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University Of South Carolina Gets ‘Green Light’ For Free Speech?

A surprise ratings reversal … but is it warranted?

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According to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) – a national pro-First Amendment group – South Carolina’s flagship institution of higher learning was one of 66 colleges and universities across the nation to earn a “green light” rating for free speech. FIRE’s designation is reserved for institutions with no written policies which adversely impact or threaten student speech – but for many at the University of South Carolina, the group’s honor came as a surprise.

Just seven years ago, South Carolina made FIRE’s list of “ten worst colleges for free speech” – stemming in part from the school’s February 2016 crackdown of a “free speech” event sponsored by chapters of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and College Libertarians.

The crackdown came after left-leaning students claimed these groups allegedly violated their “safe spaces” by disseminating flyers that were “offensive” and “triggering,” resulting in a “notice of charge” letter and a discrimination investigation issued by the school to the event organizers.

Hoping to remove a negative rating that could tarnish the school’s reputation, South Carolina made a a total of four revisions – elevating it from a “yellow light” rating from FIRE in the summer of 2023. The school’s board of trustees implemented two pro-free speech provisions to its code of conduct – as well as improvements to a comment posting policy on school-hosted websites and revisions to its “Carolinian Creed.”

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“The Board of Trustees is steadfast in its support for free speech at USC,” board chairman Thad H. Westbrook said in a statement. “In fact, the board, the university’s leadership, and FIRE share a commitment to free expression. That commitment is ultimately about students and maintaining a culture for higher learning that opens eyes and ears rather than closing them to difficult ideas — even when the ideas are not popular or are deemed problematic by those in power.”

These new policies encourage students to exercise their First Amendment rights – including organizing protests, sharing views about current events and posting their thoughts freely on campus forums with specified content-neutral rules.

“USC went above and beyond to make its campus friendly to free expression,” FIRE’s senior program officer Mary Griffin noted. “Not only did the institution seek to ensure its written policies aligned with the First Amendment, but it also prioritized communicating the importance of free expression as a valued principle to students, faculty, and staff. USC’s all-around approach is a model we hope all schools will follow.”

Does the all-around approach apply to all students, though? And is this “valued principle” being consistently upheld?

Our media outlet continues to receive reports that students in the Jewish community – and students who publicly express their support for Israel – are being penalized for their outspoken views. Count on this media outlet to continue its investigation into these claims.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Erin Parrott (Provided)

Erin Parrott is a Greenville, S.C. native who graduated from J. L. Mann High School in 2021. She is currently a rising senior at the University of South Carolina majoring in broadcast journalism. Got feedback or a tip for Erin? Email her here.

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4 comments

RC June 12, 2024 at 11:48 am

The crackdown came after left-leaning students claimed these groups allegedly violated their “safe spaces” by disseminating flyers that were “offensive” and “triggering,”

So they said those things? Because that’s what putting something in quotes is supposed to mean.

Reply
River Top fan June 12, 2024 at 9:37 pm

Good article

Reply
Kimmie Top fan June 13, 2024 at 11:47 am

Great article and reporting. It is refreshing that the author is an actual student. Being from the Upstate and a Gamecock parent, my subscription to Fitsnews is invaluable.

Reply
Know Who Controls You June 13, 2024 at 3:47 pm

So, is it legal to question or criticize Joos on campus now? I just read where a 90-plus year old woman in Germany was sent to prison for the heinous crime of being a holocaust denier. From a lot of what I see, hear, and read, the Joos in the USA won’t be happy until the same can happen here.

Reply

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