Controversial Speakers

One of the great strengths of USC is that so many interesting speakers representing a diverse range of talents, expertise, and viewpoints want to come to USC and engage with our community. Many are invited by RSOs, academic departments and/or administrative units. Some of these speakers’ views may be controversial or upsetting to members of our community.

It would undermine academic freedom and set a troubling precedent if the university were to begin prohibiting certain individuals (but not others) from speaking simply because their ideologies or points of view were deemed controversial. If the university is to be a place for the free expression of ideas, it is inevitable that some of these ideas may be offensive, hurtful, distasteful or uncomfortable to some. While the university does not bar speakers from our campus simply based on the speaker’s point of view, the university may impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on events, and for safety reasons may direct an event to a different location, or online, based on safety or other considerations.

Individuals are free to express disagreement with the views expressed on campus by an individual speaker, but they cannot obstruct, disrupt, or interfere with a presentation, seminar, or other event. The First Amendment does not protect what is referred to as the “heckler’s veto”. Individuals may peacefully protest outside the event’s location or hold up signs that comply with University policy at the back of the room during the speaker’s presentation. Any individual who engages in conduct to disrupt a speaker’s presentation will receive a warning to stop the disruptive behavior, will be removed from the presentation if the individual persists in that conduct, may be subject to arrest and will be referred for disciplinary action as appropriate.