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[VIRTUAL] The Common Room: Academic Freedom and Classroom Conduct

An online forum hosted by PEN America’s Campus Free Speech Program.

Academic freedom and faculty autonomy in teaching have long been hallmarks of a college education. But these principles are frequently being tested when it comes to student complaints, public outrage, or official investigations into “classroom conduct.” How should these limits be adjudicated? Can reasonable guidelines be developed that protect academic freedom for faculty, but also protect students from abuse or harm? And when should administrators intervene, and on what grounds? These questions have been complicated by the shift to virtual teaching and the ease of digital recording, but they are sure to remain challenging and tumultuous for faculty, administrators, and students alike in whatever forms future higher education takes.


Join Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America, for an interactive forum to discuss these questions and possible responses from the higher ed sector. Friedman will be joined by guests Neijma Celestine-Donnor, assistant dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland-Baltimore; Amna Khalid, John Stuart Mill Faculty Fellow at Heterodox Academy; and John Wilson, coeditor of Academe Blog and editor of Illinois Academe.

The Common Room is a biweekly series for faculty, administrators, staff, and students to explore issues at the intersection of free speech, academic freedom, diversity, and inclusion in higher education. PEN America Members, supporters, and friends, including the general public, are invited to attend.


Jonathan Friedman headshot

Jonathan Friedman is the director of free expression and education at PEN America, where he oversees PEN America’s advocacy, analysis, and outreach in the national debate around free speech and inclusion in higher education. He served as lead author on PEN America’s 2019 report, Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America, and on the production of its digital Campus Free Speech Guide. Friedman holds a Ph.D. in international education from New York University, and he has previously received awards for his teaching, research, and leadership.


Neijma-Celestine-DonnorNeijma Celestine-Donnor is assistant dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland-Baltimore. Celestine-Donnor leads efforts to respond to hate and bias through trauma-focused response and support, training and education, and data collection and distribution. Celestine-Donnor 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. Celestine-Donnor is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and is an experienced trainer and facilitator. Celestine-Donnor’s areas of interest include racial and identity trauma, and promoting diversity and inclusion through a trauma-informed lens.

Amna Khalid headshotAmna Khalid is an associate professor in the Department of History at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, specializing in modern South Asian history and the history of medicine. This academic year, she is serving as the inaugural John Stuart Mill Faculty Fellow at Heterodox Academy, an organization dedicated to promoting open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement in higher education. She speaks frequently on academic freedom, free speech, and campus politics, and her essays and commentaries on these same issues have appeared in outlets such as The Conversation, Inside Higher Ed, and The New Republic. She holds an MPhil in development studies and a DPhil in history from Oxford University. 

John K. Wilson headshotJohn K. Wilson is a contributing editor of Academe Blog of the American Association of University Professors, and was a 2019-20 fellow at the University of California’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. He is the author of eight books, including The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education and Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies.

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