Attorney: ‘This is a step in the right direction. But he is still under investigation and facing potential discipline for his speech.’
USC economics Professor John Strauss, who was told to stay off campus while he was investigated after getting into a confrontation with pro-Palestinian student demonstrators, can step foot on campus again, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Strauss is allowed to return to campus as the university continues its investigation into his comments about Hamas during a student protest, according to his lawyer,” the Times reported Saturday. “…In an updated statement, USC said, ‘all of the restrictions previously placed on Professor Strauss have now been lifted.'”
The banishment ended Saturday, the day after the regular fall semester concluded, the Times reported, adding finals begin this week.
“This is a step in the right direction,” Strauss’ civil rights attorney, Samantha Harris, told the Times. “But he is still under investigation and facing potential discipline for his speech, which is both a violation of USC’s own promises of free speech and an outrageous, viewpoint-discriminatory double standard in terms of how USC enforces its policies.”
As The College Fix previously reported, at issue is an early November interaction the professor had with students engaged in a protest. In an original unedited video of the exchange, Strauss can be heard saying “people are ignorant” as he walked by, adding “Hamas are murderers. That’s all they are. Every one should be killed, and I hope they all are.”
But an edited version of the exchange that went viral on social media did not include the Hamas part, making viewers believe he was referring to Palestinians. USC put Strauss on paid administrative leave on Nov. 10, but soon after administrators allowed him to complete his fall semester classes by teaching via Zoom.
Asked by NBC whether he was removed from campus for his safety, Strauss said “that is maybe part of it, it’s a little hard to tell.”
But retired USC Professor James Moore told The College Fix the vague concept of safety might be being misused: “In Prof. Strauss’ case, it is unclear whose safety is at stake. Is it his? Is it the students’ he responded to at the pro-Palestinian protest? Is it the safety of the students filling EEO/Title IX complaints against him following his remarks? Is it the safety of the USC campus community at large? Is it the administration’s safety from controversy or criticism?”
He told The Fix via email what may be happening is an attempted inception of a new mechanism for constraining and punishing faculty whose ideas the leadership disagrees with or finds otherwise inconvenient.
“With the exception of incitement, true threats, fighting words, and a few other categories of unprotected speech, words and ideas are not harmful nor do they carry a risk of harm that the university should be trying to manage; but in an environment in which people claim that words they do not like make them unsafe, the administration might well be tempted to use these sentiments as undocumented rationales for taking novel steps such as excluding a faculty member from campus,” Moore said.
IMAGE: Social media screenshot