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Champions of Higher Education Statement of Purpose

Former college and university presidents and system heads who wish to add their names to this statement should contact Jacqueline Allain at [email protected].

Mission

The Champions of Higher Education, coordinated by PEN America, affirmatively promote a positive vision of American higher education as an essential guarantor of free expression in a democracy, and defend the autonomy of educational decisions made by colleges and universities against political and legislative incursions.

Vision

We will reconfirm public faith in America’s institutions of higher learning and rally public support against censorious legislation aimed at colleges and universities.

Statement of Purpose

In December 2022, PEN America, in collaboration with Campus Compact, began regular convenings of an expanding network of former university and college presidents and system heads. These convenings have spawned a new PEN America initiative. As participants in this initiative, we seek to advocate individually and collectively against efforts by public officials to censor and chill campus free expression and the right of students to learn, and against attempts to delegitimize and defund public colleges and universities. Having dedicated our careers to the success of higher learning, we volunteer to leverage our expertise, reputations, and connections in defense of postsecondary institutions. We are the Champions of Higher Education.

As PEN America has carefully documented, colleges and universities across the country have since 2021 been the target of well-funded and well-organized state government efforts to restrict classroom teaching about topics and analyses that address many of the nation’s enduring challenges: race, sex, gender identity, and American history. A backlash against the racial reckoning of the George Floyd protests has accelerated what was already a stark erosion of public support for higher education institutions. In seven states, laws constricting what can be taught have taken effect, resulting in both direct censorship and a chilling effect on faculty, staff, and students.  Over 85 additional bills in 30 states have either been proposed or are currently pending. These legislative initiatives mirror a broader attack on what can be taught and read in K-12 schools and libraries.

National higher education organizations have spoken against these initiatives, as have some higher education leaders and stakeholders. Too often, however, university and college leaders face an impossible choice: openly criticizing educational censorship laws could make it more difficult for them to secure or maintain needed funding for their campuses, inviting negative consequences for their students, faculty, and staff. Accordingly, they are often unable to mount a consistent public response to the deluge of educational gag orders and other legislative intrusions into America’s classrooms and campuses.

The Champions of Higher Education are uniquely suited for this vital role. As leaders who have grappled previously with the political complexities surrounding university governance, curricula, and programming, we have thorough experience with the political complexities faced by our colleagues who currently lead higher education institutions. Over our careers, we have built relationships with funders, legislators, strategic partners, and in the communities we have served, affording us a strong voice to promote the higher education sector, as well as broad reach to assemble a coalition in its defense.

The Champions of Higher Education educate the public about these threats to higher education, amplifying the free expression framework developed by PEN America via op-eds and speaking engagements, both nationally and in the local and campus communities where we have the most influence. We draw on our relationships with legislators and business, legal, military, medical, and cultural leaders, activating powerful new advocates and coalitions for colleges and universities. And we recruit our fellow former presidents and system heads to the cause, swelling our ranks and our reach.

As an initiative, we maintain a disciplined focus on advancing our mission, while working proudly in collaboration with established higher education organizations whose own missions involve sustaining and transforming colleges and universities. Our work, and PEN America’s, exists to make the work of these other associations and initiatives possible by protecting the higher education sector as a whole from undue political influence and government overreach. Above all, we remain steadfast in our commitment that it is in the national interest, across party lines, to maintain the educational independence, academic freedom, and freedom of expression and thought that is the lifeblood of American higher education and of American democracy. Higher education must be a place where all viewpoints, right and left alike, get a fair hearing on campus. It is the obligation of universities to ensure that diverse perspectives and ideologies are represented within student bodies, faculties, and administrations. Campuses must safeguard the opportunity for robust debate even on sensitive and controversial topics. The unfettered pursuit of truth and understanding in colleges and universities is an essential bedrock of knowledge, discovery, and innovation.

It is the vital connective tissue of campus free expression that enables higher education to drive lucrative economic growth, vibrant cultural creations, life-saving scientific advances, and the informed and empathetic populace necessary for an effective democratic society. And it is also American colleges and universities’ reputation as bastions of intellectual freedom that makes the American system of higher education a global leader and the envy of the world – a stature threatened today by censorious legislation within our own country.

Legislation that politicizes classrooms and curricula, exacerbates campus divisions, and silences discussion of core issues in America’s history and future is a threat to the mission and independence of the higher education sector as a whole. As Champions of Higher Education, we pledge to use our voices and our resources to meet this threat and to reclaim public trust in America’s colleges and universities.

Signatories

Note: the signatories below have added their names to this statement in a personal capacity. Their support does not reflect the views of their former or current institutions, affiliations, or employers.

  • William D. Adams, Bucknell University (PA); Colby College (ME)
  • F. King Alexander, Louisiana State University System (LA); Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge (LA); California State University Long Beach (CA); Murray State University (KY)
  • Teresa L. Amott, Knox College (IL)
  • Danny Anderson, Trinity University (TX)
  • Loren J. Anderson, Pacific Lutheran University (WA)
  • Anthony Aretz, Mount St. Joseph University (OH); University of Providence (MT)
  • Stan Arterberry, West Valley/Mission Community College District (CA); Solano Community College District (CA)
  • Edward L. Ayers, University of Richmond (VA)
  • Steven C. Bahls, Augustana College (IL)
  • Esther L. Barazzone, Chatham University (PA)
  • Gretchen N. Bataille, University of North Texas (TX); University of North Carolina School of the Arts (interim) (NC)
  • Priscilla J. Bell, North Idaho College (ID); Highline College (WA); Fulton-Montgomery Community College (NY)
  • Kim Benston, Haverford College (PA)
  • Robert M. Berdahl, University of California, Berkeley (CA); University of Texas at Austin (TX)
  • Donald Betz, University of Central Oklahoma (OK); Northeastern State University (OK); University of Wisconsin-River Falls (WI)
  • Henry Bienen, Northwestern University (IL)
  • Laura C. Bingham, Peace College (NC)
  • Robert Birnbaum, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (WI)
  • George Blumenthal, University of California, Santa Cruz (CA)
  • George R. Boggs, Palomar College (CA)
  • Donald A. Borden, Camden County College (NJ)
  • Jim Borsig, Mississippi University for Women (MS)
  • Charlotte G. Borst, The College of Idaho (ID)
  • José Antonio Bowen, Goucher College (MD)
  • Ray M. Bowen, Texas A&M University (TX)
  • Robert G. Bottoms, DePauw University (IN)
  • Wilson G. Bradshaw, Florida Gulf Coast University (FL); Metropolitan State University (MN)
  • David W. Breneman, Kalamazoo College (MI)
  • Sean T. Buffington, University of the Arts (PA)
  • Joseph G. Burke, Keuka College (NY)
  • Mark Burstein, Lawrence University (NY)
  • Robert L. Caret, University System of Maryland (MD); University of Massachusetts (MA); Towson University (MD); San Jose State University (CA)
  • Robert L. Carothers, Southwest Minnesota State University (MN); Minnesota State University System (MN); University of Rhode Island (RI)
  • Constance M. Carroll, San Diego Community College District (CA)
  • Roger Casey, McDaniel College (MD)
  • John T. Casteen III, University of Connecticut (CT); University of Virginia (VA) 
  • John C. Cavanaugh, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PA); University of West Florida (FL)
  • F. Javier Cevallos, Kutztown University (PA); Framingham State University (MA)
  • Ellen Chaffee, Valley City State University (ND); Mayville State University (ND)
  • Donald P. Christian, State University of New York at New Paltz (NY)
  • Lawrence S. Clark, Louisiana State University Shreveport (LA)
  • G. Wayne Clough, Georgia Institute of Technology (GA)
  • Johnnetta B. Cole, Bennett College (NC); Spelman College (GA)
  • Anthony G. Collins, Clarkson University (NY)
  • Darrel D. Colson, Wartburg College (IA)
  • Katherine S. Conway-Turner, Buffalo State University (NY)
  • Richard J. Cook, Allegheny College (PA)
  • Thomas B. Courtice, Westbrook College (ME); West Virginia Wesleyan College (VA); Ohio Wesleyan University (OH)
  • William A. Covino, California State University, Los Angeles (CA)
  • Casey Crabill, Onondaga Community College (NY); Raritan Valley Community College (NJ); College of the Redwoods (CA)
  • Ronald A. Crutcher, University of Richmond (VA); Wheaton College (IL)
  • Constantine Curris, Murray State University (KY); University of Northern Iowa (IA); Clemson University (SC)
  • Christopher C. Dahl, State University of New York at Geneseo (NY)
  • Charles R. Dassance, College of Central Florida (FL); Ashland Community and Technical College (KY)
  • Brady Deaton, University of Missouri, Columbia (MI)
  • Sean Decatur, Kenyon College (OH)
  • Donald DeRosa, University of the Pacific (CA)
  • Sue DeWine, Hanover College (IA)
  • Daniel DiBiasio, Wilmington College (OH); Ohio Northern University (OH)
  • Nicholas B. Dirks, University of California, Berkeley (CA)
  • Margaret Drugovich, Hartwick College (NY)
  • Judith S. Eaton, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MN); Community College of Philadelphia (PA); Community College of Southern Nevada (NV)
  • Thomas Ehrlich, Indiana University (IN)
  • Royce C Engstrom, University of Montana (MT)
  • Janet Dudley Eshbach, Salisbury University (MD); Fairmont State University (WV)
  • Gabriel Esteban, DePaul University (IL), Seton Hall University (NJ)
  • Scott Evenbeck, Stella and Charles Guttman Community College (NY)
  • Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard University (MA)
  • Frances Daly Fergusson, Vassar College (NY)
  • Mary Fifield, Bunker Hill Community College (MA); Harrisburg Area Community College (PA)
  • Charles L. Flynn, Jr., College of Mount Saint Vincent (NY)
  • Thomas Flynn, Millikin University (IL); Alvernia University (PA)
  • William L. Fox, St. Lawrence University (NY); Culver-Stockton College (MO)
  • Bernadine Chuck Fong, Foothill College (CA)
  • A. Lee Fritschler, Dickinson College (PA)
  • Lawrence A. Galizio, Clatsop Community College (OR)
  • Antonio García Padilla, University of Puerto Rico 
  • Doris García Rivera, Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico
  • Michael J Garanzini, SJ, Loyola University Chicago (IL)
  • Claire Gaudiani, Connecticut College (CT)
  • Jan Lamp Gehler, Scottsdale Community College (AZ)
  • Patricia A. Gentile, North Shore Community College (MA)
  • Thomas F. George, University of Missouri – St. Louis (MO); University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (WI)
  • R. Barbara Gitenstein, The College of New Jersey (NJ)
  • Barry Glassner, Lewis & Clark College (OR)
  • Gena Glickman, Manchester Community College (CT)
  • Philip A. Glotzbach, Skidmore College (NY)
  • Nancy Oliver Gray, Converse University (SC); Hollins University (VA)
  • Stephen Greenwald, Metropolitan College of New York (NY)
  • Karen Gross, Southern Vermont College (VT)
  • Richard Guarasci, Wagner College (NY)
  • Phoebe A. Haddon, Rutgers University-Camden (NJ)
  • Lars A. Hafner, President State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (FL)
  • Troy Hammond, North Central College (IL)
  • Dennis Hanno, Wheaton College (IL)
  • Elaine Tuttle Hansen, Bates College (ME)
  • Dianne F. Harrison, California State University, Northridge; California State University, Monterey Bay
  • Walter Harrison, University of Hartford (CT)
  • Marjorie Hass, Austin College (TX); Rhodes College (TN)
  • Mark A. Heckler, Valparaiso University (IN)
  • Thomas Hellie, Linfield University (OR)
  • Susan Henking, Shimer College (IL); Salem College (NC) (interim)
  • Carlos Hernandez, New Jersey City University (NJ)
  • Richard Hersh, Hobart & William Smith Colleges (NY); Trinity College (CT)
  • Ralph Hexter, Hampshire College (MA)
  • Catharine Bond Hill, Vassar College (NY)
  • Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
  • Muriel A. Howard, SUNY Buffalo State University (NY)
  • Freeman Hrabowski, University of Maryland-Baltimore County (MD)
  • Margaret A. Huber, Presentation College (SD); La Roche University (PA); Notre Dame de Namur University (CA) 
  • Mark W. Huddleston, University of New Hampshire (NH); Ohio Wesleyan University (OH)
  • T. Alan Hurwitz, Gallaudet University (DC)
  • Ellen S. Hurwitz, Albright College (PA); New England College (NH)
  • Larry Isaak, North Dakota University System (ND)
  • Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, Central State University (OH)
  • Richard Jarvis, Nevada System of Higher Education (NV)
  • Martin C. Jischke, University of Oklahoma (OK): University of Missouri-Rolla (MO): Iowa State University (IA); Purdue University (IN)
  • James Johnsen, University of Alaska System (AK)
  • William Johnston, Wesley College; Iowa Wesleyan University (IA)
  • Ellen Junn, California State University, Stanislaus (CA)
  • Martha Kanter, Foothill-De Anza Community College District (CA)
  • Vistasp M. Karbhari, University of Texas at Arlington (TX)
  • W. Hubert Keen, Farmingdale State  College—SUNY (NY); Nassau Community College—SUNY (NY)
  • Thomas Kepple Jr., Juniata College (PA)
  • Neil Kerwin, American University (DC)
  • Harvey Kesselman, Stockton University (NJ)
  • Walter M. Kimbrough, Philander Smith College (AK); Dillard University (LA)
  • Raynard S. Kington, Grinnell College (IA)
  • Richard Kneedler, Franklin & Marshall College (PA)
  • Dale T. Knobel, Denison University (OH)
  • Kathy A. Krendl, Otterbein University (OH)
  • Thomas W. Krise, University of Guam; Pacific Lutheran University (WA)
  • Darrell Krueger, Winona State University (MN); Truman State University (MO)
  • Ralph W. Kuncl, University of Redlands (CA)
  • Donald J. Laackman, Harold Washington College (IL); Champlain College (VT)
  • Leo M. Lambert, Elon University (NC)
  • Steven D. Lavine, California Institute of the Arts (CA)
  • Joan R. Leitzel, University of New Hampshire (NH)
  • Bruce Leslie, The Alamo Colleges District (TX); Houston Community College (TX); Connecticut Community College System (CT); Onondaga Community College (NY)
  • Arthur Levine, Teachers College, Columbia University (TX)
  • David Levinson, Norwalk Community College (CT)
  • Theodore E. Long, Elizabethtown College (PA)
  • William J Lowe, Indiana University Northwest (IN); Metropolitan State University (Interim) (MN)
  • Terrence MacTaggart, University of Maine System (ME); Minnesota State University System (MN); University of Wisconsin-Superior (WI)
  • Elaine Maimon, Governors State University (IL)
  • Mary B. Marcy, Dominican University of California (CA)
  • George E. Martin, St. Edward’s University (TX)
  • Michael V. Martin, Florida Gulf Coast University (LA); Colorado State University System (CO); Louisiana State University (LA); New Mexico State University (NM)
  • Donald J. Mash, Wayne State College (NE); University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (WI)
  • David Maxwell, Whitman College (WA); Drake University (IA)
  • Dan McAlexander, LaGrange College (GA)
  • John M. McCardell, Jr., Middlebury College (VT); Sewanee: The University of the South (TN)
  • David McClain, University of Hawaii (HI)
  • Richard L. McCormick, University of Washington (WA); Rutgers University (NJ)
  • David McInally, Coe College (IA)
  • Lily D. McNair, Tuskegee University (AL)
  • Pat McPherson, Bryn Mawr College (PA)
  • Michael A. McRobbie, Indiana University (IA)
  • Gail O. Mellow, LaGuardia Community College (NY)
  • Zach Messitte, Ripon College (WI)
  • Charles R. Middleton, Roosevelt University (IL)
  • Michael A. Middleton, University of Missouri (interim) (MO)
  • Robert A. Miller, Nazareth College (NY)
  • Brian C. Mitchell, Bucknell University (PA); Washington & Jefferson College (PA)
  • James Moeser, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (NE); University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (NC)
  • Carol Ann Mooney, Saint Mary’s College (IN)
  • Richard L. Morrill, Salem College (NC); Centre College (KY); University of Richmond (VA)
  • Barbara Mossberg, Goddard College (VT)
  • Glenn Mroz, Michigan Technological University (MI)
  • Barry Munitz, California State University System (CA); University of Houston (TX)
  • Brian Murphy, De Anza College (CA)
  • Jerry Murphy, DeVry University-Atlanta (GA)
  • Maureen Murphy, College of Southern Maryland (MD); Brookdale Community College (NJ)
  • Kathleen M. Murray, Whitman College (WA)
  • Gloria Nemerowicz, Pine Manor College (MA)
  • Deane E. Neubauer, University of Hawaii Manoa (interim) (HI)
  • Michael T. Nietzel, Missouri State University (MO)
  • Felice Nudelman, Antioch University (OH)
  • Eduardo M. Ochoa, California State University, Monterey Bay (CA)
  • Frederik Ohles, Nebraska Wesleyan University (NE)
  • Patricia Okker, New College of Florida (FL)
  • Eduardo Padrón, Miami Dade College (FL)
  • Mary Papazian, San Jose State University (CA); Southern Connecticut State University (CT)
  • Jo Ellen Parker, Sweet Briar College (VA)
  • Patti McGill Peterson, Wells College; St. Lawrence University (NY)
  • Susan Resneck Pierce, University of Puget Sound (WA)
  • Elfred Anthony Pinkard, Wilberforce University (OH)
  • Beverley Pitts, University of Indianapolis (IN)
  • Steven G. Poskanzer, Carleton College (MN)
  • George A. Pruitt, Thomas Edison State University (NJ)
  • Judith A. Ramaley, Portland State University (OR); University of Vermont (VT); Winona State University (MN)
  • Gary A. Ransdell, Western Kentucky University (KY)
  • Christopher M. Reber, Hudson County Community College (NJ); Community College of Beaver County (PA)
  • Kevin P. Reilly, University System of Wisconsin (WI)
  • John Reynders, Morningside University (IA)
  • Ricardo Romo, University of Texas at San Antonio (TX)
  • Brian Rosenberg, Macalester College (MN)
  • Neil Rudenstine, Harvard University (MA)
  • George Rupp, Rice University (TX); Columbia University (NY)
  • Thomas W. Ross, Davidson College (NC); University of North Carolina System (NC)
  • Lisa A. Rossbacher, Humboldt State University (CA); Southern Polytechnic State University (GA)
  • Mordechai Rozanski, Rider University (NJ)
  • Kenneth P. Ruscio, Washington and Lee University (VA)
  • Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr., Stockton University (NJ)
  • Mary Jane Saunders, Florida Atlantic University (FL)
  • Morton Schapiro, Williams College (MA); Northwestern University (IL)
  • Alvin J. Schexnider, Winston-Salem State University (NC)
  • Leonard Schlesinger, Babson College (MA)
  • David J. Schmidly, Texas Tech University (TX); Oklahoma State University (OK); University of New Mexico (NM)
  • Jake B. Schrum, Texas Wesleyan University (TX); Southwestern University (TX); Emory & Henry College (VA)
  • Mark Schulman, Goddard College (VT); Antioch University Southern California (CA); Saybrook University (CA); Presidio Graduate School (CA)
  • John F. Schwaller, State University of New York-Potsdam (NY)
  • Jean Scott, Marietta College (OH)
  • Robert A. Scott, Adelphi University (NY); Ramapo College of New Jersey (NJ)
  • Beheruz N. Sethna, University of West Georgia (GA)
  • John Sexton, New York University (NY)
  • Laurie Shanderson, Methodist College (IL)
  • Judith Shapiro, Barnard College (NY)
  • Mariko Silver, Bennington College (VT)
  • Jay Simmons, Iowa Wesleyan College (IA); Simpson College (IA)
  • David J. Skorton, Cornell University (NY); University of Iowa (IA)
  • Robert Allen Skotheim, Whitman College (WA); Occidental College (CA)
  • Hon. Peter Smith, Community College of Vermont (VT); California State University, Monterey Bay (CA)
  • James D. Spaniolo, University of Texas at Arlington (TX)
  • Arnold Speert, William Paterson University (NJ)
  • Sheila M. Stearns, Montana University System (MT)
  • Carolyn J. Stefanco, The College of Saint Rose (NY)
  • Joan Hinde Stewart, Hamilton College (NY)
  • Donald Straney, University of Hawaii at Hilo (HI)
  • Carl J. Strikwerda, Elizabethtown College (PA)
  • Mary Stuart, College of Mount Saint Vincent (NY)
  • Daniel Sullivan, St. Lawrence University (NY); Allegheny College (PA)
  • E. Thomas Sullivan, The University of Vermont (VT)
  • Timothy J. Sullivan, College of William and Mary (VA)
  • Martin Tadlock, University of South Florida St. Petersburg (FL)
  • Neil Theobald, University of Wyoming (WY); Temple University (PA)
  • Gregory Thomas, City Colleges of Chicago – Kennedy-King (IL)
  • Christopher M. Thomforde, Bethany College (KS); St. Olaf College (MN); Moravian College (PA)
  • Vinton Thompson, Metropolitan College of New York (NY)
  • Linda M. Thor, Foothill-DeAnza Community College District (CA); Rio Salado College (CA)
  • Holden Thorp, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (NC)
  • Julianne Still Thrift, Salem College (NC)
  • Shirley M. Tilghman, Princeton University (NJ)
  • Eugene M. Tobin, Hamilton College (NY)
  • Jeremy Travis, John Jay College of Criminal Justice – CUNY (NY)
  • William Troutt, Rhodes College (TN)
  • Kathleen Waldron, William Paterson University (NJ); Baruch College – CUNY (NY)
  • David Ward, University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI)
  • David L. Warren, Ohio Wesleyan University (OH)
  • Robert Weisbuch, Drew University (NJ)
  • Daniel H. Weiss, Haverford College (PA); Lafayette College (PA)
  • Karen M. Whitney, Clarion University (PA)
  • Dale Whittaker, University of Central Florida (FL)
  • Charles A. Wight, Weber State University (UT); Salisbury University (MD)
  • Jamie C. Williamson, Butler University (IA); Winthrop University (SC)
  • Jack M. Wilson, University of Massachusetts System (MA)
  • John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., Morehouse College (GA)
  • Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran, Kalamazoo College (MI)
  • Terri L. Winfree, Prairie State College (IL)
  • Leslie E. Wong, San Francisco State University (CA); Northern Michigan University (MI)
  • Joseph S. Wood, University of Southern Maine (ME)
  • A. Zachary Yamba, Essex County College (NJ)
  • Nancy L. Zimpher, State University of New York (NY)