Principles of Community and the First Amendment

MicrophoneIndependent thought and diversity of opinions are the essence of the university, and freedom of expression is necessary for the university to fulfill its mission of producing and disseminating knowledge. Without the ability of its members to freely hear, express and debate different ideas and points of view, the university would lack the culture of free inquiry that lies at the foundation of the academic enterprise. In furtherance of this mission, the university's Principles of Community aspire to create an environment committed to the highest standards of civility, respect and decency. (UC Davis Freedom of Expression Policy, 400-01)

“The University is not engaged in making ideas safe for students. It is engaged in making students safe for ideas. Thus it permits the freest expression of views before students, trusting to their good sense in passing judgment on those views. Only in this way can it best serve American democracy.”

—Clark Kerr, Twelfth President of the University of California

The Principles of Community were adopted as part of UC Davis' efforts to "strive to create an inclusive and intellectually vibrant community." The Principles of Community are vital to the success of UC Davis and the well-being of its constituents, as they encourage civility and respect by and between UC Davis community members. UC Davis students, faculty and staff are expected to practice these basic principles as individuals and in groups when they engage in speech and expression.

While the Principles of Community serve as guidelines for how UC Davis community members should treat one another, they are aspirational goals and not rules, laws or policies. In other words, even though speech may contravene the Principles of Community, the speaker cannot be punished for such a violation, unless the speech falls into one of the specific content- or conduct-related exceptions to the First Amendment. As such, while speech may be hurtful and offensive, and may oppose the Principles of Community, it may still be protected by the First Amendment.

Nevertheless, UC Davis offers tools and mechanisms to address words or actions that impact campus climate or violate the Principles of Community and/or other university policies. Students who encounter hurtful or offensive speech are encouraged to reach out to university administrators. More information about responding to hateful speech or acts may be found in the Act portion of this site.

Report Violations and Concerns

If you believe your rights have been violated or that you have witnessed an act of hate, bias, discrimination or harassment, learn how and where to report it.