Campus For All Trainings: Workshops for Academic Leaders, Faculty, and Staff


This professional development series covers the basics of free speech on campus and equips academic leaders, faculty, and staff to respond to a range of scenarios involving academic freedom, hate, and difficult dialogue. The program builds on PEN America’s years of experience engaging with universities around the U.S. and our philosophy that higher education institutions can and must balance robust protections for free speech with efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. The program will draw on advice in PEN America’s Campus Free Speech Guide.


We are available for in-person and virtual workshops. We will work with you to design the program that best fits your needs and budget. Each session below is between 1-2 hours.

If you are interested in partnering with us, Please contact Senior Program Manager, Kristen Shahverdian at [email protected] to discuss programming for your campus.

Conceptual Foundations of Free Speech and Academic Freedom

Who: This session is appropriate for academic leaders, faculty, and staff.

This session is designed to introduce participants to the legal framework of the First Amendment, principles of free speech and academic freedom, and unprotected speech such as harassment or threats. Included is information on the evolving nature of the case law around academic freedom and real challenges universities face in trying to uphold free speech, academic freedom and diversity, equity and inclusion. Participants will leave with a framework for approaching issues of speech on campus without jeopardizing academic freedom and maintaining the values of campus for all. 

Academic Freedom and Inclusion: Tools to Uphold Both on Campuses

Who: This session is appropriate for academic leaders, faculty, and staff.

The session will drill into the tensions between free speech, academic freedom and inclusion and how they play out with faculty and students. While it can feel impossible to uphold both, faculty, staff, and campus leaders can work towards this ideal with the right framework and tools. Through the use of scenarios participants will practice PEN America’s tools in small groups so that they leave with a stronger understanding of speech rights on campus and how to handle moments of tension as they inevitably occur.

Setting the Stage for Robust Engagement in the College Classroom

Who: This session is intended for faculty and those who support faculty in the classroom.

This session is designed to explain the authority of professors in the classroom to set expectations, community standards for communication, and assessments based on information integrity, disciplinary standards, and learning objectives. Participants will be encouraged to share their own experiences with classroom management and assessment. We will also discuss concrete tools for classroom activities that can elicit student engagement and open exchange across viewpoints, while also supporting active listening, nuanced dialogue, and community building.

Navigating Tense Moments and Aftermath Communications

Who: This session is appropriate for academic leaders, faculty, and staff.

This session is designed to equip campus leaders, faculty, and staff with de-escalation strategies for tense, politicized, or emotional moments that can be unexpected but often need to be addressed in order to maintain an open and respectful campus climate. Tense moments that will be addressed include speakers on campus, fliers/chalking, and hecklers. By the end of the session participants will leave with tools for effective listening and how to respond with effective communications after tense moments occur. Participants will engage with each other through scenarios with guidance from PEN America facilitators.

Click here to see work we do with students on campus.



We have conducted trainings and workshops for colleges and universities across the United States and reached over 700 faculty, academic leaders and staff since 2020, including:

  • Bard College
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • University of Mississippi
  • Augustana College
  • Maryland Institute College of Art 
  • McGill University
  • University of Massachusetts
  • Princeton University
  • Stockton University



“This is hands down one of the BEST faculty development seminars I have been to in a while. Bravo! It was a lot of info but I feel like I was kept engaged and I feel like I know how to apply my learnings.”
(Faculty, Bard College)

“I plan on sharing some of these scenarios in a future faculty meeting. I have faculty with generational, racial, and gender differences, and based on this workshop, I believe that a preemptive dialogue with faculty would help to understand that we do share many of the same values, even if we disagree on which judgments should be made about specific speech.” 
(Dean, University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

“I truly enjoyed the “feel” of the workshop. It was more about intellectual inquiry and discussion. I felt very engaged.”  
(Dean, University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

“[The instructors were] Personable, professional, and relatable. [They] used concrete pragmatic advice, examples, scenarios, phrases we can say/implement into our lexicon in being positively proactive.” 
(Faculty member, Maryland Institute College of Art)


Jonathan Friedman headshotJonathan Friedman (he/him/his) is the director of free expression and education at PEN America, where he oversees advocacy, analysis, and outreach to educational communities and academic institutions. He served as lead author on its 2019 report, Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America, and its digital Campus Free Speech Guide. Friedman has published research on higher education, taught courses at NYU and Columbia University, and facilitated workshops at dozens of colleges and universities on free speech, diversity, and inclusion. He holds an MA and Ph.D. in international education from NYU. 

Neijma Celestine-Donnor (she/her/hers) is assistant dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland-Baltimore. She leads efforts to respond to hate and bias through trauma-focused response and support, training and education, and data collection and distribution. She holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland, is a licensed clinical social work supervisor, and is currently completing her JD at the University of Baltimore. She also has years of experience within the field of trauma services, is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, and is an experienced trainer and facilitator.

Lara Schwartz (she/her/hers) is the founding director of the American University Project on Civic Dialogue (formerly Project on Civil Discourse) and teaches at the American University School of Public Affairs. Schwartz draws upon her experience as a lawyer with national civil rights organizations in her courses on constitutional law, politics, communications, policy, and civic dialogue. She has served on her university’s working group on freedom of expression and was a fellow with the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. Schwartz’s forthcoming book, Try to Love the Questions: From Debate to Dialogue in Classrooms and Life (Princeton University Press April 2, 2024), gives college students a framework for understanding and practicing dialogue across difference. Schwartz is the coauthor of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (And When You’re There). Schwartz holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an AB in English and American Literature from Brown University.

headshot of Kristen ShahverdianKristen Shahverdian (she/her/hers) is the senior program manager of free expression and education at PEN America, developing campus engagements and public events related to free expression and education. Before joining PEN America, she was a senior lecturer at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and previously was an adjunct professor at Rowan University and Temple University. She served as a project manager for the Philadelphia Folklore Project, and facilitated workshops on how to teach representations of violence in art at Moore College of Art & Design, Common Field, the College Art Association and Dance Studies Association. She is also a writer and editor at the online dance journal thINKingDANCE.