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[VIRTUAL] The Common Room: Responding to Trump’s Executive Order on Race and Sex Stereotyping

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

President Trump’s September Executive Order on Combatting Race and Sex Stereotyping is having a widespread chilling effect in higher education. Wary of jeopardizing federal funding, college and university leaders have postponed and delayed diversity trainings and academic talks that might run afoul of the order, and initiated content reviews to ensure training language complies with the limitations on discourse prescribed by the government. PEN America has said that this Order is a danger to our fundamental rights and called for its revocation. But as anecdotes mount of how this Order is chilling free speech and stifling diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, the question on many professors’ and administrators’ minds is: What can be done in response?


Join Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s campus free speech program, for an interactive forum to discuss this issue and possible responses from the higher ed sector. Friedman will be joined by guests Emerson Sykes, staff attorney for the ACLU, and Jennifer Ho, University of Colorado Boulder professor and president of the Association for Asian American Studies.

The Common Room is a weekly 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 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.


Jennifer Ho headshotThe daughter of a refugee father from China and an immigrant mother from Jamaica, Jennifer Ho is a professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies and the director of the Center for Humanities & the Arts (CHA) at the University of Colorado Boulder, and the current president of the Association of Asian American Studies. Ho received her BA in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara (1992) and her PhD in English from Boston University (2003) and had a faculty appointment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2004 to 2019, where she taught courses in Asian-American literature, contemporary multiethnic American literature, critical race studies, and intersectionality. In addition to her academic work, Ho is active in community engagement around issues of race and intersectionality, leading workshops on anti-racism and how to talk about race in our current political climate.

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.