• Home

[VIRTUAL] The Common Room: Free Expression Statements and Policies: Why and How

Clear and robust statements and policies about free expression on campus can nourish a healthy civic climate among students, faculty, and administrators alike. Poorly written statements and policies can undermine trust in the protections for free expression and in institutions’ commitments to an inclusive campus. What goes into drafting the most effective guidelines for free expression on campus? Who should these processes include? And what should administrators drafting these policies keep in mind to support free expression for all in their communities?


Join Jonathan Friedman, director of Free Expression and Education at PEN America, for an interactive forum to discuss these issues and possible responses from the higher ed sector. Friedman will be joined by guests Ronald A. Crutcher, president of the University of Richmond in Virginia; Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill, director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Campus Free Expression Project; and Ben Trachtenberg, associate dean for Academic Affairs and Isidor Loeb Professor of Law at the University of Missouri School of Law.

The Common Room is a 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.

Bipartisan Policy Center logo


Jonathan Friedman headshot

Jonathan Friedman is the director of Free Expression and Education at PEN America, where he oversees advocacy, analysis, and outreach to educational communities and academic institutions. In this role, he drives forward PEN America’s efforts to catalyze a more informed, civic culture through free expression education for the rising generation and the general public. Friedman 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. He regularly provides commentary on campus free speech issues for national news media, has facilitated workshops, and has conducted advisory meetings with students, faculty, and administrators at dozens of colleges and universities across the United States.


Ronald A. Crutcher headshotRonald A. Crutcher is president of the University of Richmond in Virginia and a national leader in higher education. A distinguished classical musician, Crutcher became president and professor of music at the University of Richmond in 2015, having previously served as president of Wheaton College in Massachusetts for 10 years. Crutcher was founding cochair of Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP), the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ national campaign to demonstrate the value of liberal education. He writes and speaks widely on the value of liberal education, the democratic purposes of higher education, diversity and inclusion, and free expression on college campuses.

Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill headshotJacqueline Pfeffer Merrill is director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Campus Free Expression Project. Earlier in her career, Merrill served on the faculties of St. John’s College (Annapolis) and the College of William & Mary. She has also taught at Duke University, the University of Calgary, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, and in the college program at Maryland’s only prison for women. Her articles have appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and Perspectives on Political Science, and she is a contributing editor of Paideia Times. Merrill is a trustee of the American Academy for Liberal Education and was a trustee and president of the Advocates for the Goucher Prison Education Partnership. Merrill earned her BA (First Class Honours) from the University of Calgary and her MA and Ph.D. from Duke University.

Ben Trachtenberg headshotBen Trachtenberg is associate dean for Academic Affairs and Isidor Loeb Professor of Law at the University of Missouri (MU) School of Law. He also serves as special advisor to the chancellor of the university. Trachtenberg is a member of the American Law Institute. He has published in academic law reviews, The New York Times, and the ABA Journal, among other publications. His recent scholarship has addressed campus speech as well as rising political interference with higher education. Trachtenberg chaired The MU Faculty Council on University Policy from 2015 to 2017. During his time as chair, he worked with university leaders to improve and clarify university regulations on speech and protests.

Get the Free Speech News You Need

protesters in face masks carrying old Belarusian national flags

PEN America has a new weekly newsletter, PEN Points, bringing you a digest of the biggest free expression news of the week, plus the analysis and insights you trust from PEN America experts.