Professor’s ‘blue lives matter’ flag causes controversy

Exterior of the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.
Viterbi professor James Moore decided to hang a “blue lives matter” flag outside of his office door in the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. (Celine Vazquez | Daily Trojan file photo)

Students are raising concerns about Viterbi professor James Moore’s decision to hang a “blue lives matter” flag outside of his office door, citing the flag’s racist origins and Moore’s past remarks regarding Title IX and USC’s diversity initiatives. 

Shai Porat, a graduate student studying neuroscience, brought his concerns to the Dean of the Viterbi School of Engineering and USC’s Office of Equity and Diversity in mid-October when he first saw the flag. 

“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 area,” Porat said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. 

Both offices informed Porat that there is no policy in place that would support the flag’s removal. 

“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,” the University said in a statement to the Daily Trojan. “As part of the university’s commitment to academic freedom, a faculty member can express his or her individual beliefs and viewpoints on a wide variety of topics – even controversial issues – but they do not speak on behalf of a school or the broader university.”

Porat said the display is a “trolling situation” because of Moore’s history of controversy. In 2018, Moore responded to a schoolwide email about Title IX saying that “accusers sometimes lie.” The response incited protests, where students called for his termination. In an article he published on the National Association of Scholars’ website, Moore described diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at USC as “counterproductive” and said he was “skeptical” that USC has any processes that bolster racism and inequality. 

“[Moore] had to know this would be an inappropriate thing to have, especially with USC’s diversity initiatives,” Porat said. 

Maricarmen Pachicano, a graduate student studying neuroscience, found out about the flag through her friend who works in the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology building, where Moore’s office is located. She said she does not think that USC is taking this issue seriously. 

“I want them to take it down, and I want them to do something about Professor Moore because this is not the first controversial thing he’s done,” Pachicano said. 

Moore said he decided to hang the flag in early August to “communicate a different view than what students are used to seeing.” 

“I wanted to remind students that there are multiple points of view present on this campus, because we are becoming fairly homogenous in respect to ideas,” Moore said. 

The flag gained popularity following the homicides of law enforcement officers in 2014. Since then, people have increasingly flown it at Black Lives Matter counter protests and white supremicist rallies, including the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. 

Moore believes that the “blue lives matter” and Black Lives Matter movements are not mutually exclusive and said that “blue lives protect Black lives.”

“We have a tendency to argue that Black lives are in danger from the police,” Moore said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

According to the Mapping Police Violence database, 26% of people killed by police in 2021 were Black. Porat and Pachicano said it is crucial that students are aware of the flag, especially when considering Moore’s past contentious actions. 

“It’s the entire context of how this flag is being portrayed and who exactly is portraying it … is just inappropriate and that should factor into the University’s decision,” Porat said. “It is important for students to know who their professors are.”