School officials say the student’s volatile public outbursts are protected speech, but the faculty isn’t buying it and her classmates say they their lives are being threatened
Since the summer, USC has been embroiled in a free speech quagmire over tweets posted by Yasmeen Mashayekh, a 21-year-old, Palestinian civil engineering student whose statements include, “I Want to Kill Every Motherfucking Zionist,” “Zionists are going to fucking pay,” “LONG LIVE THE INTIFADA” and, “I fucking love [H]amas.”
So far, the administration’s response has failed to satisfy anyone, with professors accusing school leaders of being more timid than they would have been if another minority were targeted, while students say they feel threatened, and demand Mashayekh’s expulsion. But Mashayekh and her supporters say they’re the victims here.
On December 1, 60 faculty members sent the latest in a series of letters to USC President Carol Folt, Provost Charles Zukoski, and board of trustees chair Rick Caruso, urging the school publicly rebuke Mashayekh and take action “to distance USC from her hateful statements,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
“The silence of our leadership on this matter is alienating, hurtful, and depressing,” the letter read. “It amounts to tacit acceptance of a toxic atmosphere of hatred and hostility.”
In their December 3 response, Folt and Zukoski said that the issue “has disturbed us deeply as we understand very well the hurtful impact of the statements on Twitter that you quoted, not only to those who are Jewish but also to those of us who know how harmful antisemitism is when left unchecked.”
USC officials say that when they first learned of the tweets this summer, they pulled Mashayekh—who is an undergrad but also takes graduate courses—from her job as a paid mentor for the Viterbi School of Engineering, but she still apparently works as a “diversity, equity and inclusion senator” for the Viterbi Graduate Student Association.
Folt and Zukoski told the faculty that it would be against state law “for the university to remove anyone from a student-elected position based on protected speech.”
Read More: LA Magazine