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[VIRTUAL] The Common Room: Race, Reconciliation, and Free Speech on Campus

Calls for racial justice, equity, and historical reckoning are reverberating with new poignancy on campuses. Yet, challenges surrounding the intersections of free speech, academic freedom, and bias remain, while some express concerns that efforts to advance diversity and anti-racism are too dogmatic in their approaches. As professors and practitioners throughout the higher education sector look for models to bridge these differences, this program will spotlight the work of the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ (AAC&U) Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Centers, asking their leaders to reflect on these themes. How do these centers approach today’s challenges, aiming to facilitate deep listening, dialogue, and equitable paths forward for students and faculty from all backgrounds?

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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 Tia Brown McNair, vice president in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success and executive director for the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Campus Centers at AAC&U; Khayree O. Williams, director of Austin Community College District’s Truth Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center; Kaiwipunikauikawēkiu Punihei Lipe, Native Hawaiian Affairs program officer at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) Chancellor’s Office and director of UHM’s Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Campus Center; and Cynthia Neal Spence, associate professor of sociology at Spelman College, director of the UNCF/Mellon Programs, and director for the Spelman College Social Justice Fellows Program.

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.

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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

Tia Brown McNair headshotTia Brown McNair is the vice president in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success and executive director for the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in Washington, D.C. She oversees both funded projects and AAC&U’s continuing programs on equity, inclusive excellence, high-impact practices, and student success. McNair directs AAC&U’s Summer Institutes on High-Impact Practices and Student Success and serves as the project director for several AAC&U initiatives. She is the lead author of From Equity Talk to Equity Walk: Expanding Practitioner Knowledge for Racial Justice in Higher Education (January 2020) and Becoming a Student-Ready College: A New Culture of Leadership for Student Success (July 2016). In March 2020, Diverse: Issues In Higher Education named McNair one of 35 outstanding women who have tackled some of higher education’s toughest challenges and made a positive difference in their communities. 

Khayree Williams headshotKhayree O. Williams presently serves as the director of Austin Community College (ACC) District’s Truth Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center. Williams received a bachelor of business administration and master of education with an emphasis in College Student Affairs and Leadership from Grand Valley State University and a doctorate in community college leadership at Ferris State University. Williams has amassed 14 years of professional experience shepherding diversity, equity, inclusion work, and advocacy for historically marginalized students at four institutions of higher education, including Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University, Calvin University, and now ACC.

Kaiwipunikauikawekiu Punihei Lipe headshotKaiwipunikauikawēkiu Punihei Lipe is a Native Hawaiian mother, daughter, wife, hula dancer, and educator. In 2017, she was hired into the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s (UHM) Chancellor’s Office as the inaugural Native Hawaiian Affairs program officer, where she implements findings from her award-winning research to advance UHM’s goal of becoming a Native Hawaiian place of learning. She is also the director of UHM’s Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Campus Center as well as an Obama Foundation Leader with the Obama Foundation’s Asia-Pacific Leaders Program. She holds a BA in Hawaiian studies, an MS in counseling psychology, and a Ph.D. in education administration.

Cynthia Neal Spence headshotCynthia Neal Spence is an associate professor of sociology at Spelman College and director of the UNCF/Mellon Programs. Her teaching and research interests in the areas of sociology, criminology, law, and social justice and violence against women support the Law and Criminology concentration in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Her interest in issues of higher education access, service-learning, criminal justice reform, gender role socialization, and violence against women frame her research, writing, community service involvement, and public speaking. Spence serves as the director for the Spelman College Social Justice Fellows Program. She is committed to helping Spelman women fully actualize their commitment to “making a choice to change the world” through social justice advocacy.

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