Portland State University

Location: Portland, Oregon
Website: http://www.pdx.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 9th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Portland State University has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.

  • Portland State University: Student Disciplined for Phone Call to Library Employee

    March 18, 2011

    On March 16, 2011, Portland State University student Rachel Cain had a telephone conversation with a PSU library employee concerning a library policy. Cain was not satisfied and left a phone message for the employee, criticizing the employee’s professionalism. Cain was later notified that her phone call had been reported to PSU’s student life office, and on March 23, Cain was charged with “Obstruction or Disruption of University Activity or Process” and “Failure to comply with a University Official’s requests.” She was found responsible for both charges, charged a $10 discipline fee, and asked to sign a “Behavioral Agreement.” Cain […]

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Red Light Policies

  • Prohibited Discrimination & Harassment Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: October 1, 2018

    Discriminatory Harassment: Discriminatory Harassment means verbal comments, graphic or written statements, or physical conduct by a student, faculty, staff, or other PSU community member based on a Protected Class or Protected Classes that is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it interferes with or limits a student, faculty, staff, volunteer or PSU community member’s ability to participate in or benefit from the university’s educational and/or employment opportunities, programs or activities. Discriminatory Harassment includes Sexual Harassment.

    Sexual Harassment: Sexual Harassment refers to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal comments, graphic or written statements, or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: … Such conduct interferes with an individual’s work or educational experience and creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

    Examples of inappropriate behavior include: sexual or derogatory comments; grabbing or touching parts of the body; and sending letters, notes, cartoons, emails, text or audio messages of a sexually suggestive nature

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Code of Conduct: Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: October 1, 2018

    Harassment is a course of conduct directed at a specific individual or individuals that causes or is intended to cause emotional or physical distress and serves no legitimate purpose.

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  • Bias Response Team

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: October 1, 2018

    What is Bias?
    Bias is a state of mind, tendency, or inclination that impacts our behaviors and perceptions of others (either positively or negatively) based upon preconceived notions. Bias against others can occur intentionally or unintentionally. It can be directed toward an attitude, an individual, or group regarding their protected class, including (but not limited to) race, color, religious ideology, national origin, veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, physical or mental ability, or political affiliation.

    How is Bias Expressed?
    Bias against others can be expressed and perceived in many ways. It can be subtle or blatant and can include physical, spoken, or written acts of abuse, insensitivity, lack of awareness, violence, harassment, intimidation, extortion, the use of vulgarity, cursing, making remarks, or any other behaviors that belittles, restricts or alienates others, based on preconceived notions.

    The goals of the BRT are:

    • To develop educational and outreach programs from the data collected from bias reports;
    • To provide support and resources to those impacted by bias incidents;
    • To increase opportunities for communication and restorative justice for students, staff, and faculty; and
    • To address incidents and trends identified through the reports utilizing resources such as trainings, communications, individual redress, and other means, that will improve the campus climate.

    In this way, we will put action into the words “equity and inclusion”, as well as demonstrate how much we value diversity at PSU and in our community.

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  • Housing Handbook: Civility

    Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies
    Last updated: October 1, 2018


    Abusive or adverse treatment of residents, guests, or staff members, or any behavior that results in a hostile work, living, or academic environment is prohibited. Many behaviors or actions could warrant conduct action, such as harassment, bullying, etc. Such behaviors that constitute a potential violation of the PSU Student Code of Conduct may be investigated and adjudicated by the Office of the Dean of Student Life. Other behaviors may be investigated and adjudicated as a potential violation of the housing contract.

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  • Housing Handbook: Bias Related Behavior

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: October 1, 2018

    Bias incidents are behaviors/actions directed towards an individual or group based upon actual or perceived identity characteristics or background (e.g., skin color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity and expression, age, or physical, mental, or emotional disability).

    Any acts of incivility or abuse that are bias related are prohibited.

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  • Oregon College Conservatives Slam Portland State University For Declining ‘Murder-Free Zone’ Proposal, Calling It ‘Libelous’

    July 15, 2015

    By Hanna Sanchez at iSchoolGuide Officials at Portland State University in Oregon have turned down a college conservative group’s proposal to set up a table on campus to promote the idea of a “murder-free zone.” The idea is an extension of the “gun free zones” on campus, as well as in buildings in Portland. School officials feared that the group’s efforts could promote violence against them. Christian Bripschgi, the political director of Portland State’s College Republican Federation chapter, said university officials said the propopsal could be “triggering,” and “libelous.” The group, as well as First Amendment advocates, said school officials […]

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  • College Conservatives Denied Petition For “Murder-Free Zone” Because It’s “Triggering”

    July 14, 2015

    By Laura Meyers at The Libertarian Republic In an effort to mock gun-free zones and the idea of banning unwanted behavior by decree, a College Republican chapter at Portland State University asked permission from their administration to table and garner student support for a “murder free zone” on campus. “In the murder-free zone we were looking to create, nobody will be killed with guns, knives, sticks, or anything of the sort,” said Christian Bripschgi, political director of Oregon’s College Republican Federation chapter. Administrators denied the group’s request and said the proposal could be “libelous,” “triggering” and cause people to attack the students. Can […]

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  • College Conservatives’ ‘Murder-Free Zone’ A No-Go On Oregon Campus

    July 13, 2015

    By Alexandra Hennessey at Fox News It was supposed to be a stunt to point out the silliness of banning unwanted activity by decree, but a college conservative group in Oregon was stunned at the reason school officials killed their proposed “murder free zone.” Portland State University’s College Republicans chapter sought permission to set up a table on campus to generate support for the idea, but school officials said their effort could promote violence against them. Now the group and First Amendment advocates say it is school officials who need to study up – on the Constitution. “In the murder-free […]

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  • OSPIRG: down but not out

    April 8, 2005

    In the middle of an unusually warm February earlier this year, the talk all over campus was OSPIRG. For the past three years, the activist group has wrangled with student government over how much money would be allocated to their efforts at PSU. This year, after two hours of deliberation OSPIRG got its answer. No large increase, no large payout. Student government again was not swayed by the group’s impassioned pleas for funding and sent them packing with thousands less than they had asked for. Students came pouring out of the meeting crying, aghast that their efforts had failed for […]

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  • More Campus Leaders Address Free Speech Following Election

    November 21, 2016

    For the past few months, we’ve been covering the statements campus leaders make about free speech at their colleges or universities. In the weeks following this month’s presidential election, campus leaders have addressed their students’ reactions to the results in various ways—some “good,” and others “bad” for freedom of expression. The Good Central Washington University (CWU) CWU President James Gaudino made a post-election statement November 9 encouraging his students to continue to “debate and disagree”: President Obama today encouraged us all to move forward with faith in our fellow citizens and urged us all to hold on to our dreams. […]

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  • Oregon Appeals Court Rules for Student Expelled for Purported Threat

    October 4, 2016

    Four years ago, FIRE reported on the case of Henry Liu, a former graduate student who was expelled from Portland State University (PSU) for purportedly threatening to shoot two faculty members. On September 28, the Court of Appeals of the State of Oregon ruled that in the adjudicative hearing that resulted in Liu’s expulsion, PSU failed to follow required procedures under then-existing provisions of Oregon’s Administrative Procedures Act (APA). In its ruling, the court summarized the facts of the case: On April 20, 2012, a PSU professor reported that a student had told her that petitioner, a PSU graduate student, […]

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  • Portland State University Admins Demonstrate Support for Controversial Student Speech

    June 13, 2013

    The Portland State Vanguard reported last week on a controversy at Portland State University (PSU) between PSU’s College Republicans and the school’s Muslim Students Association (MSA). The MSA and other students criticized two events sponsored by the College Republicans in May—a visiting speaker’s lecture and a movie screening—as being anti-Islam, and they asked the PSU administration to address their concerns. However, the university administrators, to their credit, took the opportunity to remind students that the First Amendment protects speech even when it is offensive or hurtful to some.  The Vanguard gets to the heart of the matter:  " We met […]

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  • Associated Press and ‘Oregonian’: Portland State Student Expelled for Alleged “Threat”

    July 27, 2012

    This week, FIRE was quoted in two newspaper articles covering the story of a Portland State University graduate student, Henry Liu, who was expelled from the university last month for allegedly constituting a campus threat. As The Oregonian reports, Liu was expelled for allegedly expressing frustration about a faculty member to a classmate and mentioning firearms in the same conversation: Liu’s classmate told police he vented loudly about the conflict resolution program and its chairman, Robert Gould, saying, “I’m about ready to stick a .45 in his ass.” She said that Liu had complained about his chronic back problem and sleeplessness, and that he […]

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  • Victory: Portland State University Rescinds Charges Against Student over Phone Call with Employee

    October 17, 2011

    I’m pleased to announce that Portland State University (PSU) student Rachel Cain’s record has been wiped clean after she was initially found guilty of charges of “disruption” and “failure to comply” due to the content of a telephone conversation between Cain and an employee of PSU’s library system. Her case—like others we’ve seen at FIRE—is a useful reminder of why universities cannot hold students to the same speech standards to which they may hold their employees, a worrying trend on college campuses today. Here are the facts of Cain’s case. On March 16, 2011, Cain had a telephone conversation with […]

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