AFA Announces Successful Resolution of Case at USC

Jun 20, 2024 | Press Release

AFA Announces Successful Resolution of Case at USC

USC Dismisses Case Against Professor John Strauss Regarding Exchange with Protestors

PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance today announced the favorable resolution of its case in defense of John Strauss, a professor at the University of Southern California who was accused of harassment by student protestors after he briefly engaged with them at a pro-Palestinian rally on campus. USC dismissed the case against Professor Strauss earlier this month.

“We’re pleased that Professor Strauss has been vindicated and that his rights have been acknowledged,” said Lucas Morel, chair of the AFA’s Academic Committee. “The university rightly found that John had not engaged in harassment and dismissed the complaints against him. The university also acknowledged John’s right to free speech and declined to subject him to discipline. The successful resolution of this case is a victory for academic freedom rights everywhere, particularly during these contentious times on campuses nationwide.”

The controversy originated on November 9, 2023, when Professor Strauss engaged in a brief verbal exchange with protestors in a public area on campus. After Professor Strauss expressed the view that Hamas terrorists should be killed, online activists shared a shortened version of the clip on social media intended to make it appear as though Professor Strauss had called for the death of all Palestinians. USC initially asked Strauss to leave campus after the video went viral, leading the AFA to begin supporting the professor on November 11.  While USC quickly allowed Strauss to return to campus after his case made national news, he was then subjected to a lengthy discrimination and harassment investigation based on complaints filed by the student protestors. Earlier this month, USC concluded its investigation into Strauss and dismissed the complaints against him, finding no harassment had occurred.

“I am grateful to the AFA for its support during this difficult period,” said Professor John Strauss. “I hope this outcome will serve as a reminder to universities across the country that professors have a right to free speech both inside and outside the classroom. I am deeply relieved to put this case behind me.”

Additional Resources:
  • The AFA’s November 2023 letter to USC in support of Prof. Strauss
  • Coverage of the case in the LA Times
The Academic Freedom Alliance is a diverse alliance of college and university faculty members who are dedicated to upholding the principles of academic freedom and professorial free speech. These principles are central to the mission of our institutions of higher education for the pursuit of truth and knowledge. The AFA is committed to defending universal principles of academic freedom and will come to the assistance of professors regardless of their individual views. As always, the AFA is not concerned with the substance or merits of a professor’s ideas but with the principle that universities should be places that tolerate controversial ideas and allow free inquiry and debate, not public opinion or political pressure, to separate error from truth.

Learn More About the Academic Freedom Alliance

No one, at any academic institution, should fear suppression or retaliation for speaking out publicly in any form. We encourage you to join the movement in supporting the flourishing of intellectual life and the pursuit of knowledge and truth at institutions of higher learning.