(NEW YORK)— Amid a nationwide wave of campus protests related to the Israel-Hamas war, CEOs of numerous private companies are publicly renouncing students who have made anti-Israel statements. Last week, a law firm rescinded a job offer to the president of the Student Bar Association at New York University Law School because of their anti-Israel remarks in an SBA newsletter. Several business leaders have publicly pledged not to hire any student leader who has signed statements critical of Israel, with some calling for universities to release the names of student leaders; other leaders have pushed back, with former Harvard president Larry Summers calling it “the stuff of Joe McCarthy.” 

In response, PEN America’s senior manager of free expression, Kristen Shahverdian, made the following comments:

“Universities have an obligation to protect the free speech rights of their students. It would be truly egregious for universities to hand out students’ information to potential employers, an act which would almost certainly chill their political speech–especially at times of intense turbulence on campus. While we recognize that private employers do not have the same obligations to the First Amendment as universities, it is nevertheless troubling that private employers are choosing to punish students for their protected political speech. Putting students on blacklists for future employers is a tactic that echoes the McCarthy era, and it is easy to imagine how such a precedent could be used against students across the ideological spectrum.” 

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org 

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057