Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Facilitating Difficult Election Conversations

This guide was prepared to support faculty, staff, and students to engage in constructive conversations around the 2020 Elections, regardless of the outcomes.

Guiding Premises

  • This has been a divisive election during a turbulent year where we have been experiencing natural disasters, police violence, protests for racial justice, and moving to a remote environment because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • PCC believes in a safe and peaceful transition of power (if one is required by the election outcome) as central to a democratic society.
  • Diversity and inclusion makes us stronger and more creative, and we strive to ensure that everyone has equitable access, voice, and participation in discussions and decision making.
  • We believe in the dignity of every human being and believe that everyone has a right to thrive.
  • Politicians don’t always live up to democratic ideals.
  • We may not know the results of the election on November 3rd. There may be challenges to the results, be patient, persistent, and willing to question.

Ground Rules

  • Everyone’s viewpoint counts equally.
  • There are diverse perspectives involved in the conversation and we can talk courteously with the intention to convey ideas, even if we do not all agree with those ideas.
  • Individuals can disagree, but critique policy, reasoning, and evidence; not the individual expressing the opinion.
  • Conversations related to the election are about listening, developing and practicing empathy, and understanding of others perspectives.
  • Avoid snap judgments of others perspectives, try to listen with curiosity.
  • All participants in a remote environment are expected to act in a respectful, non-disruptive manner, just as is required in PCC’s in-person activities. At all times, students, staff, and faculty should act with courtesy and respect toward others, even those who express opinions with which they disagree. When you disagree with another opinion, express your different opinion in a respectful, non-judgmental manner. Stay open-minded to foster an effective, open, and productive discussion in the remote environment.
  • PCC’s Student Code of Conduct is in effect during remote operations. Students must conduct themselves in a non-disruptive manner and adhere to the Student Code of Conduct’s policies prohibiting bullying, intimidating, threatening, or disruptive behavior.


  • Create group agreements before starting a discussion in the classroom or other virtual spaces. Group agreements are best when they are brainstormed by the group. All members should be on board with the group agreements before starting the discussion. If someone does not feel comfortable with a suggested agreement, try to find an alternate agreement. Here are some examples to help brainstorm:
    • Allow each person an opportunity to contribute.
    • You can pass if you do not feel comfortable contributing.
    • Take space, make space. If you are someone who tends to talk a lot, challenge yourself to wait and let others talk first. If you are someone who tends to hold back and listen, know your opinion is welcome.
    • When one person is talking, others should be listening.
    • Use I statements.
    • Feelings happen, people may experience feelings such as hurt, sadness, or anger at some time during the discussion. An agreement in this area shows respect and opens the door for people to express their feelings.
    • We are all learning.
  • Be thoughtful about introducing topics related to the election in the classroom, and tie the conversation to course content. In educational environments, students may be exposed to ideas with which they disagree and may find offensive, and students have the right to express ideas related to the course content that others may not agree with. At the same time students must refrain from speech (written or oral) that violates PCC policies including speech that is threatening violence or incites violence. For more information, please refer to PCC’s Student Code of Conduct.

Public Employee Election Rules

  • A public employee may not “while on the job during work hours” promote or oppose candidates, election measures, political action committees or ballot measures.
  • These restrictions DO NOT apply to elected board members who are free to engage in political activities.
  • It is allowable to provide impartial, fact-specific information about the potential impact of a ballot initiative.
  • College facilities may be used for campaign forums and debates as long as both sides are granted equal access.
  • Public employees in their “off work” hours may participate in any political activities and write letters to the editor that advocate a particular position as private individuals. tar

Source: Public Employee Guidelines for Political Engagement