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Portland State University Creates ‘Free Speech Guide’ in Response to Executive Order

Demand Democracy free speech protest
Zach Gibson/Getty
ALANA MASTRANGELO

Portland State University reacted to President Donald Trump’s executive order on campus free speech by creating a “Free Speech Guide” to better explain what free speech is, as the university president seems to believe that a topic as basic as free speech has to be explained to the campus community.

The president of Portland State University (PSU) issued a memo last week stating that the university “strongly supports” free speech rights, and informed the campus community of the school’s newly drafted “Free Speech Guide,” which even includes an elaborate “FAQ’s” page to clear up any misconceptions that individuals may have regarding free speech.

“President Trump signed an executive order last week requiring universities and colleges to ensure free speech in order to receive federal funds for research and related purposes,” began the university president Rahmat Shoureshi in a recent statement to the campus community.

Shoureshi then informed the campus community that administrators had developed a “Free Speech Guide” to clear up any confusion surrounding the topic.

“We have developed a brief guide to free speech that can be a useful campus reference,” said the university president, “It answers questions about issues such as academic freedom, events, protests, ‘hate speech,’ student conduct rules, ‘time, place and manner’ restrictions and other relevant topics.”

“What about ‘hate speech’? Isn’t it illegal?” read one of the questions listed on the guide’s “FAQ’s” page.

“The term ‘hate speech’ often refers to speech that insults or demeans a person or group of people on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability or gender,” explained the university, adding that “while the university condemns speech of this kind, there is no ‘hate speech’ exception to the First Amendment.”

PSU went on to differentiate “speech” from “crime” by clarifying that while “hate speech” is protected under the First Amendment, hate crimes are not.

“A hate crime — is not protected by free speech,” affirmed the university in what was a bizarre statement, given that one would surmise it is already public knowledge that the words “speech” and “crime” are not analogous. It may be safer to assume, however, that what is generally understood by the public is not the same on college campuses.

In his memo, the university president also insisted that PSU “strongly supports free speech rights,” adding that the PSU community expects federal agencies to “avoid imposing a partisan political agenda” while investigating whether a university is respecting the First Amendment so that it may continue receiving federal research funding.

Last month, a campus event hosted by PSU’s College Republicans group was severely delayed due to a protester who entered the room and continuously rang a cowbell while event security watched but did not intervene.

While the First Amendment protects the right for students to engage in peaceful protests, it does not protect the attempt to impede on somebody else’s right to free speech by way of preventing others being able to hear from the speakers of their choice, said the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to Breitbart News on Tuesday regarding an unrelated incident from the University of Arizona.

With regards to the cowbell protester at PSU, the school had told Breitbart News that a campus public safety officer was present at the event to ensure the safety of participants “due to the nature of the event advocating gun rights” but did not clarify whether anyone on PSU staff had been present and tasked with ensuring that the event would be able to proceed.

The event did, however, end up proceeding after more than a one-hour delay.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.

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