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Free Expression and Education

The Issue

Educational institutions play an essential role in sustaining democracy. They serve as crucibles of ideas, dialogue, and debate, committed to educating the rising generation as well as forwarding the pursuit of knowledge and truth. But amid rising polarization in the United States and around the world, educational institutions have become a site of conflict and challenge, particularly when it comes to the bedrock values of free speech and diversity, equity, and inclusion, and perceived tensions among them.

PEN America’s free expression and education program works to reconcile these tensions by working with schools, colleges, and universities to ensure robust protections for academic freedom and freedom of speech are balanced with advancements in diversity and inclusion, as well efforts to redress legacies of discrimination and inequity. Our team of experts engage in research, advocacy, trainings, public events, and youth programming, and we have developed specialized resources for college administrators, faculty, and students.

Latest News

Oregon School District Bans BLM, LGBTQ+ Symbols

September 8, 2021
(New York, NY) — After moving to ban LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter symbols, a school district in Oregon is now in the midst of developing a policy to ban all political slogans. PEN America today urged the Newberg School District to reverse its decision, calling it deeply dismissive to the free speech rights of […]

Texas School District Strikes More Books From Reading Lists

August 5, 2021
A Texas school district announced this week that it would remove or suspend nine books from its secondary school book club readings lists.

Arizona Senate to Vote on Budget Including “Divisive Concepts” Provisions

June 30, 2021
The Arizona state senate is set to vote this week on a state budget that includes a set of provisions prohibiting teachers, administrators, and other school district employees from instructing students in a set of “divisive concepts.”
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Advocacy

Students’ Right to Education

Students’ Right to Education

PEN America leads a joint statement with 147 organizations stating firm opposition to legislative efforts to restrict education about racism and American history.
Leander, TX Book Banning

Leander, TX Book Banning

PEN America and authors demand a Texas school district reinstate their books.
Academic Freedom at UNC Law

Academic Freedom at UNC Law

PEN America concerned as failure to reappoint UNC law professor to UNC Press Board comes as academic freedom questions mount.

Video Highlights: Free Speech Education: What Do Young People Need to Know?

Research and Reports

And Campus for All: Diversity, Inclusion, and Freedom of Speech at U.S. Universities

And Campus for All: Diversity, Inclusion, and Freedom of Speech at U.S. Universities

And Campus for All combines extensive reporting and thorough analysis of all sides of recent debates, as well as three case studies informed by exclusive interviews with protagonists in some of the most pitched campus battles in recent years.
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Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America

Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America

Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America details an array of infringements on speech, both official and informal.
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Bring Us to Your Campus!

PEN America partners with schools, colleges, and professional organizations to facilitate workshops, convenings, advisory meetings, public events, and educational programs. We tailor these engagements to the needs and interests of particular educational communities and audiences.

Commentary

The Future of Free Speech

The Future of Free Speech

Suzanne Nossel shares her vision for the future of free speech on college campuses and in educational institutions.
Free Speech Needs Principled Defenders, Not Fairweather Friends

Free Speech Needs Principled Defenders, Not Fairweather Friends

Jonathan Friedman looks at struggles over free speech and censorship in the 20th century to argue for the need for nonpartisan approaches to the issues today.
When Diversity and Inclusion Clash with Free Speech—and Why they Don’t Have To

When Diversity and Inclusion Clash with Free Speech—and Why they Don’t Have To

Jonathan Friedman discusses three cases where the principles of diversity, inclusion, and free speech have come into conflict.
You can only protect campus speech if you acknowledge racism

You can only protect campus speech if you acknowledge racism

Suzanne Nossel talks about the role of confronting difficult legacies of racism and discrimination in efforts for campuses to promote free speech.
Zoombombing Is New, Online Harassment Isn’t

Zoombombing Is New, Online Harassment Isn’t

Jonathan Friedman assesses the phenomenon of “Zoombombing” in higher education and its implications for free speech and inclusion on campus.
Setting New Norms for the Dorms: Campus Free Speech and Residence Life in 2021

Setting New Norms for the Dorms: Campus Free Speech and Residence Life in 2021

Jonathan Friedman and Nicholas Perez offer pointers to residence life officers returning to campus post-COVID-19 based on a survey conducted with ACUHO-I.

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