James Moore, who directs the USC’s transportation engineering program, has been displaying a “Thin Blue Line” flag outside of his office door since August when the fall semester began, but has faced a complaint only recently from students who took issue with the flag’s alleged “racist origin,” according to student newspaper Daily Trojan.
“This is an inappropriate and unnecessary symbol to have on an office door where USC is, within the last year or two, trying to have a much broader diversity initiative and to be inclusive, especially in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) area,” one USC graduate student told the newspaper. The student said that he discovered the flag in October and reported the matter to the university’s office of equity and diversity.
Moore explained that he wants to add some diversity of thought to the USC campus by exposing students to a point of view they’re not usually exposed to.
“We are in an environment where there is a lot of homogenization of ideas, and diversity should include diversity of ideas,” the professor said in an interview with education news site The College Fix. “We are charging people very good money to teach them to think. I am just trying to deliver.”
The USC said Moore’s action falls within his freedom of expression and there is no rule that prevents him from hanging such a flag on the door of his own office.
“The university does not have a policy that limits the display of materials in spaces like this, though we are looking at whether it is needed,” a statement provided to the Daily Trojan reads.
This is not the first time Moore’s unpopular viewpoints upset the progressive members of the USC community. In September 2018, Moore responded to a campus-wide invitation to an event focused on believing survivors of alleged sexual assault, saying that “accusers sometimes lie.” Moore’s comment triggered a series of angry responses, including a student-led protest calling for his resignation.
“If some of them are annoyed by ideas that are opposed to theirs, well that’s just preparation for adult life,” Moore told Daily Trojan at that time regarding criticism of his remark.
Moore also expressed disagreement with USC’s policy proposals centered on racial equity in the wake of unrest sparked by George Floyd’s death, such as that faculty members undergo training to address their “unconscious biases.” He told USC President Carol Folt in a letter that the university has no business in correcting his thoughts and decision making.
“My mental and moral development are my own ongoing responsibility. The market for good ideas and sound thinking provides me with ample incentive to deliver both if I can,” Moore wrote in the June 2020 letter. “If I elect to try and improve my decisions via an assessment and awareness of my unconscious biases, this is my own affair, my own duty. I am not inclined to surrender to anyone my own role in deciding how I will decide.”