging harassment, discrimination, and creating an unsafe environment, The Los Angeles Times reported, adding while there “was no dispute that Strauss said the words … he denied that this amounted to a threat to students, as Hamas is deemed a terrorist organization and committed atrocities in Israel on Oct. 7.”

The investigation recently came to an end with all complaints filed by students dismissed, and the professor facing no discipline for his actions, the Times reported.

Strauss confirmed the development to The College Fix. The investigation “should have been stopped months earlier. My lawyer and I early on presented a lot of evidence of my innocence,” Strauss told The Fix via email in late June.

He said he is “happy and relieved [the investigation] is over.”

Strauss said he believes that there should be no limits to free speech on campus as long as there is no “incitement to violence.”

USC’s media relations department told The College Fix: “USC takes allegations of harassment and discrimination seriously. We follow our university policies and processes when reviewing them.” The department said via email it could not comment on the Strauss case in particular “because of the confidential nature of personnel matters.”

University policies prohibit “harassment and discrimination, including on the basis of shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics,” USC told The Fix.

USC is committed to providing “a safe educational and work environment free of harassment” and “it is equally committed to maintaining academic freedom… and free speech, consistent with Federal and state law,” according to the USC Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation.

The USC policy further states “when harassment is committed against faculty and students,” it infringes on their “academic freedom,” explaining why complaints need to be investigated.

In the wake of the incident, two dueling petitions were launched, one in support of Strauss, and one demanding his termination.

To reach a conclusion, the students who filed complaints were questioned by a USC investigator. Professor Strauss and witnesses were also interviewed, as detailed by The Los Angeles Times. Video footage was also reviewed.

“This was an exchange of opinions in a public area of campus on an issue of public concern that rose nowhere near to the level of conduct that constitutes harassment, which is severe, pervasive and persistent,” Samantha Harris, Strauss’ lawyer, told The Times.

USC determined there wasn’t enough evidence that Strauss created an unsafe environment with his words or that he was targeting any student in particular, Harris told The Times.

Accusations that the scholar purposely stepped on anti-Israel signs were also debunked.

“Strauss’ lawyer also said the investigator had video of the encounter — including the clips that had gone viral — and aerial footage from ‘Trojan Cam,’ a live feed of the statue of Tommy Trojan on campus,” reported The Los Angeles Times.

The legal director of the Council on American-Islamic Relation, Amr Shabaik, told The Times: “We are disappointed that USC has found no wrongdoing despite the professor being captured on camera going out of his way to harass and intimidate USC students honoring the lives of innocent Palestinians killed by Israel.”

IMAGE: USC professor banished from campus after anti-Hamas comments go viral

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Megan Rosevear is a student at Brigham Young University where she is studying journalism and various forms of dance, including ballet, ballroom, and tap. She is a member of Young Americans for Freedom. In her spare time, she enjoys running, spending time with her family, and writing articles for her productivity blog, which has garnered over a million views.