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Challenges and Opportunities for Campus Free Expression in Florida

Professors at Florida colleges and universities face a dual challenge.  Like faculty everywhere, they teach an increasingly polarized student body that lacks an understanding of free expression principles and a knowledge of how to have difficult dialogues effectively. They also teach in a state that has become the American epicenter of educational gag orders—legislative restrictions on the freedom to learn and teach.

PEN America presents a virtual session specifically for Florida faculty to discuss challenges and opportunities for campus free expression in the Sunshine State. PEN America experts Jeremy C. Young and Kristen Shahverdian will begin with a presentation on the national landscape of educational censorship legislation and best practices for facilitating difficult dialogues in class while adhering to free expression principles. They will then facilitate a conversation among attendees regarding their experiences teaching in Florida.



Jeremy C. Young is the Freedom to Learn program director at PEN America, where he leads efforts to fight government censorship in educational institutions, with a particular focus on the higher education sector. Young holds a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Indiana University and is the author of The Age of Charisma: Leaders, Followers, and Emotions in American Society, 1870-1940 (Cambridge University Press, 2017). He was a 2021 New Leaders Council Fellow and a recipient of the Roger D. Bridges Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

Kristen 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 and recently co-authored a chapter in the anthology Dreams and Atrocity, The Oneiric in Representations of Trauma.