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[VIRTUAL] The Common Room: What the Biden Administration Can Do for Free Speech and Inclusion on Campus

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

Higher education is just one among a vast number of priority areas for the new Biden administration, but issues of free speech and inclusion are sure to feature in whatever steps they take. What should they undertake, what should they prioritize, what should they undo, what should they revise? With Miguel Cardona slated to replace Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, what can the higher education sector expect with regard to diversity training, student clubs, religious rights, and academic freedom?


Join Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s campus free speech program, for an interactive forum to discuss these questions and possible responses from the higher ed sector. Friedman will be joined by guests Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE); Lara Schwartz, professional lecturer in the Department of Government and director of the Project on Civil Discourse at American University; and Roger Worthington, professor and executive director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education at the University of Maryland (UMD).

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 headshotJonathan Friedman (he/him/his) is the program director for campus free speech 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 PhD in international education from New York University, and he has previously received awards for his teaching, research, and leadership.


Joe Cohn headshotJoe Cohn, FIRE’s legislative and policy director, is a 2004 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and the Fels Institute of Government, where he earned his J.D. and master’s in government administration. Cohn joined FIRE in 2012 having demonstrated a career-long dedication to advancing the cause of civil liberties. He has served as a staff attorney at the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, a staff attorney for the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, an adjunct professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, and as the interim legal director for ACLU affiliates in Nevada and Utah. Now, Cohn leads FIRE’s efforts to defend and advance the cause of students’ rights through legislative advocacy.

Lara Schwartz headshotLara Schwartz is a professional lecturer in the Department of Government, and director of the Project on Civil Discourse at American University, specializing in civil discourse and campus speech, constitutional law, civil rights, politics, communications, and policy. Prior to joining American University’s faculty, Schwartz served as director of strategic engagement at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. Previously, she served as Courts Matter director at Media Matters, legal director at the Human Rights Campaign, and vice president of external affairs at the American Association of People with Disabilities. Schwartz is the coauthor of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (And When You’re There). From June 2019 to June 2020, she was a fellow at the University of California’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.

Roger Worthington headshotRoger L. Worthington is a professor in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education, and the founder and executive director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education at the University of Maryland (UMD). Prior to arriving at UMD, he was a professor at the University of Missouri (1997-2014) with a joint appointment in the Department of Educational, School & Counseling Psychology and the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis. He also served as the assistant deputy chancellor and chief diversity officer at the University of Missouri (2006-2011), and as the founding chair of the board of directors for the Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center. Worthington is an internationally recognized scholar and higher education consultant on issues of diversity in counseling and education. He has won numerous awards for academic, service, and teaching excellence.