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[VIRTUAL] The Common Room: Free Speech Education: What Do Young People Need to Know?

Campuses have spent much energy thinking about how to protect free speech, but they’ve spent relatively little considering how to best educate their communities about the complexity and history of free speech principles. What are the best ways to talk to students about free speech—what it safeguards, why it matters, and how they can use their voices? And when should we start having these conversations? How do we also ensure students from all backgrounds have opportunities to learn these values and rights? And in an era of deepening polarization, is there any way to ensure shared lessons are heard across the political divide?

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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 Jessica Bohrer, vice president and editorial counsel in the newsroom at Forbes and coauthor of the children’s book, Your Voice is Your Superpower: A Beginner’s Guide to Freedom of Speech (and the First Amendment); Emerson Sykes, First Amendment litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union; and Jonathan Zimmerman, Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor in Education and Professor of History of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

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.


Host

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.

Guests

Jessica Bohrer headshotJessica Bohrer has been protecting and empowering journalists for over a decade. She is vice president and editorial counsel in the newsroom at Forbes and coauthor of the children’s book, Your Voice is Your Superpower: A Beginner’s Guide to Freedom of Speech (and the First Amendment). She serves on the Leadership Council of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a nonprofit which promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists. She also provides pro bono support to journalists working with the International Senior Lawyers Project. Prior to joining Forbes, Bohrer worked to protect journalists at WNET, the PBS flagship station in New York, on programs such as PBS NewsHour Weekend and Women, War and Peace.

Emerson Sykes headshotEmerson Sykes is a First Amendment litigator focused on the right to protest, campus speech, and the intersection of free speech and racial justice. From 2019 to 2020, he was also host of “At Liberty,” the ACLU’s weekly podcast. Prior to joining the ACLU, Sykes was a legal advisor for Africa at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. He was previously an assistant general counsel at the New York City Council and a senior policy fellow in the office of a Member of Parliament in Ghana. Emerson holds a J.D. from NYU Law, an MPA from Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs, and a BA from Stanford.

Jonathan Zimmerman headshotJonathan Zimmerman is the Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor in Education and Professor of History of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. A former Peace Corps volunteer and high school teacher, Zimmerman is the author of Free Speech, and Why You Should Give a Damn (City of Light Publishing, April 2021), which is also illustrated by Signe Wilkinson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Zimmerman is also author of The Amateur Hour: A History of College Teaching in America (Johns Hopkins University Press, October 2020) and seven other books. He is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and other popular newspapers and magazines.

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