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Whose Freedom, Whose Speech? The Future of Community and Free Speech at Middlebury

Recorded by Middlebury Media Services

How can private colleges like Middlebury create a welcoming campus community while protecting free speech? Join Middlebury students, staff, and faculty via livestream for a lively, no-holds-barred conversation which will include audience participation and polling. With Suzanne Nossel, Roberto Lint Sagarena, Elizabeth Siyuan Lee, James Lyall, and Nabiha Syed

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. This event is part of a national effort to foster dialogue about free speech, diversity, and inclusion on U.S. college campuses.


Suzanne NosselSuzanne Nossel currently serves as the executive director of PEN America, the leading human rights and free expression organization. Since joining PEN America in 2013, Nossel has overseen a doubling of the organization’s staff and budget, the establishment of a Washington office, and groundbreaking work on free expression in Hong Kong and China, Myanmar, Eurasia and the United States. She is a leading voice on free expression issues in the United States and globally, writing and being interviewed frequently for national and international media outlets. Her prior career has spanned government service and leadership roles in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. She has served as the chief operating officer of Human Rights Watch; executive director of Amnesty International USA; deputy assistant secretary of state for international organizations for the Obama Administration; deputy to the US Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations during the Clinton administration; vice president of U.S. business development for Bertelsmann; and vice president for strategy and operations for The Wall Street Journal.

Roberto Lint Sagarena is associate professor of American studies at Middlebury College, where he also serves as director of Intercultural Programs. In his role as director, Roberto guides the work of the Anderson Freeman Resource Center, and the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, and he co-chairs the Alliance for an Inclusive Middlebury. He holds bachelor degrees in art history and philosophy from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a doctorate in religion from Princeton University. His research and teaching interests center on the role of religion and religious rhetoric in the formation of racial, ethnic, and regional identities in the Americas with particular attention to social relations resulting from inequality. He is the author of Aztlán and Arcadia: Religion, Ethnicity, and the Creation of Place (NYU Press).

Elizabeth Siyuan Lee ‘17 is a graduate of Middlebury College, where she studied philosophy with minors in political science and French. As an undergraduate, she was an active member of the Middlebury Debate Society, cofounded College Students for Bernie nationally, and served as one of the tri-chairs for the Ross Residential Life Council. After the protests against Charles Murray at Middlebury, she appeared in the New York Times, on Radio Boston and Vermont Public Radio, as well as on Connecticut Public Radio, discussing ways in which colleges can promote inclusivity in conversations on race. She is now the campaigns strategist for for Coworker.org, an online platform where anyone can start a campaign on a workplace issue.

James Lyall ’00 joined the ACLU of Vermont in 2016, becoming the 12th director in the organization’s history. From 2011–2016, James was a staff attorney for the ACLU of Arizona, where he opened the first ACLU satellite office in Tucson to investigate and litigate civil rights issues related to the U.S.-Mexico border. Prior to joining the ACLU, James was a law fellow at the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project in Los Angeles, where he provided legal representation to detained and unaccompanied immigrant children in deportation proceedings. A New England native, James is a graduate of Middlebury College and has a law degree from Georgetown University. 

Nabiha Syed has been described as “one of the best emerging free speech lawyers” by Forbes magazine. She is currently the assistant general counsel at BuzzFeed, where she handles publication, privacy, and access matters across the globe. Prior to her position at BuzzFeed, Nabiha was an associate at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, a leading First Amendment law firm, and was named the First Amendment Fellow at the New York Times. She has worked on legal access issues at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; counseled on whether to publish hacked and leaked materials; and advised documentary filmmakers through the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program. Nabiha is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Yale Law School, and Oxford University—which she attended as a Marshall Scholar—as well as a nonresident fellow at both Stanford Law School and Yale Law School.

Cosponsored by Middlebury College, and presented with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Cameron Schrier Foundation.


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