(NEW YORK)– Responding to news that lawmakers in Arizona will investigate the state of free speech at state colleges and universities, PEN America today urged them to avoid “another partisan attack on the integrity of higher education” through this effort.

Jonathan Friedman, director of Free Expression and Education at PEN America, said: “While there is nothing wrong with government officials affirming support for free speech on campus or looking to support it, recent actions across the country have shown how this discourse is frequently politicized. We fear that this investigation in the name of protecting free speech will have the opposite effect. Faculty members are entitled to the right to protest administrative decisions or campus speakers. That is not in defiance of free speech; that is its very exercise.  Arizona legislators ought to take steps to ensure that this hearing supports free speech for all, and not devolve into yet another partisan attack on the integrity of higher education.”

Republican legislators announced last week that they would  investigate the state of free expression on campuses throughout the state, with a particular focus on the recent defunding of the Lewis Center at Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College. The center’s closure and the firing of its executive director, which PEN America previously called an “unfortunate outcome for academic freedom” came after donor T.S. Lewis accused faculty members of hostility and “radical ideology.”

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