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The Petition:

Demand USC to Bring Back Jewish Professor John Strauss With Proper Protection & Address Disinformation 

Note: We welcome anyone to sign this petition in support of Professor Strauss.

Opening Statement:

We, people from USC and across the world deeply troubled by the evident double standard applied to a Jewish Professor, write to you with a SENSE OF URGENCY regarding the unjust actions being taken against Professor John Strauss, a deeply respected member of the Trojan Family and our academic community.

The recent events around his forced administrative leave, barring him from campus, have not only raised serious questions about double standards in the application of free speech principles at USC but have exposed the disturbing pattern of misinformation and targeted harassment that continues to take place on our campus. Moreover, what is particularly disturbing is that Jen Byers published an article on Annenberg Media, which intentionally distorted Professor Strauss’s words. False accusations and manipulated reporting have fueled calls for his termination (on all forms of media).

For three weeks, Professor Strauss was barred from campus and forced to teach his classes through Zoom. Initially, he was only permitted to teach his Graduate course on Zoom. Then, this changed and he was allowed to also teach his undergraduate on Zoom.

It prompts the question: Is this just an appeasement strategy, giving concessions to students threatening Professor Strauss?

While it was unclear why the Office of the Provost put him on administrative leave, USC mentioned concerns for Professor Strauss’s safety. However, Professor Strauss has adamantly requested to return to campus. Jewish people should not have to hide for their safety. Perpetrators of violence and false accusations must be removed, not the victims of their abuse. 

With the help of this petition, Professor Strauss has been allowed back on campus. HOWEVER, he is still under investigation. 

We demand that the University of Southern California drop the investigation on Strauss (and instead investigate those who made false accusations), issue Professor Strauss an apology, provide him with adequate protection, and conduct a comprehensive review of University policies to combat Jew-hatred on campus.

Dear University of Southern California,

We express our unequivocal support of USC Professor John Strauss, age 72, in light of the recent mischaracterization of his statements and the unjust call for his termination.

We are deeply troubled by the calculated effort of certain community members to denigrate Professor Strauss’s integrity. This attempt is misguided and threatens the values underpinning our educational institution.

What Happened on Thursday, November 9, 2023:

A pro-Palestinian demonstration was held at Tommy Trojan. As Professor Strauss walked past the rally, he heard them chanting “Down with Israel” and “From the river to the sea....” In response, Professor Strauss stated, “Israel forever; Hamas are murderers.” He then proceeded to his class.

Later, while passing by the demonstration on his way back to his office from class, individuals initiated an attack on the Jewish professor. They proclaimed: “Shame on you, Professor Strauss.” 

In response, Professor Strauss defends himself: “No, shame on you. You are ignorant. Really ignorant,” states Professor Strauss. “Hamas are murderers. That’s all they are. Every one should be killed. And I hope they all are.” Multiple other students chimed in on the verbal assault and arose from their seats to come closer to the Professor. After these events, one student in particular started lunging at Professor Strauss aggressively, intending to attack him. Other students had to step up and hold the student back.

Professor Strauss explicitly identified Hamas terrorists as the problem, not Palestinian civilians. There is recorded proof of this specific encounter circulating, and there were several eyewitnesses.

Mischaracterized Video Footage and Supporting Evidence: 

However, the manipulation of video footage falsely portrays Professor Strauss as calling for every Palestinian to die. This mischaracterization is reprehensible. The distorted video was strategically crafted to omit crucial context, editing it down to Professor Strauss only saying: “Should all be killed.” This video from @TrojansForPalestine is still up and has attracted over 80,000 views and counting.

Influencer @ShaunKing (5+ million followers), in a joint Instagram post with @CravingPalestine, falsely claimed in the caption of their video, “USC Professor John Strauss threatened these students’ hope you get killed, and I hope they all are (*Gaza)’ during a campus rally for Gaza. We call on USC to terminate this professor immediately.” This deceptive video has now gone viral, amassing over 3 million views.

Much of the videos and images from the incident are laden with text that further distorts what actually occurred. Examples from various social media accounts, both influential and regular, claim that Professor Strauss said, ‘All Palestinians Should Be Killed’ (source Instagram: @TrojansForPalestine) and ‘Professor at UCS [sic] Wants all Palestinians to be Killed’ (source Instagram: @graduatetalks.pk), highlighting the alarming speed at which false content is being generated and disseminated. Many more accounts are posting deceptively cropped video footage and images.

The ongoing smear campaign against Professor Strauss, coupled with the manipulation of facts perpetuated by the Muslim Student Union (@msu.usc) in their Instagram statement on November 9, 2023, has led to an incredibly distressing situation.

 

What do we mean by ‘Deceptively Cropped’?

“Deceptively cropped” refers to a video that alters interpretation, and does not maintain the integrity of the original content, and lacks supporting context, causing misunderstandings.

Why is the Shortened Video Deceptive?

The full video proves that Professor Strauss only called for the death of HAMAS. He never called for the death of Palestinian civilians or their supporters. It is incorrect for others to conflate his mention of Hamas with all Palestinians.

Admission of Falsehood by Student Groups:

Upon uncovering the full video, it was evident that Professor Strauss had articulated a different sentiment. Caught in their lie, ‘Trojans for Palestine’ admitted that Professor Strauss did, in fact, only refer to Hamas but continued to argue that he meant all Palestinian supporters. They did this in a 24-hour Instagram story. Meanwhile, the deceptively cropped videos continue circulating on social media and going viral.

Unjust and Uncalled Administrative Action:

A Change.org petition called for his termination based on the mischaracterized claims. That petition has over 3,300+ signatures, and supporters’ comments perpetuate false propaganda surrounding the events. The University’s action raises concerns among Jewish students on and off campus, who are grappling with the apparent contradictions in the University’s policies surrounding free speech and academic freedom. Anti-zionist professors at USC have expressed venomous anti-Israel sentiments without facing any consequences. Students have marched through campus, shouting hate speech and calls for violence against Jews, and the University has allowed it in the name of free speech. With that backdrop, the forced administrative leave of Professor Strauss, based on a misinterpretation of his statements, contributes to a sense of insecurity.

Meanwhile, Professor Strauss is currently enduring harassment across multiple platforms, including his email inbox, Rate My Professor, and social media. Examples of threats include: “I hope you die, you fascist pig” to “I hope you’re fired.”

Now, he has been placed on administrative leave and barred from campus due to the false accusations and manipulated reporting that have fueled calls for his termination.

It prompts questions among students and alums: Is this just an appeasement strategy, giving concessions to the students who are threatening the Professor?

Administrative Leave & Safety Concerns:

While it was unclear why the Office of the Provost put him on administrative leave, USC mentioned concerns for Professor Strauss’s safety. Even if they cited safety reasons, that is no reason for not allowing him on campus. We should not revert to the days of the Holocaust. Jewish people should not have to hide for our safety. Violent people who make threats and spread false accusations are the ones who should be expelled, not the victims of their abuse. USC should offer Professor Strauss proper protection in the coming months.

We are horrified at what is happening to Professor Strauss. In response to these challenges, we are taking proactive measures by providing unedited video footage to share the truth and counter the unwarranted damage to his reputation. As students and alums, we cannot be bystanders to what is going on, and we must raise our voices as they are fueled by worry.

We vehemently reject the characterization of Professor Strauss as malicious. His statements remain consistent with the position articulated by President Biden. Those who may take offense to his comments would only be individuals who support Hamas. They are ignorant at best and antisemitic at worst.

Why Intention Matters: Strauss Stated If He Stepped on the Paper, It Was Unintentional

The profound impact of each loss of life is undeniably disheartening.

Professor Strauss faces allegations of stepping on memorial papers. Examining intent is crucial. Due to the overwhelming emotional toll this situation has taken on him, Strauss said IF he stepped on the paper, it was unintentional. Photos reveal numerous footprints of all shapes and sizes. Considering the proximity of the Palestine supporters to the paper, it raises the possibility that they may have stepped on the papers themselves.

Professor Strauss states repeatedly that if he did step on the papers, it was UNINTENTIONAL. This prompts reflection on whether targeting an elderly Jewish man is easier than examining the broader context of the situation.

Impact on the Jewish Community:

The disturbing rhetoric and actions of those who support Hamas and advocate for violence against Jewish individuals have created a hostile environment of fear and anxiety among the Jewish community on our campus. Simply put, Jewish students don’t feel safe.

To this point, we were concerned about the University’s inaction in the face of a hostile environment for Jewish students. We are doubly concerned by the University’s inexplicable action on a false accusation.

Freedom of Speech Double Standards:

Despite the government’s condemnation of rising antisemitism on campus, our peers continue to chant hate speech with brazen arrogance. How do we reconcile the fact that hundreds of students can openly chant antisemitic, genocidal calls, raising concerns about a double standard, while Professor Strauss is restricted from sharing his perspective on the demise of a recognized terrorist organization? This strikes an overwhelming amount of fear and anxiety into every Jewish student on and off campus and should be for all persons on campus.

There is an additional double standard as there have been no direct consequences for students who tore down posters related to the missing and kidnapped individuals. This behavior adds to the dehumanization of those who have suffered at the hands of Hamas, further exacerbating the trauma experienced by our community.

Critique of Annenberg Media’s Article and Prejudice to Journalistic Standards: 

The Annenberg Media article, published by Jen Byers, is dangerously biased, violating the very tenets of journalistic standards. By fragmenting the Professor’s quote, the article falsely implies he addressed all Palestinian civilians rather than just Hamas. The article’s subtitle exemplifies this intentional narrative distortion: ‘I hope they all are killed’ walking by an event mourning Palestinian deaths.’ The report’s clear bias and deliberate omission of words and crucial context are a misrepresentation of truth and a troubling display of journalistic malpractice.

The repercussions are stark, with strangers issuing unduly attacks against Professor Strauss. This falsely manufactured outrage inflames the student body, igniting further strife on campus.

CALL TO ACTION: 

We demand that the University of Southern California promptly reinstate Professor Strauss with adequate protection and conduct a comprehensive review of University policies.

1. Reject Antisemitism:

  • Strongly condemn any form of antisemitism.

  • Advocate for re-evaluating individuals and groups promoting hate speech and/or violence.

  • Review and create a policy to take further action against those who rip down posters of hostages shamelessly.

2. Demand Re-Evaluation:

  • Call for a comprehensive review of the incident by University authorities.

  • Emphasize the importance of considering manipulated evidence and false accusations against Professor Strauss.

  • Demand the immediate reinstatement of Professor Strauss to his regular teaching duties.

3. Ensure Safety and Community Support:

  • Demand appropriate measures to ensure the safety of Professor Strauss and the Jewish Community.

  • Desire greater transparency from the University about events such as these to foster a sense of safety.

4. Examine University Policies and Issue Apology:

  • Demand a re-examination of all University policies regarding suspending professors.

  • Call for a review of policies concerning student-led groups.

  • Kindly request a public apology from the University addressing all of the mischaracterization related to Professor Strauss. Furthermore, the apology should acknowledge the additional stress, fear, and anxiety that has been unjustly caused to him.

  • Emphasize the need for accurate messaging from the University to rectify the damage caused by misinformation.

5. We stand united in urging USC to drop the ongoing investigation of Professor John Strauss immediately.

In light of the disturbing incidents and their impact on the USC community, there's an immediate and pressing need for transparency and accountability from: 

 

Carol Folt, Title IX Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX USC Office, and all USC administrators.

The Trojan community, including students, faculty, and alums, is united in its call for USC to take decisive action. This entails thoroughly investigating the events surrounding Professor Strauss and the subsequent disinformation campaign. Clear and transparent communication of the findings and the actions taken is vital to rebuild trust within the USC community.

In our standing for integrity and justice, our united voice aims to restore the principles that define our Trojan Community and Family.

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