“Freedom of expression” means that you have the right to express your ideas and opinions without fear that the government is going to restrict your expression or take action against you for expressing your ideas. As a public college, PCC is a government entity and must comply with the First Amendment. Freedom of expression is protected under the First Amendment, and is one of the most important rights in the United States Constitution.

Everybody has the same right to freedom of expression, and that means that you may hear ideas or opinions that you don’t agree with or that offend you. That is part of living in a society that protects free speech and expression. If you hear ideas or opinions that are offensive, you can choose to peacefully respond with your own ideas or walk away. To support our community, PCC has student counseling and other support services available. Here are more resources about how you can respond to offensive speech or get help.

While the First Amendment is quite broad, there are some limits on where you can engage in free expression, how you can engage in free expression, and what you can express. At PCC, the right to freedom of expression is different depending on the area of campus, and what other activities are occurring. For instance, a student is allowed to pass out leaflets in certain public areas of the campus, but could not do so during class because that would disrupt the classroom environment.

Also, while people are allowed to express ideas that may be considered offensive, they are not allowed to violate PCC policies against harassment or discrimination. PCC defines harassment as conduct that is so severe, persistent, and pervasive that it interferes with a person’s ability to participate in PCC’s programs or activities. No one is allowed to threaten or intimidate people at PCC.

Sometimes it can be hard to determine when someone is expressing an offensive idea, which is allowed under the First Amendment, and when someone is engaging in harassment, which is prohibited. In general, targeting a specific individual is more likely to be harassment. Here is more information and resources regarding harassment.

Finally, in addition to harassment some other types of expression are also prohibited, including expression that is a true threat (a “true threat” is speech that would put a reasonable person in fear of that person’s immediate physical safety), statements that are defamatory (“defamatory” statements are essentially untruthful statements about another person that injure that person’s reputation), and statements that incite violation of the law or PCC policies or create a public safety hazard. If you are in immediate fear for your physical safety contact Public Safety by dialing 4444 from any campus phone or 971-722-4444.

While PCC cannot prohibit all offensive speech, PCC is absolutely committed to ensuring that every student is able to access their education in an environment that honors, values and respects them. PCC can, and is committed to, using the college’s freedom of expression consistent with our college’s values and to promote diverse, inclusive spaces. If you need support or have more questions, please contact freedomofexpression@pcc.edu.