Phi Beta Cons

FIRE’s South Carolina Case Highlights the Disrespect for Free Speech

How little regard many college administrators have for free speech was shown recently at the University of South Carolina. Two student groups (Young Americans for Liberty and College Libertarians) held an outdoor event — in the school’s “free speech zone”! — in which they sought to call attention to the erosion of free speech on campuses across the country. The students put up posted with examples of free expression that had been censored at other schools.

You can probably guess what happened. Several other USC students filed formal complaints, whining that they found the posters “offensive” and “triggering.” Naturally, university officials felt that they had to respond to the whiners and served student Ross Abbott with a “Notice of Charge” letter. You can read all about the case on FIRE’s blog.

FIRE’s director of litigation, Catherine Sevcenko, says, “The University of South Carolina is so intolerant of free speech that students can’t even talk about free speech.”

Unless USC quickly settles the case and agrees to drop its authoritarian rules, the school has a good shot at making FIRE’s next list of the worst free speech schools. (I just wrote about the 2015 list of the worst schools here.)

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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