Los Angeles – Date: December 2, 2023
USC economics professor John Strauss, who recently found himself at the center of a campus controversy over comments he made about Hamas, has been allowed to return to campus as the university’s investigation into the matter unfolds, according to his lawyer.
The incident occurred on November 9 during a student protest, where Professor Strauss encountered students staging a walkout and protesting for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. The students had organized a memorial for Palestinians who lost their lives in the Israel-Hamas war. Allegedly hearing slogans like “destroy Israel,” Professor Strauss engaged in an exchange with the protesters, calling them ignorant and going a step further by stating, “Hamas are murderers. That’s all they are. Everyone should be killed, and I hope they all are killed.”
The video capturing his remarks went viral, prompting over 7,000 people to sign an online petition calling for Professor Strauss’s termination, while nearly 21,000 supported an opposing petition seeking his reinstatement.
The incident became a flashpoint in the ongoing clash between supporters of Israel and Palestinians within American academia. It has highlighted the challenges universities face in navigating disputes related to the Israel-Hamas conflict on campus, bringing into question the limitations on free speech. Following the controversy, Professor Strauss was initially placed on paid administrative leave, barred from campus, and restricted from teaching his undergraduate classes for the semester. However, the university later eased some of these restrictions, allowing him to resume online teaching for undergraduate classes and continue with graduate-level classes through Zoom.
According to his attorney, Samantha Harris, USC informed Professor Strauss this week that he is permitted to return to campus starting Saturday. Harris commented, “This is a step in the right direction. But he is still under investigation and facing potential discipline for his speech, which is both a violation of USC’s own promises of free speech and an outrageous, viewpoint-discriminatory double standard in terms of how USC enforces its policies.”
As the university’s investigation continues, this case raises broader questions about the delicate balance between free speech and the need to maintain a respectful and inclusive academic environment. USC has yet to respond to requests for comments on the ongoing situation.