update deskSchools & Higher Education

USC suspends professor who called for Hamas ‘murderers’ to be killed

PEN America condemns the decision, saying it is a “shocking overreaction.”

University of Southern California, USC
A gate at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Credit: Ganna Tokolova/Shutterstock.

At a Nov. 10 vigil at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, professor John Strauss made clear his condemnation of the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip and attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

“Hamas are murderers; that’s all they are,” he said. “Everyone should be killed, and I hope they all are.”

In response, administrators chose to bar Strauss from campus, allowing him to contact students virtually for the rest of the semester.

“Totally barring a professor from campus because of a passing comment like this is a shocking overreaction. Regardless of professor Strauss’s intent, he is entitled to his views and the right to share them,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America.

He continued, saying “it is no doubt a challenging time for campuses, and we recognize that words may feel especially menacing in this environment. But it is exactly because of rising tensions that universities must resist the urge to place limits on speech or dole out punishments for comments that do not rise to the level of clear threats or incitement.”

Friedman added that “what USC has done runs counter to the university’s obligation to foster dialogue and debate.”

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